Part of Chicago's Francesca family of restaurants, this Little Italy spot lives up to the name that Chicagoans have come to associate with quality Italian food. With an emphasis on rustic cooking, the Northern Italian flavors of Rome, Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio dominate, as do refreshingly reasonable prices.
The classic and charming exterior gives way to dimmed lighting within, making Francesca's a wise choice for sharing a bottle of wine (with two dozen priced under $40) with your date.
The prosciutto appetizer, wrapped around artichoke hearts and feta cheese in the olive-oil soaked plate, is an indulgent starter, and the thin-crust pizzas are a popular choice. Unlike many Italian restaurants, Francesca's primarily sticks with pasta and chicken, keeping things tasty but well-priced (most $9.95-$14.95). Highlights include pollo al limone, chicken sauteed in a lemon white wine sauce, and ravioli alla siciliana, spinach-filled pasta in a spicy tomato sauce with eggplant.
Though you'll be tempted to finish every last bite, save room for the chocolate chip cookie dough truffle cake drizzled with caramel sauce. Location near the United Center, Francesca's is a wise choice for someone on a tight schedule: It takes reservations and makes good on them, seating you quickly. Now that's amore.
Follow Francesca's on Taylor on Twitter.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Stephanie Sims