Since the 1850s, Italian cuisine has been a staple of Chicago’s culinary DNA. Nonna’s creamy risotto, buttery gnocchi, soft ricotta ravioli, and crispy Milanese have all been preserved—and, in some cases, modernized—thanks to countless standout restaurants who’ve shared their family’s signature dishes over and over again for generations.
Italian cooking requires patience, skill, a whole lot of heart, and…tomatoes, flour, cheese, olive oil, wine, and garlic. Okay, maybe that’s a bit reductive, but those seven heavenly ingredients so often join forces to create countless home-style dishes we know and love. From old-school osterias peddling top-shelf martinis and modern, celebrity chef-helmed Restaurant Row hotspots to grab-and-go deli counters pushing farm-fresh ingredients, here are the 16 best Italian restaurants in Chicago. (And that’s not even counting pizza—if you’re dying for some ‘za, here are our favorite picks.)