Thanks to Dylan Thompson for visiting and reviewing Trattoria Gianni. Thanks to Trattoria Gianni for hosting our visit.
If you ever find yourself wandering around Chicago’s slightly quieter Lincoln Park neighborhood you may just stumble upon a peaceful, cozy Italian restaurant, Trattoria Gianni. Nestled between a couple buildings on, quiet-by-Chicago-standards, North Halsted St and kitty-corner from the Steppenwolf Theater. Trattoria Gianni has been serving up what they describe as classic Italian fare in a casual dining environment for 30 years. In fact, 2018 marks their 30th anniversary and in honor of that, they have a special menu to celebrate the occasion.
Upscale Casual Dining at Trattoria Gianni
Upon entry you are greeted by a well-dressed host standing in front of a small, maybe 6 seat bar, stocked to the brim with wines. Behind that, a sea of white tablecloths fill a dining room larger than I would have expected in Chicago, all the servers were clad in traditional white dress shirts and black pants, our plates and silverware were reset with every course, I went to the bathroom at one point and returned to find my napkin decoratively folded awaiting my return.
As for the food, the part we’re all actually here for, I was thoroughly impressed with some of the dishes. Gianni, an extremely nice older Italian gentleman, and the owner, came out and greeted me shortly after my arrival, as well as gave me a couple of suggestions on what dishes to try from the menu. After talking for a few minutes he bustled off to take care of whatever ownerly things he needed to take care of and to my surprise had even more dishes sent to the table then discussed (including a few that were a chef special and not listed on the menu).
Let’s start with the appetizers
I tried both the arancini and the bruschetta. Arancini, if you’re not familiar, is risotto that is packed into a ball and deep fried (and in this case stuffed with meat and vegetables). Is it even possible to be disappointed with deep fried anything?. These almost glowing golden brown balls of rice looked just as good as they tasted, I almost felt bad tearing them apart and devouring them way faster than I should have…almost.
Next up, salads
After the appetizers, we were presented with 2 salads. A beet salad, that sadly was not appreciated by palate due to my hatred for beets and a Insalata Variopinta. This salad was a delight for my tastebuds and consisted of a delicious pile of mixed greens tossed with caramelized pine nuts, a mix of both gorgonzola and goat cheese all coated in a subtle herb vinaigrette and garnished with a mix of crisp thinly sliced apples and pairs. This salad was fantastic and very well balanced I would highly recommend it. I should also add that the portions on these salads were more than enough to be able to split between 2-3 people.
The Main Courses
Gnocchi della Nonna, Ravioli Burro e Salvia, and Rigatoni alla Nocerina. The gnocchi was simple and to the point. Stuffed with cheese, served with marinara and even more fresh cheese. Hard to go wrong with so much cheese. The rigatoni was my personal choice for an entree and I did not regret that one bit. Sauteed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and basil all cooked into a delicious cream sauce and served over a bowl full of rigatoni. The third entree was hands down the table favorite: ricotta stuffed spinach ravioli, tossed in the best brown butter sage sauce I’ve ever had. This was ordered by 2 people at the table and between the 3 of us we devoured every last scrap. I enjoyed all the entrees we tried, however, I would rank the ravioli and rigatoni far above the gnocchi.
Make room for dessert
As we were all staring at our mostly empty plates regretting our life choices of the last hour our server came over asking if we’d like to try any of the desserts. I did my best to stifle a groan as I was tettering way too close to food coma territory and said we would love to try maybe just one. We went with the tiramisu, which was wonderful and I’d be lying if I told you we’d left any of it on the plate.
Overall I enjoyed my experience here and the food was quite good. The owner and staff were all very nice and did everything they could to make the meal even more enjoyable. All of the portion sizes were large enough for sharing (or leftovers for future meals). They have a beautiful patio that we were unfortunately not able to experience on our visit because of the sweltering 100-degree weather. The average cost of the entrees range from $15-$30 with appetizers all around $10. Decent prices for this cozy Ristorante in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Neighborhood.