Posts in the ‘Lincoln Park’ Category

Buon Appetito – Our Favorite Italian Restaurants

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

we say:

Supposedly, if you give a baby hundreds of toys to choose from, he’ll get totally overwhelmed and not play with a single one.  We, like spoiled rotten babies, have had a similar reaction to reviewing Chicago’s Italian restaurants.  Chicago is home to some of the best Italian cuisine in the country, but where do we begin when there are literally thousands of Italian restaurants, one on almost every corner?  And how can we compare a place like Spiaggia to a neighborhood osteria?  And what about pizza? Pizza!  And how many Italian restaurant reviews will you, our friends, read before you fall asleep or abandon us forever?  Life is so complicated; we’ll just do our best and hope you like us anyway.  Andiamo.

Our Top Five:

  1. Enoteca Roma (Wicker Park) – We love this small, somewhat low-key (for Wicker Park) eatery for its incredibly flavorful bruschettas, cheeses and pastas.  We love the family-style approach and the way they pour their polenta onto marble slabs.  We love their patio too.   Really though, there’s no trick to why they’re first on our list; the food is superior and that’s what matters.
  2. Rose Angelis (Lincoln Park) - We doubt you’ll find this one on many other Best Italian lists, but you should.  It’s hard to beat Rose Angelis’  huge portions of hearty, homemade pasta.   Formerly the first floor of a home, the cozy layout and setting will charm your pants off (they’ll already be unbuttoned to make room for your pasta baby).  As impossible as it may seem, try to leave room for one of their spectacular desserts.
  3. Piccolo Sogno (River West) – A “little dream” come true.  This upscale Northern Italian restaurant’s menu is as fabulous as its decor.  An impressive place to take out-of-towners, but make your reservation well in advance.  Their mozzarella cheese melts on the tongue and their wine list is impeccable.  They use authentic ingredients combined in wonderful ways, presented artfully.  If you go to their website, be prepared to rock out to some dramatic Italian crooning that starts off like a smooth jazz rendition of the theme song from St. Elmo’s Fire.
  4. Anteprima (Andersonville) - This one almost didn’t make the cut because one of us finds it underwhelming, but here it is, numero quattro, and nobody has to sleep on the couch.  Everyone’s a winner!  Anteprima serves rustic Italian dishes with local, seasonally-inspired ingredients.  The atmosphere is warm and cheerful and totally unpretentious.  They also make their own limoncello. Yum.
  5. Cibo Matto (Loop) and Pelago (Gold Coast) – Between these two, it’s toss up.  Both are trendy and oozing with swank.  Cibo Matto is located in the ultra-hip Wit hotel; Pelago in the boutique Raffaello Hotel.  Cibo Matto is over-the-top stylish while Pelago is more reserved and sophisticated.  Both serve Italian gourmet with a modern twist.  We suggest the Pollo a Griglia at Cibo Matto and the fettuccine with truffles at Pelago.

Our Favorites (In A League of Their Own):

Our Favorite Neapolitan-style (woodfire oven) PizzaAntica Pizzeria (Andersonville)

Our Favorite Italian Sandwiches – Narrowly beating out the neighborhood fave, Piatto Pronto (Edgewater) is L’Apetito Imported Italian Foods (Near North Side).   Check out this Italian deli and delicacy store and get an amazing sandwich to go.  Avoid the tourist trap in the Hancock and stop by the deli in the cathedral district. We suggest Il Parma. It’s topped with the best fresh mozzarella to squeeze it’s way between two slices of bread.

Our favorite Italian Chicagoan – This Guy:

We’re still in search of our favorite gelato.  Got tips?

If we missed one of your faves, use the comment section to let us know.  We’d love to try it …  or tell you why we omitted it (probably because of the weird smell and the cockroaches).  In the meantime, we’ll just be sitting here, staring at our toys and throwing temper tantrums.

Bird’s Nest, Lincoln Park

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

he said:

Loyal blog readers (that would be you mom) already know that I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan. And when they’re playing, I like to watch at a bar and eat some good bar food. So when a friend I hadn’t seen since high school, Mike, suggested we meet up, I was up for it, no matter where we went.

Mike suggested we meet at a bar called Bird’s Nest. Sounded good to me. I’ve been so lucky with bar food since I’ve moved to Chicago that I invented a stupid word that no one else has started using yet: barmet. (Gourmet with the word bar in front. Oh you got that? And you’re still not going to start using it? Oh well, I’ll keep trying.)

Best wings in Chicago?

I didn’t realize that we were going to a place that had been voted as the best wings in the city.

Now, I wouldn’t call wings barmet. They are bar food. When done well, they should be simple and spicy. You try to fancy that up, you lose what makes it good.

But I can see why the wings were voted the best. They were delicious. Juicy meat, crisp fried skin, and spicy sauce, that was the perfect heat. Well, I could have gone hotter, but Gal was there and I didn’t want to get puffy red lips and spicy, gradoux fingernails that come with wings. (Or at least, how I eat wings.)

And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Mike’s brother-in-law was there, and about 6 of his friends, and I swear I saw them order about 100 wings. No joke.

But yeah, they were good. The wings were as good as the Bengals were bad that Sunday. With the Bengals, maybe next year, but I hope to get back to Bird’s Nest sooner.

she said:

The Bird’s Nest boasts that its menu is not typical bar food.  I say, time for a reality check, Bird’s Nest.  I say, do what you’re good at.  I say, be proud of what you are: a sport’s bar with a typical, albeit extended, menu.  Okay okay, they do have a few – and I mean a few – more vegetarian options than most bars (hummus, stuffed mushrooms).  I wasn’t a big fan of the veggie panini I ordered, but what did I expect? I was surrounded by hundreds of sports-tuned televisions and super fans pounding chicken wings.  Go to Bird’s Nest if you want to watch football, hang out with your friends, eat wings and drink beer.  If you’re looking for culinary excellence, Bird’s Nest is not the place to find it, but did I really need to tell you that?  It is, after all, a neighborhood sports bar.