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Apr 6, 2014 06:12 PM

chicago italian near downtown

recommendation for Italian. staying downtown chicago

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  1. We have a lot of good to great ones in the neighborhoods comprising downtown Chicago: Piccolo Sogno (River West), Piccolo Sogno Due (River North), Vivere (Loop), Café Spiaggia (Mag Mile), Tesori (Loop), Terzo Piano (Loop - dinner only on Thursdays), Coco Pazzo (River North), Gioco (South Loop), Coco Pazzo Café (Mag Mile), Trattoria No. 10 (Loop), Nico Osteria (Gold Coast). That's the order in which I would rank them, starting with the very best... but all of these are at least pretty good, and I wouldn't split hairs arguing over these rankings. In fact, I would probably consider going to one that's closer over one that's further away and ranks higher. (You don't mention where in downtown Chicago you are staying; it covers quite a wide area, three miles north to south.) All of these are open for lunch too.

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      I know you said you ranked them for quality, and that all are good. Would the rankings change if you consider price? Are there groupings among them (e.g., >$75 pp (incl wine), $75-$45 pp (incl wine) and less than $45 incl wine?

      1. re: CHenlinea

        The prices at these places don't vary all THAT much from one to another. At all of them, I find myself typically paying $60-80 per person (including appetizer, entrée, dessert, moderate wine and tax/tip), which is basically the upper half of your $75-45 group. So no, the rankings wouldn't change based on price. (I didn't mention Spiaggia, which would significantly exceed that range.) And I don't think you're going to find any nice Italian restaurant downtown where you can expect to have a complete dinner for under $45 including wine and tax/tip. You can do that for lunch, or with pizza, or a few small plates at Quartino or Bar Toma, or just a single pasta dish or possibly entree, but not a complete three-course dinner (app/pasta, entrée, dessert; or app, pasta, entrée), even with splitting one of the three courses.

        Even at Anteprima - which is my top pick for great Italian food at a bargain price, thanks to their prix fixe special Sundays-Thursdays, $29 for almost any three courses (and is not downtown) - I usually find myself paying in the $50-65 range, which isn't all that much less than the above group and is still in that same $45-75 range. I'd probably rank Anteprima tops regardless of price for the outstanding food, and not because it's slightly less money than the previous group.

        1. re: CHenlinea

          One venue I would add for consideration is Balena; my favorite Italian venue in Chicago. Some of the best service you will receive in Chicago, really cool decor/ambiance, consistently excellent food (the pizzas and pastas are among the best I have consumed anywhere but nearly everything on the menu I have tried has been excellent) and a fantastic beverage program to boot. Prices are very reasonable for the portions and quality. It would fall in the $45-$75 per/person with wine category.

      2. thanks for all your suggestions. we ended up at davanti enoteca in little italy. it was great: food, ambiance, service, bar. our waiter the previous night at Travelle made the suggestion. so glad we went!
        love chicago food and dining!

        1 Reply
        1. re: fahy

          Glad you had a nice meal; I had a good meal at their sister venue in San Diego, but have never been to the Chicago location.

        2. i was really impressed by the friendliness of the staff! the food was delicious and the atmosphere very low key and fun!

          1. Ah nsxtasy, how could you not mention Petterino's? I love their salads, their savory meatballs, their real tablecloths even in the lunch rush. For visitors: corner Dearborn and Randolph, right in the theater district of the Loop.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Querencia

              I don't think they're quite at the level of the others. Like their former LEY stablemate Maggiano's - not bad at all, just not as unusual or authentically Italian as the others. And, as I mentioned in my first post above, I wouldn't split hairs arguing over these rankings.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Also, I think of Petterino's more as a steakhouse rather than as an Italian restaurant (although I realize it's a little of both, like the Rosebud restaurants).

              2. re: Querencia

                If you're in that area, my pick is always 312 over Petterino's. A five minute walk that pays off.