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Best small restaurant with mind-blowing food

I'm looking for that sort of out-of-the way place with amazing food. Basically I'm thinking a little New York-style restaurant– cute but relatively small place with a great atmosphere but most importantly utterly amazing food. Italian would be great– homemade pasta, simple but quality ingredients, that sort of thing. Any suggestions?

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  1. Any particular part of the city (city neighborhood or suburban town)?

    1. Caro Mio, www.caromiochicago.com, at 1827 W. Wilson is a wonderful Italian place in a great neighborhood. When we lived in Ravenswood, we used to go there almost weekly and became good friends with the staff. The food is amazing -- fresh, homemade pastas, gnocchi, etc. and it is BYOB. We actually did our rehearsal dinner there years ago -- so delicious!

      1. Cool NY style with urban feel makes me think of Vivo on west Randolph Street in the old Haymarket wholesale district. Contemporary Italian with great atmosphere and fantastic food. This place has been around for years and deserves more attention.

        Schwa is as they say, "the best BYOB restaurant in the world", it fits the bill for sure only it's not Italian...I'm sure you'll find a pasta dish here and there.


        1. Well, if you like small, out-of-the-way BYOBs with fresh ingredients and homemade pasta, I can't think of much better than terragusto:


          1. "Sapracino Ristorante" is exactly what you're looking for. Mark Sparacino does contemporary Italinn-themed, highly innovative cooking. Not a red sauce in the place. Great reviews from all the papers.

            Ten or so tables in fromt of a massive fireplace, and a complete bar off to the side. Mark is the worl'd biggest extrovert in the world and loves to bring out the dishes and schmooze with the diners.

            It's on the north side of North Avenue,just one block east of Harlem.

            2 Replies
            1. re: MikeLM

              It's not exclusively Italian but the best small restaurant with great food is Avec. The food incorporates influences from Italy but also other Mediterranean rim countries.

              Avec Restaurant
              615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

              1. re: ems

                It's worth noting that Avec does not take reservations (not a problem during the week, but expect waits of 90-120 minutes at prime weekend hours), the hard wooden benches are extremely uncomfortable, and they have communal seating, so you will be seated with strangers, either at the bar or at tables of eight. And based on my recent visit, I would consider the food good, not great. (If you want great food, go next door to Blackbird, its sister restaurant.)

            2. You must find your way to A Tavola (W. Chicago Ave.).

              Amazing and is exactly what you're looking for! Look it up... They have the best gnocchi we've ever had - anywhere!

              1. I would also recommend Schwa. They really have amazing food.

                Avec, Sweets & Savories are some other small place with great atmospheres.

                Terragusto would be my pick for Italian - small with amazing hand-made pasta (especially their Tagliatelle a la Bolognese), but atmosphere is just ok.

                1. La Gondola. It's totally unassuming from the exterior, but given it's location (Wellington and Ashland, in the Jewel plaza) I probably wouldn't put it into the NY-style category. That said, it's tiny -- seats maybe 15. Try their handmade stuffed gnocchi, you won't be sorry. (I get it with bolognese, instead of pesto). They have fantastic eggplant parm also. Everything is made to order but the wait is well worth it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: faq

                    > They have fantastic eggplant parm also.

                    Is the eggplant parmigiana good enough to mention in the discussion seeking the best such dish in Chicago? See www.chowhound.com/topics/503195

                  2. You'll find an excellent list here: http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

                    Most are out of the way, small family run or independent restaurants with excellent food. The list spans all cuisines. If you dig into the links you'll also find lots of pictures as well as recommendations on what to order.

                    1. Bonsoiree on west Armitage. Imaginative, thoughtful food. Chef tasting menus every night. Saturdays by email invitation/reservation only. BYO; priced @ $55/person.

                      1. I don't know if it is NY style but Rose Angelis has great Italian food with a nice atmosphere; it's in a converted house with tables thoughout all of the rooms. It's at 1314 W. Wrightwood; roseangelis.com

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: marciab

                          I've heard "New York style" used by New Yorkers to refer to anything that they are familiar with at home - everything from small Italian places, to casual contemporary American places, to the finest dining places - and have the misconceived notion that it's rarely found anywhere else. LOL!