If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in my two years as a Chicago resident, it’s that really good, made-from-scratch Italian cuisine is hard to come by. That’s not to be dismissive of Little Italy in its entirety, but really, the standouts are few and far between.
And then there was Piccolo Sogno.
With a name that translates to English from Italian as “little dream,” it’s hard not to fall in love with Piccolo Sogno at first sight as your eyes lock in on the restaurant’s massive sign.
Inside, the atmosphere is an amalgamation of cool, romantic, and modern Italian. The ceiling in the bar area drips with crystal-encrusted chandeliers, while the dining room sports a drop ceiling to evoke a demure sense of intimacy. The walls are a mix of muted beige, exposed brick, and dark slate blue paint that seems to melt in the warm, dim lighting. Subtle art and and decorative plates are hung strategically throughout, elegantly balancing the line between kitschy and chic like a cirque du soleil tightrope walker.
The best part? The view of a partially open, gorgeous kitchen framed with an assortment of copper pots and pans dangling above the threshold. Passion is the centerpiece of Italian cooking, and Piccolo Sogno seeks to showcase the organized chaos and enthusiasm that goes into its food preparation.
Each table is stacked with great olive oil and aged balsamic bottled by Piccolo Sogno.
The insalata and antipasti options range from $6 – $15, and pose a difficult decision for any voracious diner because every single option sounds so… damn… good. Upon ordering, your waitress will likely tell you that if there’s something you’d like that’s not on the menu, simply ask and the kitchen will do what they can for you. Most chefs turn up their noses at the thought of substitutions and menu alterations, so Piccolo Sogno’s willingness to be accommodating is both a rarity and refreshing.
Embracing the offer, my boyfriend and I decided to order mozzarella di campania with a side of prosciutto. Mellow, moist, and velvety, the fresh buffalo milk mozzarella made for a match-made-in-non-vegan-heaven with salty, robust prosciutto. The original dish included anchovy for a hit of savory flavor, but frankly, the prosciutto did just that, but better.
You can’t go to an Italian restaurant and not order pasta. Especially when said pasta is made from scratch and loaded with fresh ingredients. As a rule of thumb, I try to always make a point of ordering signature dishes or specials when dining out. Thus, I opted for a menu staple: Ravioli “Piccolo Sogno.” The dish features handmade four cheese ravioli cooked in butter and drizzled in a marsala glaze, topped with pine nuts and parmesan curls. It was warm, rich, and perfectly balanced. It didn’t need any extra salt or parmesan, and if I could have taken an entire vat of it home to feast on for a month, I would have.
My boyfriend, seduced by the words “black truffle” (one of the many reasons why I love him) in a dish description, chose the burrata-stuffed ravioli off that evening’s specials menu. The truffle flavor is front and center, just as it should be.
Like a classic sufferer of sweet-tooth-syndrome, I never turn down dessert. We ordered the saffron-infused panna cotta. It’s gelatinous, sticky-sweet, tart, and exudes sex-appeal. If that’s not your style, go for the homemade sorbet and gelato.
As poet Langston Hughes once wondered, “what happens to a dream deferred?”
Don’t bother finding out. Make the dream your reality at Piccolo Sogno.
Be sure to check out their website for full menus, additional photos, and reservations.