For Italian--La Scarola or Riccardo Trattoria ?
Coming into Chicago the weekend of April 6 and staying at The Public Hotel. More concerned with quality and flavor than I am proximity. Planning on one Italian meal and considering La Scarola or Riccardo--does one stand out vs. the other?....is there another that might be added to the mix??
I haven't been to La Scarola. I ate at Riccardo Trattoria a few months ago, and I was disappointed; none of the food was all that great. I was surprised, because I know it gets a lot of acclaim, but I just didn't see it (or, more precisely, taste it). And I've had many absolutely terrific Italian meals in the Chicago area in the past year or two, at Anteprima, tesori, Gioco, Piccolo Sogno / Piccolo Sogno Due, the Florentine, Campagnola, Sergio's, and Moderno (which has closed). All of which make Riccardo stand out that much more, as the *only* Italian restaurant that has disappointed me recently.
So where would I recommend? Well, you really ought to consider Café Spiaggia. I haven't been there in a while, but it's always been consistently excellent, and unlike the other places I've mentioned, it's only a short ten-minute walk from the Public Hotel. But if you asked me which of all these places I consider the absolute best, the most reliable and consistent, the place I think about and want to go back more frequently than any other, then it would have to be Anteprima. Note, Anteprima is not all that close to the Public Hotel; it's six miles north in Andersonville, and you can get there via a half-hour ride on the #22 Clark Street bus.
I really like La Scarola, but it's almost always packed so make sure to call ahead. They don't really take reservations but Armando is always great if you call ahead. It's old-school american italian and I have never been disappointed. Penne and vodka sauce great, had some sea bass two weeks ago that was also very tasty and they have a "cheese pillow" raviolli special every once and a while that is heaven.