By Tommy Hensel

When it comes to Italian food in Chicago, some of the finest hidden gems are tucked away in the Heart of Italy neighborhood, where Italian-Americans have served up authentic Old World feasts for decades. Cozy and intimate, neighborhood stalwart Bacchanalia offers a no-frills yet inviting and genuine Italian experience—generous portions, a delightfully engaging staff, and even the slightly kitschy décor will transport you to Sunday dinner in an Italian grandmother’s home. A well-browned half chicken is baked with Italian sausage and joined by green peppers and chunky potatoes sautéed in wine with garlic and a variety of special spices for the chicken Bacchanalia. The result? A superb serving of comfort food that will leave you soaking bread with the sauce to enjoy every last morsel. Though not a traditional Italian menu item, the intensely flavorful tilapia alla Toscana, with sautéed tomatoes, basil, olives, and spices, is another that will have you spooning the remaining sauce over your bread after you have finished the flaky, perfectly prepared fish. Finish your meal with the house-made tiramisu, made even better by the addition of coffee brandy liqueur. It’s truly some of the best tiramisu you’ll find in this city awash with Italian restaurants, and is guaranteed to leave you fully satisfied and feeling like part of the family.

... on the side

beans to spill
Original owners Belfonte and Noemi Pieri moved to the United States in 1958 from Pisa in Tuscany and opened Bacchanalia in 1979. Today, their children Paula and Dante continue the tradition—both in food (molto delizioso) and hospitality (incredibilmente accogliente).

if I were a movie, I’d be…
Moonstruck—At any moment, you expect to see Cher, Olympia Dukakis, Nicholas Cage, and Vincent Gardenia waltz in to the restaurant. Don’t be surprised if when you leave you see an old man point to the sky and say, “La bella luna! The moon brings the woman to the man. Capice?”

on the stereo
Think “iconic Italian-American singers” and you’ll have a good idea of what serenades you in the background at Bacchanalia. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Vicki Carr… you get the point.



Mon–Thu 11 AM–9:30 PM; Fri 11 AM–10:30 PM; Sat 4 PM–10:30 PM; Sun 3 PM–9 PM

price range

$6.50 (chopped steak sandwich) to $30.95 (porterhouse Vesuvio)