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Best Place for a Pasta Main

anewton Aug 12, 2007 12:07 PM

My wife and I are narrowing down our choices for our Chicago honeymoon: we have reservations at Topolobampo and Gibson's; we're heading to Spoon Thai one night; we are going to try Sola (my wife is fixated on this restaurant).

My wife and I want to go to a place that has good Italian food, is not overly expensive, and where she can get an entree-sized pasta dish (rather than ordering a small pasta as a primi and then having a meat as her main). I have looked at the following menus: Spiaggia (we decided we did not want to spend that much); Cafe Coco Pazzo; Bice; Riccardo Trattoria, Cafe Spiaggia.

We like the looks of Cafe Spiaggia and Bice. Which would be the better place to go for a rewarding pasta feed, or is there somewhere else you would recommend? (Note: we are not vegetarians).

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  1. nsxtasy RE: anewton Aug 12, 2007 12:27 PM

    Between those two, I would choose Cafe Spiaggia. And it's an excellent choice for what you're looking for.

    1. p
      Pete Oldtown RE: anewton Aug 12, 2007 01:24 PM

      Cafe Spiaggia is very good. I like Topo Gigio in Oldtown a lot, too. They have about 20 different pasta dishes. About $12 to $15.

      1. e
        elc515 RE: anewton Aug 12, 2007 02:53 PM

        All of the Italian restaurants you listed above are great (especially Cafe Spiaggia and Trattoria Riccardo), but I wouldn't order pasta as my main dish at either place. When I want a great dish of pasta for a reasonable price, I go to Mia Francesca. They may not be the most authentic Italian, but I think they can serve up a mean dish of pasta with the best of them! The Francesca's on Taylor Street takes reservations and is a bit more quiet than the Lakeview location. Have a great trip!

        1 Reply
        1. re: elc515
          nycchitownmix RE: elc515 Nov 29, 2007 11:45 AM

          I second this! While not the best Italian restaurant in the city, Mia Francesca makes some GREAT pastas. Never had a bad meal here.

        2. leek RE: anewton Aug 13, 2007 06:10 AM

          Terragusto has excellent pasta dishes, and I would strongly recommend them for that.

          1851 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613

          4 Replies
          1. re: leek
            jbw RE: leek Aug 13, 2007 06:21 AM

            Totally agree with the quality of the pasta at Terragusto, which are all made in house (with sauces prepared from artisanal and local ingredients). Small, intimate, neighborhoodly; BUT, the servings are pretty close to traditional primi. If you change your mind and want to go for a full-scale Italian dinner they have a pretty good deal for couples with a pair of appetizers, a pair of pasta, and a shared secondo for about $30/head. If you find that option attractive, I would recommend it highly. It can be reached on the Red Line (Addison stop--with a good look at Wrigley Field) and #152 West. There's an Addison stop on the Brown Line that's closer, but I believe it's temporarily closed. BYOB.

            1. re: jbw
              leek RE: jbw Aug 14, 2007 06:43 AM

              That's funny, I thought the pasta dishes were just fine in terms of size for a main course. We each got an appetizer and a pasta (group of 4) and no one was hungry after (plus 2 of us had leftovers!). Everyone's stomach is a different size ;)

              1. re: leek
                jbw RE: leek Aug 14, 2007 08:00 AM


                I don't disagree with you, and we've certainly made meals out of appetizers and pastas. But I was concerned about the OPs specific request for entree-sized portions, and certainly Terragusto's are far from belly busters. When TG is criticized it's usually because of the quantity/value ratio. See centerstage, for instance, on the portions:


                1. re: jbw
                  mageras RE: jbw Nov 28, 2007 08:53 AM

                  I love TG, but my wife and I always end up drinking water thru out the night, which I expect is due to high salt content in the sauces and/or pastas.

          2. s
            SuzMiCo RE: anewton Aug 13, 2007 08:55 AM

            Cafe Spiaggia hands down. I've only had wonderful experiences there.

            I had one downright awful meal at Bice. The pasta they served me was crunchy and cold, so I sent it back. They brought back the same plate, seemingly just reheated and still crunchy. I would never go back.

            1. mitch cumstein RE: anewton Aug 13, 2007 09:25 AM

              Anteprima was great. Orrecchiete with homemade lamb sausage, chilies and dandelion greens was a perfect entree and made in house. Super charming room, one of the best meals I've had in awhile.

              5316 N Clark St, Chicago 60640
              Btwn W Summerdale & W Berwyn Ave
              Phone: 773-506-9990

              1. j
                jbontario RE: anewton Aug 13, 2007 09:29 AM

                Only one caution with Cafe Spiaggia is the small portions. I generally only eat there for lunch, so maybe it's different at dinner, but this is NOT a nice bowl of pasta place.

                I've given this rec a couple times, because I live next door and eat there at least weekly, but you may want to try Tony Rocco's River North (check the website). Totally casual updated mama's Italian. It's in a cool neighborhood, you can walk by the galleries on the way to or back from your, presumably, North MI AVE hotel.

                2 Replies
                1. re: jbontario
                  nsxtasy RE: jbontario Aug 13, 2007 09:39 AM

                  Portion sizes are larger at dinner than at lunch.

                  1. re: nsxtasy
                    NDJ RE: nsxtasy Nov 28, 2007 09:53 AM

                    Actually, the portion sizes for pastas are not huge...more primi sized. However, the Cafe is happy to make a larger portion should you want it for your meal. They are the most accomodating restaurant and their pastas are exquisite. They tend to be pretty delicate flavors, very clean.

                    It will be a great, low-key night for you after a lot of bustling louder restaurants. Ask to sit near the windows so you can glimpse at Michigan Ave and just relax.

                2. h
                  htamano RE: anewton Aug 13, 2007 01:01 PM

                  I second the recommendation of Terragusto, and definitely the one for Ante Prima. Very quaint and cozy there, a really nice room, and servers who seem like they've been there for years despite the fact it opened maybe two months ago. And the dish described with housemade lamb sausage is great...

                  1. k
                    Katherine_84f RE: anewton Aug 14, 2007 06:49 AM

                    La Tavernetta is a very authentic Italian restaurant. It's family-owned, and located in a basement space just north of Wellington on Broadway. Very rustic, delicious pastas, and not too expensive. I always go for the lasagna.

                    1. d
                      deesher RE: anewton Aug 14, 2007 09:28 AM

                      Merlo on Maple has some of the best past in the city. The Bolognese, stricchetti and paglia e fieno are all outstanding. Merlo is located at 16 W. Maple. The phone number is 312-335-8200. A link to the menu can be found here

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: deesher
                        bongo1480 RE: deesher Nov 29, 2007 07:05 AM

                        I really like Tuscany on Taylor, much more than the Clark Street one (if it still exists, I haven't lived in Chicago for over a decade now). Tuscany is really great, a little noisy, but I've always loved the food there.

                        1. re: bongo1480
                          nsxtasy RE: bongo1480 Nov 29, 2007 08:45 AM

                          Yes, Tuscany on Clark Street is still there, as are suburban locations in Oak Brook and Wheeling, in addition to Taylor Street, of course. And a couple of locations of the casual Stefani's Tuscany Cafè downtown. All the locations of these and other of Phil Stefani's restaurants are listed on the group's website at www.stefanirestaurants.com

                      2. b
                        BRB RE: anewton Nov 29, 2007 12:27 PM

                        If we're going to talk about the best pastas, I'm going to mention Merlo on Maple -- husband and wife owners from Bologna (she's the chef) and they make all of their own pastas. This is not where you go for huge, overflowing bowls of pasta sprinkled with parsley for $9.99. This is where you go where you want premier quality ingredients and amazing food.

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