Escape lock down and capture the essence of Italy by dining al fresco in one of Chicago’s most beautiful gardens at Piccolo Sogno Restaurant 464 North Halsted Street, Chicago. Tony Priolo and Ciro Longobardo chose the name Piccolo Sogno because it had always been their dream to open a restaurant of their own. Their dream has now expanded to a duo of restaurants. Piccolo serves fresh, regional Italian cuisine with an impressive 400+ Italian wine list. Maillard Tavern, their sister restaurant, 494 North Milwaukee serves American Hamburgers, beers and cocktails.
Piccolo Sogno, a family restaurant, has all the charm of Italy without the cost of a plane trip. They are diligent in sanitizing above and beyond CDC guidelines. The Illinois Restaurant Promise Placard is prominently posted in the lobby entrance. They also have pickup and delivery options, but I believe the best choice is to dine al fresco. Their current hours are Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Sunday 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p. m. Parties must arrive together and in case of inclement weather to-go containers will be provided for ordered food. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the indoor dining is open at 25% capacity. You must wear your mask inside until you are seated.
The executive chef Tony Priolo’s menu features locally sourced fresh farm ingredients with imported Italian selections. His credo is: “The restaurant fits our personal goal to get to the heart of Italian wine and food. You go to Italy for simple food, prepared by hand with local ingredients and served with local wines. That is why people love eating in Italy, and we wanted to bring that experience to Chicago.” They have done this superbly.
Although, a 400+ wine list can be intimidating, Ciro Longobardo has carefully chosen each of the wines to accompany their regional cuisine. Since he has trained his staff to offer well-informed recommendations to guests, you can be assured an exceptional dining experience with the perfect wine accompaniment. He states, “We wanted to provide diners with an appreciation of the enormous variety of Italian wines without overwhelming them. That’s why we pay special attention to make sure our staff can help them select a wine that pairs perfectly with their meal.”
I had a delightful, celebratory meal at Piccolo Sogno’s garden on a perfect summer day with my sister and life-long friends. All the staff is so friendly and welcoming. I heard buongiorno, prego, grazie, making me feel this was a more authentic excursion. We honestly could not believe how many people were dining here on a Thursday. It was a pleasure to see people at a distance safely socializing and a restaurant bustling after such a long enforced closure.
First of all, I adore balsamic vinegar; so I am extremely pleased that Piccolo Sogno provides focaccia rustica, wheat, and bread sticks on the table with both olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and if you request it Parmesan cheese. We chose both the peach salad with arugula, goat cheese, dressed with lemon oil and the mixed beet salad with Gorgonzola DOP, citrus, greens, fennel, hazelnuts as starters to share. Our server was so thoughtful to bring serving utensils, without being asked, so that we could split the generous portions. Our entrees ranged from braised red wine short ribs with soft polenta, sauteed greens and aromatic vegetables to a four cheese ravioli with pine nuts and a Marsala Glaze. The trio of meat balls with creamy polenta ordered were so tasty and humongous they would have made Grandma proud. Maiale, a dish I had never experienced before was my absolute favorite. I highly recommend this dish if you are a pork ribs fan. It was wood roasted, herb crusted pork ribs, frisee, grape tomatoes, pickled onion fennel salad and tomato jam. It was accompanied by a gravy I could have slurped up by itself.
I chose the lemon panna cotta for dessert and we shared the handmade biscotti around our table of five. All I can tell you is do try to get yourself out safely and feel the Italian love all around this epicurean dining experience, as I did.
Photos: Courtesy of Piccolo Sogno unless otherwise indicated.
Reservations can be made through Open Table. Piccolo Sogno phone: (312) 421-0077.