Believe it or not, Italian food in the heart of Lincoln Park doesn't have to be ridiculously expensive. It can also have a pleasant, candle-light ambiance for dates with that special someone. At this spot right under the rumbling Red Line, you'll find tasty eats and friendly service, and, perhaps most importantly for romantic or serious diners, noisy kids generally sit in the back "party room." This place is perfect for chilling out with a few glasses of wine, ordering up some carb-a-rific pasta dishes (though the portions are not super huge like at other Italian places) and winding down after a long day at work. Pasta entrees all hover around the $10 mark, and oenophiles can choose from over 40 wines by the glass and 600 by the bottle.
Soft, tender strips of wavy macaroni noodles covered in meaty wild boar sauce make up the amazingly delicious and cheap $12 Papparedelle Cinghiale. After a recent trip to Italy, I was convinced that no wild boar sauce in good ol' A-mur-i-ka (America) would satisfy my spoiled tastebuds, but this dish proved me wrong. Though the waiters and waitresses don't always know how to pronounce each item on the menu, the food comes out hot and delicious every time. Low lighting and two-top tables make for a dreamy, romantic atmosphere, though the odd shape of this restaurant keeps it from truly achieving that cozy feel. The party room in the back seems like a tacked-on afterthought—it looks pretty unsturdy and precarious. Free parking in the back guarantees that nobody will have to roam the car-filled side streets, though, and sweet desserts like Tiramisu go perfectly well with that bottle of red wine. After a few glasses, you won't even notice the robotic voice announcing train delays overhead.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Alicia Eler