19 Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Accessible Via Mass Transit

Buon Giorno, mi amici!  After careful research, I give you my picks for “19 Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Accessible Via Mass Transit”.  What are you waiting for?  Mangia!


**** [EDITOR’S NOTE:  This post was originally published on October 29, 2015.  This update includes seven(7) additional, delicious Italian restaurants in Chicago!  They are highlighted in the text in RED.]

**Click on the restaurant names for more information and directions.  


The Gold Coast


Nico OsteriaThis Italian seafood-centric restaurant is located in the Thompson Chicago Hotel. People adore the brunch, lunch, and dinner here.  I love swordfish and this grilled swordfish ‘nduja did not disappoint.  The sexy, vibey atmosphere makes it one of the 19 Best Chicago Italian restaurants you need to visit.



Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Nico Osteria




River North


Siena Tavern –  “Top Chef” contestant and rising culinary superstar, Fabio Viviani, has made this River North spot one of the hottest restaurants in town.  It is definitely a “go-to” spot of mine for lunch, dinner, and brunch. The focus here is mainly rustic, Tuscan fare.   I recommend the grilled octopus starter and the jumbo lump crab spaghetti.  Also, one of the best lobster rolls in Chicago can be found here.  



Siena Tavern's lobster roll Best Chicago Italian Restaurants



Dolce ItalianChicago has some great hotel restaurants.  This one located at The Godfrey Hotel is a real stand-out.  This creamy seafood risotto won my heart.  



Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Dolce Italian's seafood risotto

This was an incredibly light seafood risotto.



Lincoln Park


Balena – This Lincoln Park Italian gem is located near the iconic Steppenwolf Theatre.  It is not only very pretty but it happens to have the most expertly executed wood-roasted chicken thighs I’ve ever eaten.  Bravo!  



Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Balena's wood roasted chicken thighs



West Loop


Bar Siena – This rustic spot in the West Loop is the younger sibling of Siena Tavern.  The more casual digs offer some of the same great pizza, pasta, and pastries, along with this totally drool-worthy sausage and peppers sandwich.  It was the very best one I have eaten anywhere in years!  



Fabio Viviani's Bar Siena Best Chciago Italian Restaurants

Hungry yet?



Monteverde – Top Chef Contestant, Sarah Grueneberg, opened this gorgeous Italian spot in Chicago’ West Loop neighborhood.  She is offering some typical an atypical pasta dishes as well as some wonderful entrees.  If there is any version of Chef Grueneberg’s raviolo available on the menu when you visit, you must try it.  It’s creamy and luscious.



Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Monteverde

One sexy raviolo!



Formento’sThis restaurant is brought to us by the same group as Balena (mentioned above). The menu here pays tribute to classic Italian-American dishes including Sunday gravy, clams casino and a relish tray (Who does that anymore?!) Very cool.  I enjoyed the seasonal and dreamy stuffed squash blossoms as well as this light and lovely local walleye en cartoccio (in parchment paper) with cippolini onions, capers, new potatoes, lemon and a generous amount of olive oil.



Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Walleye entree at Formento's

Walleye in cartoccio at Formento’s



Logan Square


Osteria Langhe – This Logan Square spot is serving up the yummiest and comforting cuisine focused on the Piemonte region of Italy.  That’s some hearty food and superior wine, folks!  You definitely want to order the plin (tiny pillowy purses filled with cheese and spice) which is the house specialty.  This is no ordinary spin on ravioli.  These little guys melt like butter on your tongue!  I also recommend the brunch here.  Tell Aldo I sent you 🙂  



Plin at Osteria Langhe Best Chicago Italian Restaurants

You do NOT want to miss the signature house-made plin here!


The Magnificent Mile


The Purple Pig – This is one of the best and coolest dining destinations in Chicago.  It’s an absolute “must-do.”  Chef/Owner Jimmy Bannos, Jr. won the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef Award” last year.  Technically, this tiny Michigan Avenue tapas spot is serving up Mediterranean dishes from Italy, Spain, and Greece.  While you’ll want to work your way through this fabulous menu, I recommend the pork neck-bone gravy with ricotta and this delectable charcuterie platter.  Chef Jimmy’s team is curing these meats in-house.  



The Purple Pig's charcuterie platter Best Chicago Italian Restaurants



Cafe Spiaggia – Award-winning Chef/Owner, Tony Mantuano, opened this Magnificent Mile jewel earlier this year.  It is the younger sibling to Spiaggia, Chicago’s only 4-star restaurant. The space is more casual and the menu more affordable.  But, do not let those details fool you.  The food here is just as phenomenal. I highly recommend this farro spaghetti with manila clams.  I still dream about it.  Enough olive oil to make your skin shine 🙂



Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Cafe Spiaggia's farro spaghetti

Chef Mantuano is not shy about using olive oil. Thank goodness!




Bar Ombra – If you are looking for a taste of Venice in Chicago, this place has got you covered. Located in the lovely Andersonville neighborhood, Bar Ombra nails the look, feel and taste of authentic Venetian cicchetterias.  This earthy orecchiette pasta with spicy sausage and rapini hit the spot one hot summer night this year.  


Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Bar Ombra's pasta

Orecchiette with spicy sausage, greens, tomato, garlic, and Parmeggiano-Reggiano is a traditional Venetian pasta dish


{Note:  Unfortunately, Bar Ombra has since closed.}


Anteprima – This wonderful Italian refuge in Andersonville is definitely one of the very best Italian restaurants in Chicago. The rustic, Italian fare here is wonderful and the courtyard is a delightful oasis in this adorable neighborhood.  I recommend that you stop by for the 3-course, $29 pre-fixe.  The menu is seasonal and it changes weekly so you’ll never get bored.  

(5316 N. Clark St.  Take the Red Line to the Berwyn ‘L’ stop and walk a few blocks west to Clark St.)


The Loop


Tesori – This often overlooked Italian spot is located next door to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Hall near Michigan Avenue.  It is a cozy space with some top-notch food.  While the menu is always changing, I really enjoyed this super flavorful b chicken thigh ravioli.


Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Tesori near Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Braised chicken thigh ravioli from Tesori


Little Italy


Davanti Enoteca –  Located on a sunny corner of Taylor Street in Little Italy, this place has such a warm, welcoming old neighborhood feel.  I stopped by over the summer for a solo dinner.  I love a good veal marsala and Davanti Enoteca’s take on it really delivered the flavor with lots of thinly sliced garlic to satisfy my soul.  



Best Chicago Italian Restaurants Veal marsala from Davanti Enoteca



West Town


Charlatan – This trendy, rustic spot is one of the newer addition to Chicago’s best Italian restaurants.  It’s located in the West Town neighborhood on Chicago Avenue and it is serving up some creative dishes and cocktails.  Try their pesto.  It’s the best I’ve had outside of Venice or Brooklyn 😉



Best Chicago Italian restaurants Pesto pasta at Charlatan in West Town

Best pesto pasta outside of Venice!



A Tavola – Blink and you are likely to miss this tasty, farm-to-table restaurant in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.  It’s a cozy spot for some delicious house-made gnocchi which is so beloved that you can buy some to-go. 🙂

(2148 W. Chicago Ave.  Take the Blue Line or Red Lines to their respective Chicago ‘L’ stops and transfer for the #66 Chicago bus.)





Ceres’ Table – This bright and lovely Italian spot is located in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood on the north side.  They offer a great pizza and wine deal from Sunday through Thursday ($22), creative entrees, full and half orders of pillowy pasta, as well one of the tastiest brunches in town!


Best Chicago Italian restaurants Ceres' Table in Lakeview


Best Italian restaurants Ceres' Table menu

Eggs in Purgatory


South Loop


Cafe Bionda – The South Loop neighborhood home to Grant Park, Museum Campus, and Soldier Field.  if you are spending time in the part of town and you are looking for a hearty and comforting Italian meal, head to Cafe Bionda.  Whether you sit in the bar area or the main space, the attentive staff has you covered with some great traditional, Italian-American fare.  I happen to love the seafood entrees and pasta. 

(1924 State St.  Take the Red, Orange or Green Line to the Roosevelt ‘L’ stop and transfer to the #22 State St. bus.)


Cafe Bionda Best Chicago Italian restaurants

Light and lovely salmon at Cafe Bionda


River West


Piccolo Sogno – One of Chicago’s best Italian restaurants, Piccolo Sogno, means “little dream” and you don’t want to miss the elegant antipasti, pasta and more here.  The patio is one of the most beautiful in Chicago and a “must-do” whether you are a resident of or visitor to The Windy City.  This place has won numerous awards and it is a great spot to bring, family, friends and business associates.

(464 N. Halsted across the street from the Grand ‘L’ stop on the Blue line)


You’re all set!  Get up, get out and hop the rails and buses to the 19 Best Chicago Italian restaurants.  Don’t forget to save room for dessert.  Mangia!

In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA trains and buses to the best Chicago Italian restaurants. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking.  Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!

  • In Good Taste

    Yum! Rose Angelis is a good one, too (though I’m not sure where that is in relation to an el stop).

  • In Good Taste

    ps: do you live in Chicago? I do to and we are so spoiled by the amazing restaurants here.

    • Sorry for the late reply. Yes, I’ve been living in Chicago for over 10 years now. It’s been amazing to watch the restaurant scene here develop into a fabulous culinary playground.

  • Patricia @ Grab a Plate

    Holy guacamole! This has me gunning for a trip to Chicago, pronto! Everything looks amazing and it’s always great to have an “insider’s” recommendation! Will file away!

  • Des @ Life’s Ambrosia

    So basically, I just need to plan a trip to Chicago to eat? 🙂 I’ve always wanted to try one of Fabio’s restaurants and now you’ve convinced me that that pretty much needs to happen asap.

    • Melissa Falk

      Absolutely! Consistently great food and great service at Siena Tavern and Bar Siena (which includes the Bomobar). I am from NYC originally. I’ve been in Chicago for 10 1/2 years and they are both fabulous cities to eat. Chicago has a more collaborative vibe amongst chefs, though. And, they are way more approachable.