Old-School Italian in the Loop: Italian Village

ItalyItalian Village
71 W. Monroe
Chicago, IL

Italian Village touts itself as the longest-running Italian restaurant in Chicago (opened in 1927), we’ve been here several times over the years and have had a pleasant experience each time. There are 3 levels to the Italian Village, each boasting a separate restaurant and style; Vivere is fine dining, La Cantina is a steakhouse and The Village is mid-range Southern Italian. The Village is where we usually go, and is a great place for groups. The ambiance is old-school and kitschy, with a faux Italian palazzo under a night sky. In the dining room, there are little secluded booths along each wall which are cute for couples or fun for groups of up to about 6. The location alone can’t be matched, in the heart of Chicago’s Loop, though it typically tends to attract many tourists and pre-theater crowds. At pretty much any time of the day, you can expect for the dining room to be packed to the brim, with Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin/Connie Francis tunes spinning.

ItalianVillage
The Village Interior.

The last time we ate at The Village was for a birthday lunch for a younger sibling. Arriving at noon on a weekday, the dining room was already packed, but we had a reservation for a booth which sat our party of 5 comfortably (and secludedly). Our server was efficient and professional and promptly brought out olive oil and a basket of good crusty bread. We perused the menu which consisted of simple pastas, salads and meat dishes, typically heavy on the cheese and red sauce. With each main course came a soup or a simple green salad. The salads were average, but the minestrone got a thumbs up. For our mains, my mom ordered the Eggplant Parmesan – the highlight of the night – generously portioned and slathered with sweet marinara sauce and a layer of parmesan and mozzarella melted on top.

The rest of the table was split between orders of Tortelli Tre Formaggi and Agnolotti al Pomodoro e Basilico. The Tortelli were filled with mascarpone, ricotta and mozzarella and served with a light tomato and garlic sauce. The tortelli were homemade and very tasty, though the sauce was a touch on the sweet side and (surprisingly) could have been more garlicky. The agnolotti were stuffed with ricotta and spinach and came with a basil and tomato sauce. Again, the homemade agnolotti were tasty and fresh, but the sauce was a bit too sweet for some tastes. All in all, the food was good, but not stellar, and we enjoyed the convivial atmosphere. At The Village you won’t find anything innovative or exceptional, but you’ll walk away pleased and satiated (and probably with a doggie bag or two).

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