Known as the Heart of Chicago neighborhood, this is Chicago’s first Little Italy neighborhood. You can drive down the 2400 block of S. Oakley and a block away on Western Ave. and feel like you have gone back in time and are in a different era. Here Italian immigrants, mostly from Northern Italy, settled in the late 19th century along with many of Eastern European descent. Though south of Pilsen, today it is primarily Hispanic. The Little Italy along Taylor Street was settled mainly by Sicilians.
Today you will find a handful of traditional Italian restaurants that are worth the visit:
Bruna’s Ristorante: Located at 2424 S. Oakley, this has been a popular spot for over 82 years. This makes it older than the Pump Room and Gene & Georgetti’s, other classic Chicago restaurants. I just went back after my first visit over 30 years ago. I loved the traditional atmosphere with its dim lighting and murals. The fried calamari was excellent as was the white fish entree and the tasty linguini frutti di mare with shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels.
Il Vincinato: At 2435 S.Western, this is a popular spot for over 30 years.
La Fontanella: At 2414 S. Oakley, this restaurant, with its traditional bar and restaurant featuring celebrity photos, has been under new ownership since 1986.
Nearby are two other spots; they are Bacchanalia since 1979 at 2413 S. Oakley and Ignotz’s Ristorante at 2421 S. Oakley.
Parking can be a little tight, so most have valet parking at reasonable rates.