A list of Chicago’s best Italian restaurants must be as hotly contested as the roster of presidential nominee hopefuls in an election year. Consider previous contenders, at least in pasta, not politics, here. The restaurant landscape in Chicago is ever-changing, but you can count on the kitchens of these stellar eateries to supply you with style, substance and undeniably wonderful plates of Italian takes on apps, pasta and seafood entrees, and desserts.
Osteria Langhe
2824 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 606

If there needed to be another reason to visit Logan Square, Osteria Langhe’s Piedmont menu is it. True to this part of the boot, Chef/Owner Cameron Grant has his way with game, pork (try the Maiale – grilled pork ribeye with blood sausage, sunny egg, arugula and calabrian chile butter), beef and fowl (try Pollo e Funghi – chicken and mushrooms rolled into a pastry puff roll served with burnt leeks and tomato confit).You can’t miss with the risotto of the day or house made pasta, like hand pinched ravioli with Parmesan cheese, thyme and butter. Vegetarians should flock to Osteria Langhe for the imaginative turns with grains and farm fresh veggies. The streamlined menu is gratifying in that there are not dozens of choices from which to choose – that dilemma occurs with the encyclopedic wine list, a conundrum easily solved with cheery, knowledgeable waitstaff. Dessert is yet another culinary climax with items like tobacco and Marsala cheesecake in a shortbread crust. Wow.

65 E. Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 786-9911

Chef Danny Sweis has groomed repeat diners with his engaging cuisine at Marché, Gioco and Quartino over the years. He brings skill and vision to the Loop (a Lupini bean’s throw from the Art Institute, Symphony Center and MIchigan Avenue) with Tesori’s rustic Italian fare. During the colder months, begin with braised veal cheeks, otherwise any of the luscious fresh cheeses make an excellent antipasti. A half dozen salads satisfy leaf eaters in engaging ways (Nichols farm roasted radishes with perky shaved fennel, avocado, aged Chevre in lemon-fennel vinaigrette) and pizzas with intriguing ingredients are show stopping in flavor. Tesori must have angels making the pasta – it’s ethereal and heavenly.  Among the entrees, Branzino is a standout. Don’t be afraid of the carrot pancakes for dessert – they’re topped with cinnamon ginger Mascarpone, pineapple-vanilla compote, cream cheese gelato, rum-soaked golden raisins, candied pecans and toffee sauce.

626 N State St.
Chicago, IL 60610

You know Quartino has to be great, not only because it has endured for years in such a huge universe of city restaurants, but also because the place is packed on weeknights with chatty, happy diners. Chef John Coletta’s food is wildly popular for hitting the mark in terms of the quality of food (naturally), but also offering lots of choices, perfect execution, easy service and prices that belie its RIver North address. Sure bets include inspired array of salumi and cheese plates, more than 15 Neapolitan pizzas, house made pastas,interesting options for vegetarians, and nice turns with seafood. Among the small plates, do yourself a favor and order the veal meatballs. The kitchen is open late all week, too.

Related: Best Bistros In Chicago

Osteria La Madia
59 W. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 329-0400

​Chef Jonathan Fox’s Osteria La Madia has been quietly providing an experience similar to what you would enjoy in the old country – everyday, the kitchen is rolling fresh pasta and tossing Neapolitan pizza dough ​from scratch. Seasonal salads, pasta, wood-fired pizza, entrees and desserts are constructed in-house. Stop by to try one or more of the varying ​bruschettas in the bar for only a buck, and more than 75 wines by the glass (two house faves are only $6 a glass).  

Davanti Enoteca
1359 W. Taylor St.
Chicago, IL
(312) 226-5550

Mom and Dad liked the idea of a shopping bag full of white to-go containers holding the leftovers of lasagna bricks and logs of tiramisu. You? You’ll go with an array of small plates so meltingly delicious that you’re supremely satisfied right on the spot. Although the space can get loud, it’s lively and with winning starters like salty ricotta and local honeycomb or truffle egg toast with Fontina and asparagus, you’ll not give a fig in a matter of minutes. Nice charcuterie and memorable pastas and entrees like linguine with sea urchin and crab.  Waitstaff does a bang-up job timing courses so you can leisurely enjoy each.

Related: Best Lasagna In Chicago

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.