The Ultimate Chicago Pasta Bucket List
As we wait out the final days of chilly weather, a heaping bowl of carbonara beats out a plate of greens when it comes to satisfying cravings. Fortunately, Chicago’s pasta scene is booming, dishing out noodles both inventive and classic. Consider this your Chicago pasta bucket list.
Gibsons Italia: The pasta at this three-story mega-restaurant from the venerable folks behind Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse is serious business. Using organic stone-ground Senatore Cappelli flour imported from Italy, handmade pastas are extruded through machines with pieces of gold in them, so as to best cut through the dough, and let’s face it, dazzle diners when they learn that. One of the best examples if the linguini and clams, a rustic medley of noodles splashed with extra virgin olive oil and either pomodoro or Pinot Blanco sauce.
Giant: Of all the dishes people obsess over at this wildly popular Logan Square restaurant, the housemade pastas reign supreme. A perfect example is the sortallini, a tortellini-like stuffed pasta served with guanciale, basil, pine nuts and tomato for the perfect mix of salty, savory, sweet and herbaceous.
Mi Tocaya Antojeria: Spaghetti may not seem the most obvious dish to find at a contemporary Mexican restaurant, but Mi Tocaya is just full of surprises. Essentially a riff on carbonara, the shareable espaghetti con crema contains a mix of spaghetti noodles swirled with smoky poblano cream, morsels of crab and egg.
Osteria Langhe: This Logan Square charmer specializes in food from Italy’s Piemonte region, with abundant and soulful pasta dishes like tajarin ragu, risotto and tortellini. A fan favorite is the plin, buttery hand-pinched ravioli filled with La Tur cheese and flecked with fragrant thyme.
Nico Osteria: A meal at Nico is something definitely worth saving for. Specialties include the lobster roe chitarra pasta, a bountiful bowlful of toothsome spaghetti that’s made by incorporating pureed lobster roe directly into the dough to punch up the lobster flavor in the dish as much as possible. The cool thing is that when the pasta is immersed in boiling water, the heat causes it to turn bright orange, echoing the color of the lobster itself. The color-changing creation is then twirled with guanciale, lobster miso, spring onions and meaty morsels of plump lobster.
Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio: Although it's been racking up accolades for a few years, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio is still new to many, considering how tough reservations can be. Contemporary Italian cooking by award-winning chef Sarah Grueneberg, including some of the finest pastas in the city, take the spotlight, like the wok-fried taglioni arrabbiata with ground Texas Gulf shrimp and garlic hot pepper oil.
Formento’s: A credit to Formento’s dexterous, pasta-slinging chef Todd Stein, this is as close to perfect as carbonara can be. Thick bucatini noodles sport a pleasant chew, soaking up a healthy amount of that creamy egg yolk and providing an ample foundation for a smattering of salty pancetta and black pepper. It’s the kind of hearty dish that’s so good it almost makes us want to cling to winter.