The Chicago restaurant scene has started to be run like Richard J. Daley’s Chicago political machine of the 1960’s, or, if you want to get real historical, Boss Tweed’s stranglehold on New York City circa 1868. Similar to the power yielded by the aforementioned gentlemen, you’ll notice that a majority of the big name restaurants in Chicago tend to be owned and run by the same people and hospitality groups. There’s nothing wrong with it, because they crank out well-oiled establishments, but sometimes it’s refreshing to know about a neighborhood gem like Caro Mio in Ravenswood.
The cute little BYOB Italian place near the Damen and Montrose brown line stops is no secret to the people of this ‘hood, which is evident by the crowd on any given night. We can’t say the basic Italian food is spectacular, but it’s good enough for families, strollers, couples on dates, and decent size groups to be seen littered throughout the candlelit room – you probably fit somewhere in there too. Bring your own wine, beer, or liquor, and get comfy with Italian comfort food.
Caro Mio is great for heaping portions of pasta in the company of people you like to hang with, in similar fashion to places like La Scarola or Briciola. But Ravenswood always seems to have a real family-friendly feel, and Caro Mio is no different. That’s not to say you can’t do a group dinner here and get a little loose, but maybe be cognizant of your surroundings.
You should find yourself wanting to linger, talk, and relax no matter who you are with. And you’ll have enough food to keep you going for a while because the entrees are rather huge. Feel free to split one main entree plus an appetizer or two amongst two people. If you order selfie entrees, don’t feel ashamed to take food home. In fact, you should maybe be ashamed if you finish it all. Our advice is to stick to the homemade pastas, and at the end of your meal, we think there will be some solace knowing Caro Mio is a local family run joint.
Italian Pizza Bread
Fancy pizza sticks, but we aren’t complaining. Crusty bread baked with tomatoes, marina, oregano, parmesan, and mozz to start things off.
Polenta Al Sugo
A whole lot of thick, grilled polenta topped with a rich ragu and parmesan cheese. This appetizer is a carbo-load meal in itself, so keep that in mind.
You have to like big, thick-cut beefsteak tomatoes to like this version of a caprese salad. If not, it will disappoint.
Gamberi Alla Diavala
Shrimp in a spicy red sauce served with linguini. The sauce wasn’t all that spicy, and is instead a bit plain. The linguini and shrimp are solid, but we would still stick to the homemade pappardelle pastas or a special of the day.
Pappardelle Con Porcini
An extremely rich and creamy sauce that’s heavy on the mushrooms sautéed in red wine.
Make sure to find out what the specials of the day are, because they are almost always a good bet. On our most recent visit, we had chicken parmesan over large rigatoni noodles. It was a meal for two – the pasta was really good and the chicken carried its weight.