While travel blogs and magazines may tout a region’s stunning scenery, swanky resorts and historical attractions, we all know what the real draw of any vacation is: the food. Come on, admit it – nothing’s better than traveling to a new destination and exploring the local cuisine and restaurants. And when it comes to things to do in Chicago, sampling the local fare should be at the top of any visitor’s list.
The next time you’re headed to this food-lover’s paradise, don’t miss the city’s best-rated Italian joints. Whether you’re in the mood for a big, sloppy piece of deep-dish pizza pie, a quick, light pasta lunch or a serious, sit-down gourmet feast, Chicago delivers!
Lou Malnati’s bills itself as the home of the “best Chicago-style deep-dish pizza in the world,” and Chicago Magazine agrees. Since 1971, this family-run pizzeria has been cooking up deep-dish pies known for buttery, flaky crusts, tangy sauce, “secret recipe” sausage, and backward construction; unlike traditional pizzas, Chicago-style pies are built backwards, with cheese on the bottom, toppings in the middle and sauce on top.
Lou Malnati’s operates six casual restaurants within the city and 29 other locations throughout Chicago’s suburbs.
No trip to Chicago would be complete without a meal – or two, or three – at Italian Village. Founded in 1927, it’s the city’s longest-standing Italian restaurant. Today, this historic building in the heart of the Loop is home to Italian Village, and its two offshoot eateries, Vivere and La Cantina.
For a classic Italian meal, enjoy the traditional Northern Italian fare on the menu at the friendly setting of The Village. Adventurous eaters can explore the forward-thinking menu at Vivere. This contemporary eatery specializes in hand-made pastas, carefully selected wine pairings, and innovative dishes to please any foodie. Seafood and meat lovers will adore La Cantina. This restaurant’s menu emphasizes fresh seafood and thoughtful meat dishes. Its intimate setting in the Italian Village’s lower level has a wine cellar feel, making it the perfect spot for a relaxing dinner. (Speaking of wine, the Italian Village has a 35,000-bottle cellar).
For an upscale gourmet meal with surroundings to match, enjoy dining at Pelago Ristorante. Run by a chef from Trieste, Italy, and his architect wife, this contemporary eatery blends effortless modern style with homemade pastas and innovative seafood dishes. Housed in the Gold Coast’s Raffaello Hotel, the eclectic, seasonal menu might feature monkfish osso buco or Sardinian grooved dumplings, gnocchi with venison sauce or herb-crusted rack of lamb.
Offerings from around Italy are paired with delicate desserts and an extensive wine list. Ask for a table by the stunning, shimmering mother-of-pearl fireplace on a chilly Chicago evening for a truly memorable experience.
If you’re craving home-style cooking, look no further than Anteprima. Set in an Andersonville storefront, this family-friendly trattoria features rustic Italian fare with an emphasis on fresh, organic and locally sourced ingredients. The menu changes with the seasons, but always offers hand-crafted cuisine you might find in an authentic Italian home kitchen.
Enjoy regional favorites from across Italy, such as roasted quail, grilled octopus and duck ragu sauce. Don’t overlook Anteprima’s pasta, made by hand, or ignore their extensive wine selection. Every bottle is from Italian vineyards for that authentic taste.
Got a hot date with that special someone? Book a table at Coco Pazzo and get ready for a truly gourmet experience. This Tuscan-inspired restaurant is known for its attention to detail, superior service, award-winning wine list and innovative menu. Diners enjoy traditional Tuscan fare prepared with a modern, foodie-friendly twist, from hand-made pastas to locally sourced produce and meats.
Coco Pazzo first opened its doors in the River North neighborhood in 1962 in an airy loft setting that adds to the sophisticated ambiance. For a more casual experience, visit the Coco Pazzo Café, in Streeterville.
Next time you’re visiting Chicago and get a hankering for some comforting Italian cuisine, never fear. The Windy City is packed full of eateries to satisfy your cravings. Whether you’re seeking a quick slice or the full experience, you’ll find it in Chicago.