The chefs at Antonio’s Ristorante cook all the staple Italian dishes, including homemade pastas, vela parmigiana, and oversized pizzas. Classic black-and-white checkered floors span the entire dining area, and a small open space in the corner of the room is used for live music and shadow puppet shows that entertain guests during meals. During warmer months, Antonio’s sets up wrought iron tables dressed in red-and-white checkered tablecloths on the outdoor patio area.
Three popular chefs collaborate on the dinner dishes of Francesca’s Belleza, assembling elegant, rustic Italian cuisine in-house using fresh ingredients. The trio’s also affiliated with The Violet Hour, Simone’s, and The Publican, and they’ve earned acclaim from outlets such as the Chicago Sun-Times and WGN. Salad artists create edible still lifes with selections such as the insalata caprese, an arrangement of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella ($7.99), which, unlike most oil paintings, proves eminently chewable. Gourmet pizzas boast carefully calibrated toppings, with varieties such as the quattro stagioni, a blend of prosciutto, artichoke, olive, and egg ($10.99), whereas pastas cure carb cravings with selections such as the penne con melanzane, replete with eggplant and spicy tomato sauce ($14.99). Drown hunger pangs and any tiny mariners shipwrecked on your tongue with a wave of maritime entrees, including the salmone al balsamico, which comes layered with balsamic sauce and fresh tomatoes ($19.99). Pork eaters can opt for the costoletta di maiale alla rustica, or pork chops with rosemary and pancetta ($21.99), as they take in the white linens and black-and-white photography that constitute Francesca’s elegant décor.
Vasco Marconi immigrated to Chicago from a small town in Tuscany in 1959, bringing his wife, his son, and a slew of authentic recipes with him. He opened an Italian restaurant on the west side of Chicago, where it prospered until his retirement in 1997, when John Marconi took on his father's torch and moved the eatery to La Grange. Since then, the Marconi family has kept the family recipes alive in their bustling, family-style restaurant through frequent practice and routine cookbook séances. John still oversees the menu, paying homage to his father’s original recipes with homemade meat ravioli, chicken vesuvio, and a bounty of seasonal specialties.
Though Dino’s is a pizzeria at heart, they also pride themselves in their fresh-cut fries. And just as with the pizzas, customers can deck out the fries with an array of toppings—buffalo sauce and jalapenos ignite the Spice of Life fries, and the Hungry Man fries get bulked up with ground beef, cheese, sour cream, and flannel napkins. They pair nicely with the restaurant’s half-pound Angus burgers, as well as the fresh wings. Of course, much of the menu is devoted to pizza, and diners can build their own or order a specialty pie, such as the gyros with meat, onion, tomato, feta, and gyro sauce.
Salerno Pincente's owners, Andrew Salerno and Frank Pincente, bask in the happy clatter of pots and pans as chefs forge a menu of Italian cuisine. Under the dining room's hanging lights, chicken, steak, veal, and seafood fuel chatter and toasts, and long pasta strands cling to a variety of sauces, setting forks twirling. On sunny days, glasses clink merrily on an outdoor patio, and Trackside OTB provides equine entertainment more enjoyable than a slideshow of Mr. Ed's vacation.
For more than 15 years, Via Bella has piled plates high with authentic Southern Italian cuisine in a friendly, romantic atmosphere. Guests in the separate dining room lift forks laden with housemade lobster ravioli or grasp slices of thin-crust pizza. Nearby, guests in the spacious bar room can share littleneck clams or shrimp bruschetta at the Brunswick back bar, which dates back to the turn of the 20th century.