Worth every ‘penne’


Art by Kayla Johnson

Rome, Florence, Venice, three great cities that formed the backbone of the historic Roman Empire. All three cities served as early global melting pots at the center of a web of trade, art, science, and geopolitics. In those roles, the many foreign visitors brought a host of culinary habits that mixed to create one of the modern world’s most renowned cuisines.

Italian cuisine, ranging from simple to complex, from a simple Neapolitan pizza to a complex. Pasta, along with other Italian cuisine, remains one of the most widely loved food groups around the world. Italian food is loved not only in the cities on the Italian Peninsula, but around the world.  Of course, in a metropolitan area as large and diverse Chicago, there are a host of world-class Italian restaurants.

In Arlington Heights, two Italian restaurants merit special recognition, one an old classic and the other a relative newcomer. Carlos & Carlos, which has been around since 1985, has been a staple to the Arlington Heights dining scene since its opening. Owner Carlos Montiel can be found most nights in the dining room greeting diners while they enjoy a sampling from the very traditional sampling of a Northern Italian menu. Approaching Italian food with a more nouveau means is Passero, a small storefront only four doors down from Carlos. The regularly changing menu provides appetizers, salads, and entrees that use locally sourced ingredients in traditional Italian menu items with a preparation twists and add flair to many dishes. One illustrative example of how the menu works together is the brussel sprouts and burrata appetizer.

Once you venture outside of Arlington Heights, the Chicago-land area offers a plethora of Italian restaurants. In Schaumburg, Maggiano’s draws many diners to its Streets of Woodfield location.  Those willing to endure a longer drive, Chicago has a host of options ranging from fine dining choices such as Prosecco and Piccolo Sogno to the more casually focused, Eataly upper-scale food court. These and a host of other high quality choices allow dedicated gourmands the opportunity to spend days in search of the perfect ravioli or past a carbonara to satisfy their taste buds.