Take my advice. Do not go to Sal’s Trattoria for a first date. Initially, Sal’s might seem like an ideal spot to take the person you are trying to woo. It is a quaint and charming hidden gem located on the corner of Southport and Wolfram in the West Lakeview neighborhood. Upon entering the arched glass doorway, you’ll find an adorable marble bar and a dining room that contains a dozen or so square tables adorned with crisp white tablecloths. There is a long booth that runs half the length of the restaurant, as well as a single booth tucked in the corner for diners who are looking to feel extra cozy. Sunlight glistens through the arched windows to soak the space in natural light, which highlights the industrial accents and detailed crown molding. I know this sounds like an impeccable first date spot, but just don’t do it.
Even though it has all the makings of a romantic space, trust me, the minute you look at the menu, you will understand. Save Sal’s Trattoria for the third or fourth date, because when you begin to eat you won’t be able to hold back. The food here isn’t meant for nibbling, it’s meant for gourmandizing.
You can’t go wrong with burrata. The luscious ball of mozzarella is presented with a side of toasted golden crostini. However, as soon as you cut into the creamy sphere of cheese, you’ll find the soft interior filled with stracciatella and cream. It sits in a bed of tomato pesto and is garnished with fresh basil. What is not to love?
At Sal’s, there is a new crostini everyday. At the time, the daily selection was pizza crostini. The toasted bread was topped with a gooey blend of cheeses, pepperoni, red pepper and basil. It was a scrumptious bite!
If you go into a cheese and bread coma and are craving something a little lighter, the grilled calamari is a superb choice. Fresh squid is marinated in capers, tomatoes, and a healthy helping of olive oil. Charred lemon sits on the side.
When I think of true comfort food, Chicken Parmesan always comes to mind. In this Italian-American staple, a juicy piece of chicken covered in crispy breadcrumbs and melted cheese is served atop a bed of homemade spaghetti covered in marinara. Eat this while wearing a cozy sweater and drinking a glass of wine. You won’t even mind that it’s cold outside.
Pillowy little pockets of expertly formed potato, egg and flour are presented on the plate to reveal the most deliciously prepared gnocchi. Their plump texture and subtle flavor allow the herbaceous marinara to take the lead. The sprinkle of fresh mushrooms and crispy prosciutto add an unexpected textural variation.
While I wasn’t able to take part in this delicious dish (I have a very serious allergy to mussels), the other foodies at the table assured me this was a knockout. Made with spinach Tagliatelle pasta (long, flat ribbons) and tomato cream, it was topped with fresh mussels and ground Italian sausage. The smell was intoxicating.
Sal’s Trattoria is a cozy corner restaurant in Lakeview with impeccably prepared comfort food. The accommodating waitstaff, homey interior, mouthwatering fare and well-curated wine list will make you want to stay all evening (or all day – they serve brunch too!).
2834 N. Southport Ave. Chicago, IL | Sal’s Trattoria | 773-857-1401