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Oct 1, 2012 06:01 PM

Best Italian restaurant in mag mile area?

Will be in town in two weeks and looking for recs on best Italian restaurants and deep dish pizza.

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  1. My nominee for best Italian in the Magnificent Mile area is Piccolo Sogno Due. You won't find many reports because it's new, but its sister restaurant, Piccolo Sogno (which is a mile west of the Mag Mile) has been around for several years and is widely acclaimed. Piccolo Sogno Due is very similar, in quality, in atmosphere, in great service, in terrific breads. About the only real differences are the location (Piccolo Sogno Due is right on the Mag Mile) and menus (Piccolo Sogno Due has more of an emphasis on seafood).

    Now, you can easily make a case that Spiaggia is our best Italian restaurant on the Mag Mile, and that would be hard to argue. Spiaggia is a very high-end, formal (jackets required), expensive restaurant, our only high-end place specializing in Italian cuisine. So if you're thinking "money no object", then by all means, go to Spiaggia. But if you're looking for a more moderately-priced Italian place, Piccolo Sogno Due is my top pick. Cafe Spiaggia, next door to Spiaggia but casual and moderate in price, is also very very good and would be my second choice. Piccolo Sogno Due is near the south end of the Mag Mile, and Spiaggia and Cafe Spiaggia are at the north end.

    As for deep-dish pizza, Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, and Uno and Due are all excellent (and similar to each other, with family relationships in their founding). Malnati's has a location at State and Rush near the north end of the Mag Mile, and on Wells a half mile west of the south end. Pizano's has a location on State north of Chicago, and is the closest of these to the Water Tower. Uno and Due are the closest to the south end of the Mag Mile.

    1. Spiaggia and, at a lower price point, but not a lesser accomplished point, Cafe Spiaggia. Both are devotes of authentic Italian slow food and I have never had a bad dish there, let alone a bad meal. Highly, highly recommended.

      10 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        I have seen quite a lot written about Spiaggia and Piccolo Sogno Due; what do you think of Riccardo Trattoria ? I think I may be researching this too much. Also, suggestions for lunch?

        1. re: Wannabetraveler

          I had dinner at Riccardo Trattoria a few months ago, and it was disappointing - not dreadful, but nothing was all that great. By contrast, I've had excellent meals at many of our other Italian restaurants recently, including not only Piccolo Sogno Due and Piccolo Sogno, but also Gioco in the South Loop, Moderno in north suburban Highland Park, and Sergio's in west suburban Itasca. All were way better than my dinner at Riccardo Trattoria.

          As for lunch, we have so many great places, including the Italian and pizza places we've already named. Near the Mag Mile, my top picks would be Sable, for small plates of contemporary American and craft cocktails; GT Oyster & Fish, for seafood small plates; and the Purple Pig, for small plates of Mediterranean cuisine. Also, in the "cheap eats" category, Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago hot dogs at Portillo's.

          1. re: Wannabetraveler

            Agreed on Riccardo, if not for the large outdoor terrace in the summer this place would be average at best. The owner and staff are quite friendly (especially to regulars), but the food is standard American Italian food.

            I had a great dinner at Piccolo Sogno Due last month and cannot say enough about the awesome breads and fantastic service.

            1. re: jbontario

              I guess I'll have to try it again. Not so impressed on my visit.

              1. re: chicgail

                I wasn't all that impressed either. If given the choice, I'd pick Cafe Spiaggia.

                1. re: aburkavage

                  I'm not sure if you folks know what Riccardo Trattoria is exactly. First off, it's nowhere near the Mag Mile -- it's in Lincoln Park, and it does not have a large outdoor terrace. I've been there many times and it's better than average, but I don't know if I'd go out of my way for it.

                  Skip Spiaggia as it's overpriced and undersized in portions. Cafe Spiaggia is a better bet if the menu appeals to you. I found the original Piccolo Sogno to be overhyped, way too loud and quite middling in its fare. Due is better in terms of ambiance but they haven't gotten their act together yet with regards to food. I'd still steer people towards Prosecco. I have never been let down there in terms of food, service or atmosphere.

                  1. re: grimaldi

                    Yes, my apologies, I was thinking Trattoria Isabella on Jefferson and Fulton.

                    1. re: grimaldi

                      FWIW, I was strictly comparing Piccolo Sogno Due and Cafe Spiagga. For me, Riccardo Trattoria isn't even in the same league as either of those.

                      1. re: grimaldi

                        FWIW, my comments above about Riccardo Trattoria were indeed about the one on Clark Street in Lincoln Park. I just wasn't all that impressed with it. Whereas by contrast, I've had some superb Italian food at recent dinners at all the other places I named. Especially Piccolo Sogno and Piccolo Sogno Due, which were the best in the city (with Sergio's the best of the 'burbs). It's wonderful that we have so many great choices here for Italian food these days!

                        1. re: grimaldi

                          I'd like to pick up on your word "loud" because the other night an interesting Los Angeles-referenced CH thread addressed this. Diners are complaining about restaurants actually fostering "loud" via hard surfaces and booming music, as if they were setting up a club scene rather than a dining room, and this is defended as "creating a buzz, a scene" and "attracting younger patrons". People are finding dinner conversation impossible and some are saying "I won't go back there---too loud". Any reactions to this with specific reference to Chicago? Or perhaps we need a separate query here.

              2. Others have provided you with the usual suspects so I'll just add Pelago at the Raffaello Hotel. We eat there a lot. The pastas are house made and delicious and they do a tasting that includes 3 different pasta dishes. The chef used to be at Felidias in NYC. For the pastas I am particularly fond of the malloreddus (Sardinian dumplings made with flour) with sausage ragu and pecorino, the trofie with pesto, green beans and potatoes, and the maccheroncini with lamb ragu. Really terrific pastas! They usually have a fettuccine or similar type pasta with butter, parmesan and truffles (white or black depending on the season) that's on special that my SO loves. They specialize in seafood, hence the name but I have had great luck with any of their meat entrees. I like to order an appetizer and the pasta trio. It is located at 201 E. Delaware.

                If your liking for Italian translates to a love for house made pastas and you are willing to hop into a cab to a Lincoln Parkish place I also really enjoy Balena located at 1633 N. Halsted (just north of North Avenue on Halsted). I ate their last night and we sampled 3 of the pasta, all house made, that were really delicious. The rigatoni with pork bolognese, the tajarin with butter and sage and a pasta (linguine I think) with roasted tomatoes that is not listed on their website today. We also had one of their pizzas with prosciutto, tomatoes and burrata cheese that they served with a slightly spiced chile oil that was just terrific. We shared the 36 oz bistecca (grilled bone in) simply served with grilled lemon, olive oil and roasted garlic. Utterly tender and delicious. This place is near my home so I'll be running back but I'd say it's worth the short trek from the MM.

                3 Replies
                1. re: KateBChi

                  "but I'd say it's worth the short trek from the MM"

                  . . . and just a couple of stops north (Clybourne/North) on the red line.

                  Although I haven't been in a couple of years, you might also want to checkout Merlo on Maple, for traditional (but not cheap) Bolognese cuisine.

                  1. re: jbw

                    Okay, guys - my last question about deep dish pizza - it's twofold - of the the top three is there one that has a better "white pizza" and is there a particular location that is close to the Omni Hotel? Thanks or all the input!!

                    1. re: Wannabetraveler

                      There is no such thing as "white" (tomato-less) deep-dish.

                      Distances from the Omni (676 North Michigan Avenue), per Google Maps:

                      .2 miles - Pizzeria Due, 619 North Wabash
                      .3 miles - Pizzeria Uno, 29 East Ohio
                      .4 miles - Pizano's, 864 North State
                      .6 miles - Lou Malnati's, 1120 North State
                      .8 miles - Lou Malnati's, 439 North Wells

                2. Just wondering your take on Trattoria Isabella, in the Loop? Off Jefferson/Fulton?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: jenshannon219

                    I haven't been there, but FWIW, the area west of the river, including Trattoria Isabella, is generally considered the West Loop.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      Its been a couple years but as I posted above (and at first incorrectly typing about the wrong place), but IMHO Trat Isabella is average at best. Nice outdoor terrace but its fall and therefore no need to go there.

                      1. re: jbontario

                        I walk by it all the time. I really don't think it is a particularly nice outdoor space. Big, but really nothing special. Always wondered about the food, but haven't tried it.