2119 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park
This is the kind of authentic Italian standby that has no need to futz with the basics. Everything, whether it’s a seasonal pasta or ossobuco, is prepared perfectly and true to tradition, the way chef Riccardo Michi has been doing it for years (go if you're especially hungry, as portions tend to run large).
1633 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
Balena is the second restaurant the team behind The Bristol and Formento's, and it manages to capture the same sophisticated but comfortable vibe as the former, with tall ceilings, rustic furnishings, and some seriously cool firefly-like light fixtures. The menu here is straight-up Italian, filled with classic dishes like a potato gnocchi in a mushroom sauce, a fennel sausage and onion pizza, and a classic roasted chicken with romesco and walnut parmesan. The private room has its own bar that's decorated with back-lit wine bottles for a cool stained-glass effect.
1729 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
A few years ago, the team behind Boka enlisted Simeone Deary Design Group to give the Michelin starred restaurant a top-to-bottom overhaul. The resulting space—an earthy mix of muted mauves, with one wall covered entirely in antique door handles and another in live moss—is the perfect setting for Chef Lee Wolen’s refreshingly unfussy take on fine dining: heirloom carrots, brandade ravioli, and the now famous roasted chicken. The desserts are pretty extraordinary too (see: 70 percent South American cacao mousse). The terrace opens up onto the patio and has doors that close to the main dining room for private events.
1220 W. Webster Ave., Lincoln Park
To be accurate, this Lincoln Park spot is more bakery than anything else. Owners Sandra and Mathieu Holl are both pastry chefs by trade, and it shows: fresh, never boring desserts and snacks (avocado toast, breakfast sandwiches, salads) are available all day. At two floors-strong, it's also more spacious than one might expect, with plentiful tables, exposed brick walls, and huge windows that are kept ajar in the summer months for a welcome, not too distracting indoor/outdoor situation.
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