The Art of Art Ross
Chicago Suburban Italian Restaurants

Over time, Italian immigrants and their families (like many Chicagoans) moved out of the city, leaving their city neighborhoods as other immigrants moved in. The great Chicago fire of 1873 helped create an exodus away from city life as well. As a result, you can find excellent Italian food all over Chicagoland. In fact, you might be surprised at how much amazing Italian cuisine is available in the suburbs. The area is full of delicious pastas, breads, salads and meats, prepared in restaurants of every type, from the big national chains like Maggiano’s to locally owned and popular Mia Francesca restaurants in 12 suburbs, to the intimate local favorites like Francesco’s Hole in the Wall. If you’re a big foodie, staying in the city to sample Italian food is simply too limiting.

O’Hare Area

Basilico, located in Norridge, is a romantic and cozy place with friendly, experienced servers and authentic Italian food. The family-run restaurant uses 75-year-old recipes for gourmet dishes including pasta, chicken, veal, steaks, seafood and dessert.

Giannotti’s Italian Steakhouse, in Rosemont, is a Chicago institution and an elegant place to dine. Steaks, chops, chicken and seafood arrive at your table, cooked to perfection. All sauces, soups, and pastas are made from scratch, using family recipes handed down through generations.

Cucina Biagio!, in Harwood Heights, is a contemporary-styled and superb place to bring a party of people for a wonderful mix of northern and southern Italian cuisine. The menu features a wide variety of wines, and guests can enjoy live piano music from Wednesday to Sunday each week.

The Northwest Suburbs
Maggiano’s
, in Schaumburg, invites guests to step back into pre-World War Two “Little Italy” with an elegant and yet intimate family atmosphere. Enjoy first-class Old and New World southern Italian cuisine. This is a very popular place for people from all over, so expect a wait on weekend nights.

Francesca Tavola, part of the Mia Francesca is a friendly restaurant just south of downtown Arlington Heights.

Moretti’s Ristorante & Pizzeria, in Schaumburg, is a casual mix of a restaurant, pub, sports bar, and take-out joint. There’s something for everyone—even a large outdoor garden for those too-seldom nice Chicago days.

Venuti serves great Italian seafood and grilled meat at its stylish Addison location, which includes a bar and lounge. The classics are served here; the selection is large and the an all-you-can-eat buffet is available for lunch. A DJ entertains Thursday through Sunday nights..

Enzo & Lucia’s, Long Grove, is a quaint and friendly place located in a former Victorian-style home, and includes a view of a fountain and flower garden. Homemade pastas and pastas are a specialty here—the potato gnocchi is especially popular.

Rosebud Old World Italian of Schaumburg provides an elegant, lush atmosphere with multiple dining rooms. The food is generously portioned and includes entrees like Chicken Vesuvio and linguine with clams. A spectacular wine list and decadent desserts help provide a charming experience for lovers of Italian cuisine. Rosebud has many locations in Chicago along with Naperville & Highland Park.

North Suburbs
Bella Via, in Highland Park, is a popular yet intimate restaurant with exposed brick walls and hardwood floors. Specialty dishes include gnocchi, potato pasta stuffed with Portobello mushrooms, a homemade lobster-filled pasta, veal saltimbocca, and fresh sea bass with a lemon and wine piccata sauce.

Di Pescara, in Northbrook, has excellent wine pairings to match an eclectic, contemporary Italian menu. The setting is ideal for personal and professional dining. Located in upscale Northbrook Court mall, it’s a great pre-movie, post-shopping destination.

Del Rio is located in the tiny dining haven of Highwood. Family-owned and operated, the restaurant serves the best classic Italian and boasts an enormous wine selection, since the owners are wine collectors. Here, an old-school ambience enhances a quiet and romantic meal.

A personal favorite of the editor’s, Francesco’s Hole in the Wall is a popular Northbrook haunt featuring long waits, low prices, a crowded yet cozy atmosphere and a constantly changing menu posted in chalk. The pastas, pizzas and breads are delicious, but take note of the cash-only policy.

Francesca’s North in Northbrook offers a contemporary, casual yet sophisticated trattoria ambiance with rustic cooking, friendly service and reasonable prices.

Evanston’s Gio truly makes you feel like you’re in Italy. The extensive menu includes wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas that are highly recommended, along with solid pasta choices and interesting specials. A unique and affordable wine list rounds out this sophisticated experience.

Dave’s Italian Kitchen, right next door to Gio, is a fun, student-friendly institution close to Northwestern University where Dave makes the kitchen the focus of his restaurant. Big portions, bright colors and wine bottles inscribed with comments from guests provide a casual, dynamic mood for a restaurant known for its hearty pastas.

 

North Suburbs (Continued)

This is only the tip of the iceberg, really. Italian cuisine abounds in the suburbs, and every neighborhood has its favorites. Other places of note, if you’re in the north suburbs:.

Campagnola, an Evanston establishment that tires to use organic and regional products whenever possible and champions the low-impact agriculture movement. Francesca’s Intimo in lovely Lake Forest is an outpost of the Francesca’s chain with a menu that changes every two weeks. For reasonably priced, comfortably casual fare, visit Glenview’s Gusto Italiano. Gabriel’s in Highwood is better for impressing; reservations are recommended for this upscale French/Italian eatery with an open kitchen.

This suburban outpost of Phil Stephani’s Tuscany in Wheeling and Oak Brook is famous for a reason. The dining room exudes casual elegance and warmth, a mood that’s also evoked in the northern Italian specialties such as homemade pastas, gourmet pizzas and veal dishes.

Va Pensiero, in Evanston, offers fantastic, extremely high-end gourmet Italian food in the basement of the Margarita Inn. Classic Romanesque décor and golden, muraled walls provide a graceful and lively tone for the robust, always-changing and inventive menu.

Western Suburbs

Antico Posto, in Oakbrook, is a restaurant, café, and wine bar rolled into one. Traditional house specialties include a variety of hot and cold antipasti, homemade ravioli, pastas, and thin crust pizzas. Some guests consider it the best-kept dining secret in the suburbs.

Carlucci Downer’s Grove is a romantic spot designed to evoke the rusticity of an Italian villa, but it features sophisticated wines and dishes and a charming Italian garden. The robust flavors of Tuscany take center stage here, in the form of delicate sauces, flavored oils, wild herbs, simmered sauces and soups, and well-prepared meats.

Westmont’s Cucina Roma serves up huge portions of rustic, homemade Italian dishes for the most discerning palate. The warm, inviting eatery prides itself on great service and mouth-watering entrees.

The newest Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse is open at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center. This classy tribute to the Chicago Cubs’ announcer, who died in 1998, evokes more of Chicago than Italy. Still, with steaks, pastas and other favorites on the menu, it’s a casual and friendly place to indulge in Italian flavor.

Go Roma Italian Kitchen, in Bolingbrook, Oak Brook, and Warrenville (also up north in Deer Park, Lincolnshire, and Northbrook) blends quality and convenience. Try the Country Style Rigatoni, which mixes Italian sausage with a combination of roasted red peppers, fresh basil and mushrooms and sautéed with a homemade garlic cream sauce.

Riva, in Naperville, is a contemporary eatery that offers vistas of a private lake and a beautiful skyline in the distance. Come here for premium seafood, raw bar entrees, steaks and chops with modern flair.

Timpano Chophouse & Martini Bar of Naperville, is reminiscent of the classic restaurants and clubs of Chicago and New York. Try the flavorful steaks, chops and pasta matched by full-bodied red wines, all in a sophisticated setting that’s both all-American and traditionally Italian.

Vic’s Classic Italian Steakhouse, in Oakbrook Terrace, offers a refined experience of dishes made with imported ingredients, handmade pastas, and hand-trimmed meat and seafood. A huge variety of cooking styles makes Vic’s Southern Italian dishes both comforting and exciting.

 

 
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