The Absolute Best Italian Restaurants In Chicago

A far cry from its meat-and-potatoes past (via Encyclopedia of Chicago), Chicago is now one of the most acclaimed and eclectic restaurant cities in the world. Whether it's playing host to the James Beard Awards or the arrival of the Michelin Guide, not to mention the endless array of new restaurants popping up throughout various neighborhoods, the Windy City's food scene is booming. The result is a true melting pot, culinarily speaking, with an expansive range of dining styles and cuisines to excite any appetite. In particular, Chicago happens to be an Italian culinary wonderland, and we're not just talking deep-dish pizza. 

Italian restaurants across the city come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from old-school casual red sauce joints to high-end downtown destinations full of glitz, glamour, and accolades. Chicago has shown it's got an endless appetite for Italian food — and these are the best spots in town to enjoy it.

Piccolo Sogno

Situated at the bustling, traffic-filled intersection of Halsted, Grand, and Milwaukee, Piccolo Sogno offers a peaceful retreat to the lush Italian countryside, complete with one of the most transportive, sprawling, and tree-lined patios in the city. Meaning "little dream" in Italian, the entrancing River West restaurant lives up to its dreamy moniker with soulful, fresh fare befitting its immersive ambiance.

The restaurant is the ideal setting in which to hunker down al fresco with a bottle of Italian wine (there are over 400 to choose from), a crisp salad, some fresh baked Italian bread, and pretend you're vacationing in sun-soaked Tuscany. The dishes on chef Tony Priolo's menu are a thoughtful mix of seasoned favorites and seasonal specialties, all scratch-made with the freshest and brightest ingredients. Expect dishes like spring nettle gnocchi, string-cut spaghetti neri with mussels and clams, and half-roasted duck with fennel sausage, cauliflower puree, Tuscan kale, and rosemary.


It almost feels like a disservice to distill Daisies down to a single cuisine, but its rigorously seasonal, locally sourced menu has an undeniable Italian accent weaved throughout. Not only does the restaurant have pasta, but it's some of the best in the city, thanks to the meticulous efforts, thoughtful techniques, and farm-fresh sourcing from chef/owner Joe Frillman.

This intimate, family-owned gem in Logan Square is constantly dazzling and innovating with unexpected riffs on European techniques and comfort food classics including carrot rillettes and onion dip. Entrees are exclusive to pasta, but with delicate, refined dishes like tortellini with lentils, Italian sausage, and braised greens, bright-pink (and highly Instagrammable) beet agnolotti with dill and smoked trout roe, and toothsome tajarin with fermented tomato, 'nduja, and oregano, you wouldn't want anything else.

Stop by for lunch when bread takes centerstage and enjoy a classic chicken parm sandwich or a meatless panini stuffed with sweet potato and buffalo burrata. 

Italian Village

Long before the James Beard Awards decided to come to town, Michelin stars shined bright, and buzzy Italian eateries were all the date-night rage, Italian Village was wooing diners (including the likes of Al Capone, per restaurant lore) in the heart of the Loop's financial district. Originally opened in 1927, making it the longest-running Italian restaurant in the city (via WGNTV), this family-run icon has cemented itself as a mecca of marinara.

A beacon of saucy Italian comfort, it started simply as The Village on the upper floor, complete with décor reminiscent of a Tuscan villa and a ceiling mural twinkling with makeshift stars — a magical setting in which to cozy up to a plate of eggplant parmigiana and veal saltimbocca. Newer generations in the family have since opened La Cantina (an Italian steakhouse located in the wine cellar-esque basement), followed by Vivere (situated on the ground floor), which offers a more modern take on Italian cuisine. Altogether, the enduring institution feels like a veritable theme park of Italian food, with none of the gimmickry and all of the heartwarming nostalgia.

Peanut Park Trattoria

When the owners of two of Chicago's most beloved independent neighborhood restaurants, pizza-slinging Coalfire and sandwich-centric Tempesta Market, join forces for a classic-inspired Italian restaurant (via Eater Chicago) culinary sparks are sure to fly. And fly they do at cozy and homey Peanut Park Trattoria — the kind of place that feels vintage and modern at the same time, with all the polished refinement of a buzzy bistro alongside a menu of familiar flavors that are taken up a notch.

Located right on the Taylor Street main drag in Little Italy, this is the kind of place where you enjoy familiar and comforting classics like meatballs, salumi, panzanella, and linguini carbonara executed with deft precision and the utmost quality (for instance, the chicken for the parmigiana is organic, and the crispy calamari comes with a Calabrian chile aïoli). For all its newness, Peanut Park instantly feels like a classic, sure to cement itself as an Italian requisite for anyone looking to live out their "Lady and the Tramp" foodie fairy tale.

Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio

One of the most lauded restaurants in the city, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio is a stunning — and wildly popular — West Loop hot spot that continues to fire on all cylinders. For those able to snag a reservation, "Top Chef" alum Sarah Grueneberg and James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2017 will take you on an adventure of singular flavors, snacks, and types of pasta, from crispy chicken polpettine and stuffed cabbage with porcini bolognese to soppressata meatballs and gianduja cream puffs. 

As for Monteverde's intricate and wholly original handmade pasta dishes, options rotate regularly, and span the spectrum from ricotta- and spinach-filled tortelli with roasted miso and ramps, to creste di gallo pasta (so named for the fact that it resembles a rooster's crest, per Lilly's Fresh Pasta) with lamb and prosciutto sugo and whipped feta. The restaurant also offers a whole gluten-free menu, which includes a rigatoni made with corn and brown rice flour that can be paired with various sauces.

il Porcellino

Italian-American comfort food has never been swankier since this sexy, sceney, and lively hot spot open its doors in River North. From Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, one of the largest and most prolific restaurant groups in town, il Porcellino feels like a retro-chic ode to the Rat Pack era, complete with dark crimson tones, vintage black-and-white photography lining the walls, a soundtrack of R&B and Motown, and a clamorous party vibe that will transport you to the Las Vegas Strip circa 1963.  

Menu-wise, the restaurant is all about buttery, garlicky, and saucy excess, from whole loaves of garlic bread and prime beef meatballs swimming in marinara, to sausage-strewn orecchiette and ravioli awash in asiago cream. Then there's the restaurant's signature pasta dish: a heaping portion of molten baked burrata lasagna, layered with bolognese, asiago cream, and fontina cheese, served in a huge slab large enough to make deep-dish pizza look dainty.

Gibsons Italia

Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse is one of the most popular, iconic, and profitable restaurants in the city (via Eater Chicago). So it only makes sense that the winning formula of serving top-notch food in an equally impressive space is replicated at Gibsons Italia, a deliciously over-the-top downtown temple of Italian extravagance perched on the Chicago River. Modern and unabashedly decadent, this three-story behemoth of a restaurant (complete with rooftop terrace and a retractable roof) literally uses a gold extruder to shape and cut its housemade pastas (via Bloomberg). Suffice to say, this isn't your typical mom-and-pop spaghetti and meatballs joint.

An evening here isn't just for the pomp and circumstance though, as the food, cocktails, and wine list all exhibit true craft and easily exceed the hype. Expect ornate dishes like grand seafood platters, crabmeat and avocado parfaits, squid ink seafood linguini, risotto decked out with ramp butter and spring truffles, and, true to its Gibsons legacy, top-of-the-line steaks, including a mighty 34-ounce Wagyu tomahawk.

La Scarola

This frills-free institution is a mainstay for homey, humble Italian comfort food served in a funky, ramshackle space (think kitschy knickknacks and walls of signed celebrity photographs) that feels at once cozy and endearingly rickety. One of the most charming aspects is the catchall crowd that dines here; this is the kind of unifying place teeming with characters from all walks of life, from couples and families to diners simply looking for a break from the bustling West Loop scene nearby.

La Scarola has its formula down pat, and not much has changed here in its two-plus decades in business. In fact, it feels like it's been around a lot longer (in the best way possible), right down to the tried-and-true (and huge) platters of sausage and peppers, chicken parmesan, stuffed clams, chicken Vesuvio, and cappellini fra diavolo, loaded with shrimp and arugula in a zesty tomato sauce. Pair your meal with a bottle of red, white, or rosé from the refreshingly affordable wine list.

Nico Osteria

Upscale Italian seafood is the theme at this gilded, ritzy restaurant befitting its Gold Coast address. Located inside the Thompson Hotel, Nico Osteria is an ornate restaurant that dazzles with raw bar fare, rotating small plates (like smoked sea bass brandade, brussels sprouts bruschetta, and heirloom polenta), along with equally seasonal pastas. But the big attraction is the roster of shareable Mediterranean-inspired fish and seafood dishes, including gyro-spiced salmon with braised chickpeas and smoked yogurt, and roasted monkfish with black lentils, eggplant caponata, and ras al hanout.

The restaurant has the kind of polish and swagger that transcends cuisines, making it a destination-worthy dining experience on the mere fact that the food, drinks, and ambience are top-tier. While the main restaurant skews higher end, there's a casual lounge area called Salone Nico with gorgeous cocktails, wine, and curated Italian snacks like truffled rutabaga dumplings, meatballs in pomodoro sauce, and burrata with ground cherries, pistachio pistou, and focaccia.


The owners of Bucktown's longstanding nose-to-tail pioneer, The Bristol, have another winner on their hands with this rustic-chic West Loop fixture. Formento's perfectly toes the line between tried-and-true familiarity and novel technique, serving up Italian-American red sauce with a sleek modern edge. The vibe harkens to throwback Italian haunts with framed black-and-white photos and polished banquettes, but the menu is decidedly modern and fresh. The seasonally driven plates include a spring pea risotto with prosciutto cotto and sunflower seeds along with hearty comfort fare like canestri pasta with pork neck gravy and fennel sausage meatball.

For something more casual, check out Formento's attached counter-service spot, Nonna's. With its own entrance around the corner, diners can choose from pizza (both Sicilian-style and New York-style are on hand), salads, tomato-basil soup, and some of the best and burliest hot sandwiches Italian subs in town, from the crispy chicken parmesan to Italian sausage enrobed in sweet peppers and provolone.


Both a far cry from the see-and-be-seen newcomers of River North, and a more modern departure from the old-school red sauce spots, Anteprima is a singular neighborhood stalwart in its own league. If you feel like dining on seasonal cooking in a quaint Italian bistro, this modest, intimate restaurant in Andersonville certainly fits the bill. Befitting its soulful menu, this is the kind of restaurant that makes you feel like a guest in someone's home, cliches be damned, and is equally suited as a spot for a date night and a casual family dinner.  

The ever-changing roster of items covers plates both small and large, from pine nut-speckled charred asparagus and farro with roasted mushrooms and basil pesto, to lemony bucatini with pecorino and wood-grilled rainbow trout piccata with potatoes, spinach, capers, butter, and lemon. The Italian wine list is particularly impressive as well, best enjoyed on the restaurant's quiet back patio.

Club Lucky

When considering Chicago's myriad old-school Italian restaurants awash in red sauce and red wine, this neighborhood charmer, nestled in a residential area of Bucktown, is among the tops. Club Lucky is the kind of preserved-in-time staple that still feels like a retro mid-century holdover (though it's been around for over 50 years, it closed in the mid-'80s before reopening under new owners).

The front portion of the restaurant is a swinging, neon-glowing cocktail lounge, known for its enormous ice-cold martinis, making it a popular spot to hunker down for a pre-dinner drink while awaiting a table (and wait you will, as Club Lucky is still as kickin' as ever). The main dining room is even swankier — a lofty brick-walled dining room clad in hues of red, which matches perfectly with the spicy cocktail sauce served with the fried calamari, the marinara with the spaghettini and meatballs, and the bottles of Chianti.


When most folks envision Chicago-style pizza, they probably think of touristy downtown spots like Pizzeria Uno, Gino's East, and Giordano's — theme park-sized temples to lasagna-thick pies heaped with sausage and cheese. However, despite the kitschy fun of such pizza palaces, most Chicagoans hit up Pequod's when that occasional deep-dish craving hits. Like any good deep-dish destination, this one is steeped in history, showing just how intertwined Chicago's pizza populace really is.

The original Pequod's opened in 1970 in suburban Morton Grove, where the pizzeria developed quick fanfare for its deep-dish pizzas distinguished by its unique caramelized crusts (via Chicago Tribune). This was a technique where pizza-makers line the exterior of the dough with mozzarella cheese, so when it bakes it caramelizes and develops an extra crispy texture, with a deep, buttery flavor. The original was the vision of the late Burt Katz, who went on to open his own famous pizzeria, the bygone Burt's Place. After he sold the original Pequod's in 1986, the menu expanded to incorporate other Italian-American items, like mozzarella sticks, bruschetta, spaghetti, ravioli, and garlic bread. Then in 1992, Pequod's expanded into the city with its popular Lincoln Park location, swiftly cementing itself as one of the best pizzerias in a city renowned for the deep-dish form. 

Nowadays, this cavernous tavern-like eatery still serves slings some of the best pizza in Chicago, thanks to its seasoned techniques that set it apart from the local fray. Most notably, the caramelized crust is a crispy contrast to the casserole-like layer of cheese and meat.

Spacca Napoli

Although widely known for serving classic Neapolitan pizza, Spacca Napoli is low-key one of Chicago's greatest Italian restaurants in general. That's thanks to chef/owner Jonathan Goldsmith, who has turned his Ravenswood restaurant from a quiet neighborhood staple to a citywide sensation, renowned for using high-quality ingredients and offering a rotating selection of seasonally driven antipasti — on any given evening, this might include olive oil-drizzled burrata, traditional eggplant parmigiana, and mild Italian sausage strewn with sautéed rapini and red pepper flakes.

It's no surprise, however, that the pizza is the star of the show. Goldsmith is a certified pizzaiolo, and it shows in his commitment to craft and quality — right down to the wood-fired oven, imported from Italy (via The Washington Post). Delicately blistered from a quick 90-stint in the scorching-hot oven, each pizza arrives to the table thin and light with a puffy exterior crust. When it comes to toppings, quality is valued over quantity. You can't go wrong with a classic margherita, made with blended San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte cheese, basil, and pecorino gran cru, but everything that comes out of Goldsmith's oven is a surefire hit.