Sunday night was the last part of my trip to Chicago for fun and the night before the work part of my trip began. My friends/co-workers and I checked into our hotel for work and then went to grab a few important things in the Loop (the most important being a Mrs. Potatohead for our friend’s 2-year old’s birthday).
On our way back we were looking for places for dinner. My friend suggested Chipotle across the street from Target but I lobbied sort of hard for Italian Village. We had passed it on the walk from our hotel, but I hadn’t given it much thought. It had seemed though to be one of the few things open on a Sunday night in our part of the Loop (the business district part), but Italian usually is hard to do for gluten-frees. After looking for gluten-free restaurants nearby while we were shopping (just in case) I saw that Italian Village in fact has gluten-free pasta. I know I had a lot of gluten-free Italian recently (with pizza included this was 4 out of the last 4 nights), but I was still intrigued, especially after reading about the interior.
Italian Village is the main restaurant in a building that also contains La Cantina (supposed to be more calm with an emphasis on steaks) and Vivere (contemporary Italian menu and modern interior). All have the same owners, but they each have different chefs and styles.
Italian Village is upstairs and is decorated like an Italian “village” hence the name (see the pics below). If I thought Maggiano’s the night before seemed like old-school Italian this was on a whole other level. The restaurant is full of a lot of booths surrounded by the Italian “village” landscape. At first the restaurant seemed kind of empty when we entered downstairs since it’s just a small lobby, but once we got upstairs it was pretty busy (especially for a Sunday night in that part of the Loop). Despite that we were able to get seated in a booth right away.
The menu is Northern Italian and had a lot of what I’d consider Italian favorites (my 100% Italian friend might have thought differently). The restaurant did indeed have gluten-free pasta. I was tempted for a few minutes to go for something non-pasta when I saw the stuffed peppers, but ended up going for the fettuccine alfredo with chicken. It’s an old favorite and I had been pretty proud of myself that I had gotten something different on visits to Maggiano’s and Agio the other nights in Chicago.
At a certain point with gluten-free pasta unless it falls apart or isn’t cooked enough you can’t really go wrong with gluten-free fettuccine alfredo. The sauce covers up the gluten-free pasta (in terms of masking the different taste and sometimes texture) well enough, plus our bar for gluten-free pasta is usually not super high. The fettuccine at Italian Village was neither falling apart nor undercooked so I have to say it was pretty solid. There was a good amount of pasta, the chicken was well cooked, and the sauce was enough to cover for taste and be too overwhelming (as a heavy cream sauce).
My friends got the chicken parmigiana and the chicken francaise. The chicken francaise wasn’t on the menu, but the cook was able to accommodate my Italian friend’s request. On the gluten-side they both put it somewhere in the middle. While their comments on the pasta were just in the middle their thoughts about some other things were quite passionate and I’ll humor them here. #1- the straws in my friend’s soda were way too thin according to my friend. I rarely want to give him credit for these sort of comments, but I do have to say they were pretty small (like a coffee stirrer). I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether his feelings were proportionate to the size of the straw (there is a pic below). The other strong opinion voiced by another friend (#2) was that her combination of bread dipped in olive oil and Parmesan cheese (the things available at the table while we waited) was pure genius. A pic for that is also below for everyone to weigh in on.
Overall for the Italian Village the atmosphere is a really interesting one with the “village” decorations. If you’re going to a theater performance nearby or like us were staying in that part of the Loop where dining options can be limited at times Italian Village could be a solid option. For those looking for gluten-free options in the Loop/Theater District Italian Village is worth having on the list. I’m just sorry the food pictures came out a little wonky from the lighting!
Italian Village- 71 W. Monroe St Chicago, IL