Little Italy | University Village
Tucked along the tree-lined streets west of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, Little Italy is a quaint South Side community with Old World charm and amazing mom-and-pop restaurants. As you might expect, Little Italy is a destination spot for fantastic Italian eateries and bakeries. The neighborhood is loaded with tantalizing cafés and dining spots that churn out delectable meals and sweet treats for both special occasions and everyday munching. Let your nose lead you to Taylor Street, where most Little Italy businesses are located, and the air is a tantalizing mix of garlic, oregano and fresh-out-of-the-oven baked goods.
Ferrara Pasticceria on Taylor Street is a family-run pastry shop that first opened its doors in 1908. Their regular delicacies include a never-ending menu of cookies, cakes, biscotti, cannolis, éclairs and candy, plus tiered wedding cakes crafted and decorated by Ferrara’s expert staff of cake designers. D’Amato’s is an Italian and French bakery with outstanding fresh-baked breads, pastries, chocolate chip cookies and much, much more. They even have good square slice pizza. This old school establishment is cash only and cookies can be purchased by the pound, so don’t forget to hit up the ATM before stopping in. On hot summer days, there’s nothing like an Italian ice from Mario’s Italian Lemonade. The refreshing shaved ice is topped with sugary fruit sauce and real chunks of fruit. Mario’s is practically a legend around these parts, so don’t be surprised when this small street-side stand has a line down the block – it has a large following and a reputation for the best Italian ice in Chicago.
There’s a lot more to Little Italy dining than dessert. For an authentic Italian meal you won’t soon forget, just head to Taylor Street and take your pick of restaurants. La Vita Restaurant is a swanky place with linen-covered tables and burgundy motif. The gourmet food will impress both the eyes and the stomach. Order a glass of wine from their extensive list of reds, whites and sparklings, or enjoy a cocktail from La Vita’s full-service bar, which stylishly curves through the dining room with chic red velvet stools. Tuscany is a cozy trattoria that specializes in Northern Italian dishes and pizza cooked in their wood-burning oven. Francesca’s hails from the Chicago chain of Mia Francesca franchises. The branch has a casual elegance that makes it perfect for either a weekday luncheon or romantic date on Saturday night. The “rustic” cuisine features traditional tastes from Rome, Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. Best to make reservations to ensure a table because the Francesca name is quite well-known in the Chicago area and its Little Italy location gives it an added degree of recognition.
In August, Taylor Street is truly the center of attention for the annual Festa Italiana. Not that you couldn’t already get a bite around here, but the festival just makes it more fun with an entertaining outdoor party, live music, arts and crafts, and lots of food stands. Sample all Little Italy has to offer in one weekend fair. Don’t forget to bring your appetites!
Provided by: Chicago Real Estate