The Best Casual Italian Restaurants In Chicago

These are the reliable neighborhood Italian spots where you'll want to be every weeknight.

If you want to eat Italian food in Chicago, you can have it pretty much any way you want. There are expensive tasting menus, there is takeout pizza, and there are plenty of options in between. But it can be hard to find the best of those in-between spots, which is exactly why we made this guide. These are the places perfect for grabbing dinner during the week or having a date night without blowing a ton of money. When you want to eat a lot of pasta and share some reasonably priced bottles of wine, this list will help.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik


Humboldt Park

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerDate Night
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This Italian restaurant in Humboldt Park has the laid-back feel of a European cafe, filled with people laughing while pretending to be on vacation. Plus, Segnatore has friendly bartenders, and a long wooden bar that takes up almost half the restaurant. All of that makes this spot perfect for a solo meal to begin with, but the main reason we love coming here is because of the excellent pasta. Each one has a creative twist that makes things exciting. Their “lasagna” is deconstructed into a pile of handmade garlic mafaldine, whipped ricotta, and rich mushroom bolognese that rivals any meat version. 

Mart Anthony’s is an out-of-the way spot on the border of West Town and the West Loop. It looks like a typical neighborhood corner bar, because, well, it is. But it also happens to be a pretty great Italian restaurant. On any given night it’s full of friends getting together after work, and couples on casual dates. The servers and bartenders are warm and welcoming, and will chat with you even if you’re not a regular. Get the braciole or the lasagna, both of which will have you covered in the leftover department for about three days.

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If you don’t know about this little Italian restaurant in Logan Square that quietly opened in 2020, now you do. The space is small and dimly lit, busy without being chaotic, and has a not-crowded bar that’s perfect for a bowl of pasta and glass of wine. The menu is short—just some hot and cold small plates and a few entrees among other things. It’s all good, but you’re here for the pastas, like cacio e pepe and mezze maniche. They’re wonderfully chewy, and available in half portions in case you decide to order more than one. You should.

This counter-service spot in Fulton Market essentially functions like a stall that should be in Time Out Market, though with a lot less chaos and significantly fewer tourists. And they make good pasta from scratch. Italian Homemade Company is a choose-your-own-adventure situation between seven sauces and ten pasta shapes, like tagliatelle or casarecce, plus meatball platters and other specials. It's hard to come up with a bad combination, though we especially like the gnocchi with pesto and the lasagna.

Enoteca Roma is a small, quiet spot in Wicker Park, and it’s the kind of neighborhood Italian restaurant you imagine New Yorkers taking for granted every day. Sit at the bar with the penne arrabiata or the campanelle topped with venison bolognese, along with a big glass of red. A lot of the pastas come in half orders, which is great if you don’t want leftovers. Just don’t ask for a half order of Chianti.

Head to Bar Roma in Andersonville for great rustic Italian food in a space that has a lot of wood and distressed furniture. They even make sure to leave bags of flour lying around, just to remind you they make all their pastas (like the fantastic cacio e pepe) in house. There’s an entire section of the menu dedicated to polpette (“the balls”), including variations made from spicy pork belly and veal. But we like coming here for the pastas specifically - you can’t go wrong ordering the day’s special.

This place specializes in delicious handmade pasta, and you can get things like burrata-filled tortellini, cacio e pepe, or squid ink bucatini. Whichever pasta you choose, make sure to order some of their focaccia with ricotta and honey to go with it. Also worth noting: They have a cute sidewalk patio if you want to eat your pasta outside.

You need a neighborhood spot that serves giant plates of pasta, and veal scallopini the size of the tablecloth. (Almost.) La Scarola can be that place. It’s as versatile as they come - ideal for a casual date night, weekly dinner with friends, or all-out Italian feast. As we said, the portions are huge, so either come here with a rugby team or expect leftovers.

In the midst of all the sports bars on Wells St. in Old Town is a great Italian restaurant. Topo Gigio feels exactly like the trattoria around the corner from your homestay in Florence—the one you strolled into drunk six days a week while giving America a bad name. It’s perfect for any occasion.

You can’t take two steps down Restaurant Row without coming across a trendy, just—opened place, or running into a former Top Chef contestant. But not every meal you have in the West Loop needs to be someplace with a sushi conveyor belt. Head to Viaggio when you want to keep it simple with a neighborhood institution. It’s been around for almost 10 years now, and its classic Italian food is exactly what you want it to be—tasty and comforting.

You’re getting together with a big group of friends, and no one can make a decision. Make your reservation at Quartino and everyone will be satisfied. The two-story, small plates Italian restaurant in River North has easily shareable pastas, vegetables, and, yes, pizza.

Open since the early ’90s, Club Lucky is meant to resemble a 1940s Italian supper club, which means you can come here and channel strapping young Brando or, you know, the ’90s version. And while the main dining room is large and full of groups, the front bar area is where you want to be to have the fantastic handmade cavatelli in vodka sauce. You can definitely have a nice glass of wine here, but this place is also known for making great martinis. Proceed accordingly.

Sometimes (a lot of times) we want a place where we can knock back too much house wine and go face first into a pile of pasta and meatballs. In Lincoln Park, that place is Pasta Palazzo. The food is simple, fresh, and inexpensive. Most pastas cost around $10, and adding a protein won’t be more than a few extra bucks. We like it more for a casual midweek dinner than date night, but if this is date number 2,829 and you just want something quick, it’ll work.

We’ve long been huge fans of Riccardo Trattoria, a nicer Italian restaurant in Lincoln Park. But across the street is Riccardo Enoteca, the more casual place from the same owners. The focus here is on simple antipasti, pastas, and pizzas. Both restaurants are excellent choices, but if you’re looking for a low-key meal, this is the place. It’s small and usually crowded, so keep your dinner crew to a maximum of four. If you have more, draw straws to find out who has to leave and go to Trattoria. Sorry, those are the rules.

Tufano’s has no menus and a steady stream of regulars, so you may wonder if you’ve walked into a restaurant or accidentally crashed someone’s family reunion. And the answer is you’ve probably done both. Not much has changed here since 1930, and people still pour in for both the neighborhood atmosphere and signature dishes like their stuffed shells or sausage and peppers. There’s no shame in being a newbie, though. Check it out.

Like a bonus level in a video game, there’s a pocket neighborhood inside Pilsen called the Heart Of Italy. It’s just one street with a number of old-school Italian restaurants, and food-wise, Ignotz is the best. The chicken parmigiana is worth traveling for, and the lasagna is really good, too. Not to mention that they win the award for best table bread setup, since it comes with a roasted bulb of garlic for spreading, plus some breadsticks you’ll only wish were unlimited. The whole restaurant is in a refurbished house, and you’ll be eating in a living room complete with a fireplace, and family photos on the mantel.

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