Neighborhood Italian spots are a dime a dozen in Chicago, but they are almost all worth knowing, especially when it’s a BYOB. We discovered Lucia’s a few years ago, and it’s been around since a few years before that. The homey Italian spot is run by a an older Italian couple, and the low-key ambience feels like you could easily be dining in grandma’s dining room, if grandma had an unlimited booze policy and charged you to eat.
There’s a small deli in front, and a more formal sit-down restaurant in the back. In reality, they are two totally different places. During the afternoon, feel free to drop by the deli part for some serious take-out and easy Italian style sandwiches, both cold and hot. Everything from salami and capicola to grilled paninis like the da rib-eye steak sandwich.
Or do we what we like to do and make last minute reservations in the late afternoon or early evening when you need dinner plans and are in a bind. That usually means scrounging around for a last second spot to host a BYOB dinner, or when we specifically need something in this part of town for dinner and a few drinks without running up the bill. Lucia's is the kind of place worth having in your rotation for these particular occasions, even though it isn't necessarily one to wow you or anyone else with groundbreaking Italian food.
But Lucia's is still enjoyable. It's small, cozy, and candlelit, and we consider it in the same category as other family run Italian restaurants like Briciola or Caro Mio. And just like the other two, we generally have a pleasant time here. It's all about having the right expectations.
Anyone who manages to keep a restaurant running for over 10 years is doing something right, and the people in the neighborhood will probably say Lucia’s won’t let you down. Stick to the classics, bring yourself plenty of red wine, and try not to get annoyed by the fact they only accept up to two credit cards. It's a family place, after all.
We are normally big on the grilled calamari train, but here, we recommend getting an order of the fried stuff to start. It's a good way to go.
If you're looking for other appetizer options, consider this eggplant stuffed with cheese and topped with a light marinara.
The gnocci is probably our favorite item on the menu at Lucia's. Simple and homemade potato dumplings in tomato sauce with fresh basil and parmigiano cheese.
Into creamy, buttery sauces? This is the move. Rigatoni pasta with portobello mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and peas in a heavy cream.
The usual veal scaloppini with prosciutto and sage that's sauteed in a white wine sauce. Served with roasted potatoes and veggies too, and an overall safe bet.
This is the move if you're a chicken dish kind of guy or gal. A sautéed breast with mushrooms in a marsala sauce, plus a little sautéed spinach.