The difference between dried noodles from a box or bag and freshly rolled handmade pasta is like wolfing down an Egg McMuffin that's been sitting under a heat lamp or savoring a fluffy French omelet just made by Julia Child. One sustains life but the other makes life worth living. Order one of these dishes, praise the lord and pass the Parmesan.
Osteria Via Stato
620 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60610
Regulars and newbies rave about the fresh, crusty bread and marinated olives that hit the table upon arrival, not to mention the popular veal meatballs that are a must-try for meat eaters. You can't miss with the Osteria Via Stato's handmade pastas including Niman Ranch short rib ravioli with Italian parsley and celery leaves or ricotta cavatelli with wild mushrooms and Parmesan broth. Gnocchi is also hand rolled and served with rosemary butter and a simple tomato sauce. Check the website for a list of what kind of vegetable is in season and get ready to be wowed. Osteria Via Stato also offers an Italian Dinner Party done just like restaurants in Italy. Sit down and indulge in a table full of antipasti, pasta, seasonal sides and your choice of main course for $40 per person (or $25 for antipasti and pasta party).
It's not just handmade pasta that complements the white Italian marble, intricate woodwork, crystal chandeliers and Parisian herringbone wood floors at Nellcôte. Chef Jared Van Camp mills fresh double-refined (double 00) flour (sourced locally) daily in a flour mill that was custom built for his kitchen for his pasta and bread program. Nellcôte was the first restaurant in the country to do it. Even a simple pasta dish of egg noodles, fresh herbs and Parmigiano is a revelation but go a little wild with chilled squid ink strozzapreti combined with Maine lobster, fresco chilies, scallions and pine nut pesto or the tagliatelli Bolognese with wide fresh noodles coddling a rich sauce made with heritage pork, veal, Parmigiano and fried rosemary.
1132 W. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624
Chef Tom Van Lente makes all of the pastas at TWO by hand, however what sets these strands apart from others is that he uses duck egg yolks rather than the yolks of chicken eggs. The result is a more toothsome, unctuous noodle that sticks not to the wall, but in your memory. His duck confit dish is always on the menu (duck egg fettuccine with duck confit and duck skin cracklins) but count on other pasta specials like a luscious ricotta cavatelli with Calabrian chilies, local King Trumpet mushrooms, scallions and Wisconsin Parmesan. There's not a clunker on the menu.
Related: Best Mediterranean Food In Chicago
1801 Butterfield Road
Downers Grove, IL 60515
All of the pastas emerging from Chef Jonathan Harootunian's kitchen are made in house, so where do you begin? Gnocchi con arragosta is ethereal hand-rolled ricotta gnocchi, tossed with fresh Maine lobster, diced zucchini, San Marzano tomatoes and moistened with a lush lobster butter sauce. The Squeeze Box con pollo consists of radiatore (they look like little radiators) with grilled chicken breast, broccoli, red peppers and toasted garlic cream sauce. The piece de resistance, however, has to be the homemade linguini Bobonato con Parmigiano, served and spooled table side inside a fresh wheel of Parmesan cheese with prosciutto di Parma and fresh basil. So heaven is in Downers Grove. Who knew?
Little Market Brasserie
10 E. Delaware St.
Chicago, IL 60611
Just far enough away from the rush of Michigan Avenue, Little Market Brasserie is tucked inside the Talbott and offers a lively outdoor dining experience in the warmer months. Inside, the team at the Gold Coast hotspot is making all of the pasta dishes by hand, including pasta puttanesca with shrimp, spicy tomato sauce and capers; rich oxtail ravioli with celery root, wild mushrooms and oxtail jus; and pillowy potato gnocchi with King Crab in a roasted garlic cream sauce. Look for the weekday special of house-made linguini dotted with Little Neck clams, bathed in white wine and clam broth for an instant trip to the Mediterranean.
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.
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