In honor of today being “Italian Village Day” in Chicago, I thought it only appropriate to delve into some of the city’s best red sauce joints. If you’ve come looking for Rosebud or La Scarola, you’ll be disappointed they’re not here. What these joints all have in common though, is their hospitable surroundings, serving comfortable, uncomplicated food in hearty portions. Don’t expect Riccardo Trattoria-caliber osso bucco either.
1. Italian Village – Didn’t you read my post from earlier today? This place has been around for 85 friggin’ years, serving some of the most simple, comfortable Italian fare to both tourists and locals alike. 71 W. Monroe; 312-332-7005.
2. Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap – I love that the waitresses here go out of their way to make families feel at home, no matter what the age of the kids. They’ve seen it all before, and I doubt you’ve seen an eggplant parm as solid and as thick as the one they serve here. Avoid before Hawks and Bulls games though, as the place can be a friggin’ zoo, I tell ya. 1073 W. Vernon Park Pl. 312-733-3393
3. RoSal’s – Well, of course we’re going to be showcasing Little Italy for today’s Top 5. This Taylor Street stalwart does a grilled calamari that’s friggin’ noteworthy, and like everything else on the menu, most items are less than $20. 1154 W. Taylor St.; 312-243-2357
4. Sabatino’s – You don’t see a lot of Shrimp DeJonghe on menus these days. This classic (garlicky) dish is a friggin’ Chicago original, and like the lounge singers and the restaurant’s website, everything has a well-worn patina from too many years spent making marinara like someone’s nonna back in the Old Country. 4441 W. Irving Pk. Rd.; 773-283-8331
5. Ristorante Agostino – Travel another 50 ft. west, and you’re outside of the city. This old school Italian emphasizes seafood dishes, like linguini with calamari and grilled octopus. Few, if any, of the pastas are homemade, but their sauces are thick and (often) friggin’ creamy. 2817 N. Harlem Ave., 773-745-6464