Chicago is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, with a unique culture that derives from its melting pot history. Italians migrated to the Windy City in the mid-1800s in search of work and many stayed and created communities. While those Italian populations have moved around as the city developed, the restaurants of Little Italy have stood strong. Dine at one of the top restaurants in the neighborhood, located between Halsted Street and Ashland Avenue on Chicago’s Near West Side, and experience for yourself what makes this area so distinctive.
Best for Families: Tuscany on Taylor
Order a pasta flight, paired with wine, to try different types of house-made noodles and sauces at this traditional Italian restaurant that is great for hosting families. For dessert, try some cannoli, profiteroles, or gelato. The woodburning oven, open kitchen design, and casual dining room make this eatery the perfect choice for a delicious meal in a relaxed environment. Tuscany on Taylor also has a large take-out menu should you want to eat elsewhere or bring back something extra.
Best for Wine Lovers: Davanti Enoteca
Wine bottles line the walls at Davanti Enoteca, a classic Italian restaurant on Taylor Street. You’ll feel like you’re dining in a rustic wine cellar, with romantic lighting and a casual atmosphere. Of course, you can get any type of pasta you’re hankering for here, as well as some solid vegetarian options like the roasted beets or cauliflower steak. Davanti Enoteca is a neighborhood staple that is ideal for a romantic date night or quiet dinner with friends.
Best for Quintessential Pasta Lovers: The Rosebud
Huge platters of pasta (made from family recipes) have been served to patrons here for over 40 years. Red leather chairs are set under wooden tables that are covered in white cloths, heavy mirrors and photographs adorn the walls, and plates full of hand-rolled meatballs and their signature square noodles are at nearly every table. In the warmer months, the outdoor patio is a lovely place to sit, dine, and watch the world go by.
Best for Groups: Tufano's Vernon Park Tap
Framed sports jerseys and fan memorabilia line the walls behind the bar at this homestyle Italian restaurant that has been serving Little Italy since 1930. Make no mistake about it, this is a loyal-to-the-community, family-owned restaurant serving big portions of classic Italian favorites in a no-frills atmosphere. Overall, it’s a nice place to enjoy a meal and spend the evening.
Best for Modern Italian Fare: Francesca’s on Taylor
Varieties of sausages, pasta, pizza, and homemade meatballs are on the menu here, served to diners in the heart of Little Italy. Francesca’s is part of a chain of restaurants—the original opened in Lake View in 1992. Visit for happy hour and enjoy a couple of handcrafted cocktails and Italian bites before sitting down to your meal. Definitely make reservations as this is a popular restaurant that fills up quickly.
Best for History Buffs: Mario’s Italian Lemonade
You’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time when you visit Mario’s Italian Lemonade, which hasn't changed a bit since its inception. Italian ice has been served from this rustic tricolored hut since Mario and Dorothy DiPaolo first opened its windows in 1954. This is a classic Chicago-Italian social hangout spot, and on warm days and nights you’ll likely see a crowd indulging in an affordable and tasty treat or snapping pics in front of the tricolored walls. Even if you’re not ordering a mango, green apple, grapefruit, or original flavored lemonade, if you like history or a good photo op, you’ll like visiting this spot. Just note that Mario's closes for the winter.
Best for Locals: Pompei
Pompei has been serving Italian favorites to Chicagoans since 1909. The restaurant started off selling bakery items and cheese pizza and now offers a wide variety of sandwiches, soups, salads and, of course, pizzas. Strudels and house-made pasta (along with imported pasta) are super popular here. Don’t skip the gelato or Rosemarie’s Lemon Knot Cookie. Pompei has a Specials menu, offered daily, and if you like what you’ve tasted, you can bring home a pound of fresh bread or pizza dough and make something at home.