Tavern on Rush: Steaks, seafood, burgers, and brick-oven pizzas may get top billing at this Gold Coast favorite, but don’t overlook the pastas. Available in appetizer or entree portions, the pasta dishes offer a little bit of something for everyone. A proper veal-pork-beef bolognese is served with pappardella, while a stellar seafood medley of mussels, calamari, shrimp, and anchovy-tomato sauce gets tossed with linguini. There’s also cavatappi with buffalo mozzarella and tomato cream vodka sauce, and rigatoni flecked with spicy Italian sausage.
Erie Cafe: This River North standby keeps things simple, classic, and deeply comforting with its concise selection of pasta dishes. To start, there’s an appetizer option of fried ravioli with blue cheese, and a decadent lasagna is available as a weekend special. For entrees, options range from spaghetti with meatballs and linguini in white clam sauce to cheese ravioli with cream vodka sauce and basil-flecked spaghetti with fresh tomatoes.
Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse: The name pretty much says it all. This is the rare restaurant that simultaneously prioritizes and proclaims its penchant for both steaks and pastas. One of the best and most iconic Italian destinations downtown, long before most of this newbie Italian spots started popping up like Whack-a-Moles, Harry Caray’s boasts an enviable and enduring selection of pasta creations. These include rigatoni alla vodka with mascarpone and Parmigiano-Reggiano, fettuccine Alfredo with grilled chicken, bucatini pomodoro with crushed plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red onions, and basil, seafood fettuccine, and cavatelli with crab and fresh artichoke hearts.
III Forks Prime Steakhouse: It’s a matter of quality over quantity at III Forks Prime Steakhouse, where the abbreviated selection of pasta speaks for itself. An exquisite plate of shrimp and pasta contains a white wine-garlic herb butter, spinach, and bacon lardons, while a simple and fresh plate of vegetable ravioli features roasted mushrooms, fontina, Parmesan, marinara, and walnut pesto. Then there’s the indulgent lobster mac & cheese, one of the most important side dishes on the menu.
Chop Shop: This multi-tiered restaurant, bar, butcher shop, and venue in Bucktown has it all, including a discernible Italian accent that plays into its pivotal pasta creations. There are only a few pasta dishes, but there need not be many when the selections are this strong. Think potato gnocchi with Brussels sprouts, grape tomatoes, garlic cream sauce and pecorino; beef cheek sugo; and pasta with lobster cognac cream sauce.
Petterino’s: This Theatre District destination is known as much for its gnocchi as it is for its steaks. The spinach gnocchi with chicken sausage and wild mushrooms is a standout, along with other pasta plates like pappardelle bolognese, baked rigatoni with ricotta and Italian sausage, shrimp diablo, and spaghetti with housemade veal and pork meatballs.