Benvenuto, Azzurra

At long last, great Italian on Wicker Park's main Milwaukee drag

In the cross-cultural melee of Wicker Park's bustling Milwaukee Avenue–a diversity of foodstuffs ranging from Nepalese dumplings and Korean barbecue to tempeh burgers and local duck gyros–one cuisine has been conspicuously missing: Italian.

Enter Marty Fosse–of Andersonville's Bar Ombra, Anteprima and Acre–to remedy the situation.

Fosse's bright, quaintly decorated new restaurant, Azzurra, is the smart but approachable Italian spot that every enclave hopes to have. The sprawling menu stays true to flavors from throughout the boot, from Roman carbonara ($14) to Sicilian caponata, recently made with sweet roasted carrots ($4).

An ideal night at Azzurra includes a parade of small dishes plucked from an ambitiously expansive list of 20 assaggi e più (tastings and more).

A plate of crispy Brussels sprout leaves ($5) is a must. The irresistibly nutty fried leaves are showered with lemon juice and grated Pecorino, intended–in our opinion, at least–to be eaten as finger food.

House-made grissini and carrot caponata at Azzurra

Chef Katie Kelly's time at The Bristol is evident in well-executed, subtly complex small plates. Her former employer is home to one of the city's finest plates of roast chicken; at Azzurra, she's made an equally memorable one: nuggets of boneless chicken thighs lacquered in honey and vinegar, redolent with rosemary and sage ($8).

We used our fingers for that dish, too, so as to not miss a drop of its excellent agrodolce.