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Italian Favorites?

c
cscott4313 Apr 7, 2009 04:11 PM

Below, I've compiled a short-list of Italian restaurants I've eaten at and ones that have been suggested to me. As my family, friends and associates come to visit the Chicago area often (and love good food), I am looking to expand upon and improve this list. I am interested in upscale Italian restaurants that provide great atmosphere and superlative food (a culinary experience). Not only do I want to ensure that I have a great time when I go out to eat with friends, family, etc, but want to be able to suggest the right places for others. I am not professionally affiliated with the culinary industry, just passionate about good food. The best times I have had seem revolve around good food, good friends, and family… This is an effort to keep that trend going in Chicago.

Italian Restaurants, Chicago (In preferential Order)

Spiaggia – www.cafespiaggia.com, (Level Two) 980 North Michigan Avenue (312-280-2750
)Cafe Spiaggia – www.cafespiaggia.com, (Level Two) 980 North Michigan Avenue (312-280-2750
)Coco Pazzo – www.cocopazzochicago.com, 300 West Hubbard Street, Chicago (312-836-0900
)Pane Caldo – www.pane-caldo.com, 72 East Walton, Chicago (312-649-0055
)Vivere – www.vivere-chicago.com, 71 West Monroe Street, Chicago (312-332-4040
)Vinci – www.vincichicago.com, 1732 North Halsted Street, Chicago (312-266-1199
)Merlo – www.merlochicago.com, 2638 N. Lincoln Avenue, Lincoln Park (773-529-0747
)Topo Gigio – www.topogigiochicago.com, 1516 North Wells Street, Chicago (312-266-9355

)

I would absolutely appreciate any reviews or opinions people might have on unlisted restaurants, or the ones I have listed above. Furthermore, any clarifications about how I should change the order of the restaurants above (or omit any of the listings) are welcomed and greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

  1. m
    ms. chow Apr 8, 2009 08:09 AM

    How could i forget Francesca's? It is a chain, but what i'm amazed by is that it is so consistent whichever location you go to. Mind you, that doesn't mean it's cookie cutter like a TGI Friday's. Also very excellent for big parties for the kind of food and price they offer. They have in my mind the best calamari fritti in the city. I would put Francesca's on par with Vinci.

    I like Trattoria 10 for the aperitivo buffet they offer. Get a cocktail and you get good quick bite for pre-theater.

    Good call on Mado. But agree that i wouldn't put in on an 'Italian' list. Like the comparison to Agata e Romeo. Although it is far more casual and excellent as another Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood gem.

    1. j
      jbw Apr 8, 2009 06:43 AM

      I haven't been in a couple of years, but based on the meal that I had then La Follia would have been 5 or 6 on the above list for me. As long as we're getting into double-digits you might want to add Trattoria 10 to the list, since it is certainly one of the top 2 or 3 in the Loop. Also, although it's primarily small plates, the quality of Quartino's pastas and salumi is solid.

      By the way, although it's not a typical Italian trattoria/ristorante--more of a single chef's extravanganza on Italian themes a la Agatha et Romeo in Rome--Mado in Wicker Park is pretty much in a class by itself--top 5 here for sure if it qualifies:
      http://www.madorestaurantchicago.com/

      1 Reply
      1. re: jbw
        nsxtasy Apr 8, 2009 07:27 AM

        I agree, I would add Trattoria No. 10 ( www.trattoria10.com ) to the list, at the bottom. Not that it's bad - it's quite decent - but the other places listed are better (at least, the ones I can speak for). Another place I would add, for the same reason - a decent place in a convenient location (especially for visitors) is Coco Pazzo Cafe ( www.cococpazzocafe.com ), the Streeterville sister restaurant to Coco Pazzo.

        Also note that there are three locations for the Merlo chain, and a whole bunch of locations for the Rosebud chain. Speaking of chains, the Mia Francesca chain ( www.miafrancesca.com ) has its fans and is probably worth including in the list too. You might want to list these with a note saying "multiple locations" rather than listing the info for each individual chain, but that's up to you, of course.

      2. m
        ms. chow Apr 7, 2009 07:17 PM

        I will add to this list Anteprima and Riccardo Trattoria. I have been to Italy many times, and going again soon. I feel that both embodies what a real trattoria is like in Italy. Service at Riccardo could be a bit harried, but it is truly a mom-and-pop operation, and they are truly apologetic for any mishaps. I would also add A Tavola. It is an oft-ignored gem. People might find it a bit simplistic, there are literally only about 6 things on the menu. But again, it is one of those places that truly evoke the spirit of traditional Italian cuisine.

        Anteprima - www.anteprimachicago.net
        Riccardo - www.riccardotrattoria.com

        I would put these 2 right after your top 5. Actually, personal i feel Pane Caldo is more flash, less substance.

        A Tavola - www.atavolachicago.com
        I would rank this after Merlo.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ms. chow
          c
          cscott4313 Apr 7, 2009 08:30 PM

          UPDATE

          Italian, Chicago -- Top 15

          1. *Spiaggia – www.cafespiaggia.com, (Level Two) 980 North Michigan Avenue (312-280-2750)
          2. *Cafe Spiaggia – www.cafespiaggia.com, (Level Two) 980 North Michigan Avenue (312-280-2750)
          3. Vivere – www.vivere-chicago.com, 71 West Monroe Street, Chicago (312-332-4040)
          4. Gabriel’s – http://www.egabriels.com/flash.html, 310 Greenbay Road, Highwood (847-433-0031)
          5. *Coco Pazzo – www.cocopazzochicago.com, 300 West Hubbard Street, Chicago (312-836-0900)
          6. Va Pensiero – www.va-p.com, 1566 Oak Drive, Evanston (847-475-7779)
          7. Anteprima – www.anteprimachicago.net, 5316 North Clarke Street, Chicago (773-506-9990)
          8. Riccardo Trattoria – www.riccardotrattoria.com, 2119 N Clark Street, Chicago (773-549-0038)
          9. *Pane Caldo – www.pane-caldo.com, 72 East Walton, Chicago (312-649-0055)
          10. Merlo – www.merlochicago.com, 2638 N. Lincoln Avenue, Lincoln Park (773-529-0747)
          11. A Tavola – www.atavolachicago.com, 2148 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago (773-276-7567)
          12. Campagnola – www.campagnolarestaurant.com, 815 Chicago Avenue, Evanston (847-475-6100)
          13. *Vinci – www.vincichicago.com, 1732 North Halsted Street, Chicago (312-266-1199)
          14. Piccolo Sogno – www.piccolosognorestaurant.com, 464 North Halsted Street, Chicago (312-421-0077)
          15. Rosebud – http://rosebudrestaurants.com/rest3.php, 720 North Rush Street, Chicago (312-266-6444)

          Again, I would absolutely appreciate any reviews or opinions people might have on unlisted restaurants, or the ones I have listed above. Furthermore, any clarifications about how I should change the order of the restaurants above (or omit any of the listings) are welcomed and greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

          1. re: cscott4313
            nsxtasy Apr 7, 2009 08:49 PM

            The list looks fine.

            Just FYI - the Chowhound forum software doesn't deal properly with the closing parenthesis character:

            )

            when it appears at the end of a line/paragraph. If you add a space after that character before you hit the ENTER key, then the software understands it better.

            1. re: nsxtasy
              c
              cscott4313 Apr 7, 2009 09:03 PM

              Fixed it! Thanks for the advice.

        2. nsxtasy Apr 7, 2009 04:45 PM

          That's a darn good list right there. I might move Vivere up a notch or two, but otherwise, I think the order is fine, and I think your top five are the best in the city. There are lots more Italian places all over the city as well as in the suburbs that might also be included if you were trying to make a more comprehensive list. A few of my personal favorites in the suburbs are Va Pensiero ( www.va-p.com ) and Campagnola ( www.campagnolarestaurant.com ) in Evanston, and Gabriel's ( www.egabriels.com ) in Highwood. In the city, I haven't yet been to Piccolo Sogno ( www.piccolosognorestaurant.com ), which was recently opened by the former chef at Coco Pazzo, so I can't say whether it merits mention as well, but I've heard good things about it.

          If it's any help to you, there's an older Italian discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/360990

          2 Replies
          1. re: nsxtasy
            c
            cscott4313 Apr 7, 2009 05:22 PM

            Thanks I really appreciate it! Where would you put your suggestions in the list?

            1. re: cscott4313
              nsxtasy Apr 7, 2009 07:19 PM

              Oh, it's so difficult - it's like splitting hairs! But if I had to assign an order, it would be something like this:

              1. Spiaggia
              2. Cafe Spiaggia
              3. Vivere
              4. Gabriel's
              5. Coco Pazzo
              6. Va Pensiero
              7. Pane Caldo
              8. Merlo
              9. Campagnola

              I haven't been to Vinci or Topo Gigio so I didn't include them. And any of these could be bumped up or down a few places without getting much of an argument from me. In fact, you can get an excellent meal at any of these!

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