Italian Village: Why Chicago's Oldest Italian Restaurant Is A Rare Gem

With so many legendary restaurants shuttering left and right, it's a rare sight to see more than a handful of historic restaurants around the United States still thriving, no less any with sustained popularity spanning multiple generations. Italian Village is Chicago's oldest Italian restaurant and has been in business for nearly 100 years. Since its humble beginnings in 1927, this family-owned restaurant stands proudly in The Loop — Chicago's official downtown locale and an epicenter of foodie culture — in a historic structure that is, according to its official website, "An incredibly old building."

The history of the restaurant begins with founder Alfredo Capitanini, who emigrated from Tuscany to Chicago in 1924. Capitanini's career as a restaurateur began humbly, taking work as a dishwasher while learning everything he could. Only a few years later, The Village opened for business on September 20, 1927 to a huge crowd. The food menu boasts a selection of both Italian-American and Italian dishes, priding itself on such classics as cannelloni, chicken piccata and more. Just as impressive is its wine program, which is carefully curated to include a selection that has been long-touted among the best in America.

What makes Italian Village a legendary restaurant?

In addition to food and ambience, the star-studded array of patrons who have graced Italian Village with their presence and celebrations over the years truly cements this eatery as iconic. Frank Sinatra once hosted a wedding reception in the upstairs area and was known to be a fan of the chicken parmigiana. Second generation proprietor and son of founder Alfredo Capitanini, Frank Capitanini took pride in having committed to memory the favorite orders of many of his establishment's esteemed guests, including Sinatra's chicken parm, race car driver Mario Andretti's veal Saltimbocca, and Barbara Streisand's pasta primavera among others. With the Capitanini family's commitment to home cooked food and old school service, it's no wonder so many celebrities and civilians alike continue to find themselves right at home at this restaurant.

Current fourth generation proprietors, Jonathan and Giovanna Capitanini, work diligently to maintain Italian Village's stellar reputation, with Giovanna taking the marketing and PR side and Jonathan handling finance and operations. The two even created a new underground concept Italian dive bar, Bar Sotto, beneath Italian Village, inviting guests to relax and make themselves at home. This newer addition is certainly one that is right in step with Italian Village's historic acclaim. Saluti to this restaurant's legacy among the best Italian restaurants in Chicago, and here's to many more years of success.