Nico Osteria | Gold Coast, Chicago

The secret to Nico Osteria is in the bar

Every time you head to Nico Osteria, you'll know where to find us: the bar.

While the food at this Paul Kahan-backed Italian restaurant is universally excellent, the place to eat it is in that breathtaking room, officially labeled the "Salone."

There's a two-story "living wall" of greens behind the bar that literally breathes vibrancy into the space; hidden nooks around the edges are the perfect spot for a romantic rendezvous.

Best of all, there is quiet and order–the two things lacking in the dining room. In the Salone, no one is dropping dishes, fighting to get through the tiny spaces between the tables or screaming to be heard over the roar of the espresso grinder.

And while you won't get the full menu in the Salone–to get chef Erling Wu-Bower's squid ink buccatini with sardines, which tastes like someone threw a bucket of the Atlantic at your face, you'll have to brave the crowds–you can feast on spicy lobster crudo with fermented chile or Dungeness crab salad with fava bean purée and huge slices of radish.

The full menu of fettunta, which we're pretty sure means "lots of delicious things piled on bread," is also available in the bar.

Salone living isn't so bad after all.