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LA CUCINA ITALIANA: New Italian Restaurants in Chicago, Nashville, and St. Louis

by Richard Conti contributor

March 7, 2021

Spring Preview: These cities offer exciting new Italian dining options from top chefs and noteworthy upstarts in spring 2021.

You most certainly do not need to be on the West or East Coast to experience noteworthy Italian cuisine in America. Cities such as Chicago, Nashville, and St. Louis feature some of America’s most exciting restaurants for contemporary Italian-inspired and classic dishes.

Recent openings and spring newcomers in these great food cities will include a much-anticipated solo venture from a Top Chef winner and former Spiaggia chef in Chicago, a glitzy U.S. debut from a famed Italian restaurateur in St. Louis, and a Sicilian street food spot coming to Nashville. Here are the new and upcoming Italian restaurants to know about.



This restaurant brings Roman-style cuisine to Logan Square, with bucatini carbonara (pictured at top), artichokes in preserved lemon, suppli, and more. The recently opened neighborhood spot also boasts a wood-burning oven for dishes like branzino and porchetta and a stellar wine list overseen by owner Aldo Zaninotto, who opened still-going-strong Piedmontese restaurant Osteria Langhe, also in Logan Square, back in 2014. At Testaccio, Zaninotto has tapped executive chef Jacob Solomon to run the kitchen.

Rose Mary

Joe Flamm seemingly can do no wrong. The winner of Season 15 of Top Chef earned a Michelin star for his cooking at Spiaggia. Now, the chef sets out on his own with Rose Mary, said to be inspired by his family history in Italy and paying homage to the cuisine of the country’s seaside villages. Flamm has described what he’s got cooking at Rose Mary as “Adriatic drinking food,” and we’ll soon find out what he means when the restaurant opens near Fulton Market in April.


Shelves on a bar lined with bottles of spirits

The bar at Chrysalis Modern Italian. Credit: Courtesy of Chrysalis Modern Italian

Chrysalis Modern Italian

Chrysalis Modern Italian is a crowd-pleasing newcomer to the quaint city of Franklin, just outside Nashville. The restaurant’s menu features cheese and salumi boards, pasta, panini, and a bar stocked with Italian spirits. In other words, as spring hits, this will be an ideal spot to grab an aperitivo and dinner or a snack.


Another new Italian option in Franklin is Culaccino, which opened late in 2020 with wood-fired pizzas, housemade pasta dishes, and a bar featuring Italian-inspired cocktails as well as a tap wine system that can offer at least 12 wines by the glass.

St. Vito Focacciaria

Owner/chef Michael Hanna is Sicilian on his mother’s side and Southern American on his father’s side, but it’s the former lineage that informs his just-opened East Nashville venture, St. Vito Focacciaria. The menu is all about Sicily’s famed street food, particularly sfincione, which he tops with seasonal ingredients. Located in a neighborhood boutique hotel concept called Vandyke Bed & Beverage, this is one focacciaria to keep an eye as it evolves in the coming months.

Italian food at Assembly Hall at 5th + Broadway

Located inside what is being billed as the largest food hall in the United States, Coco’s Fresh Italian and Coco’s Cafe will open with the major development’s second phase in May. They are the latest additions to a growing chain of markets, cafes, and restaurants from an owner whose family hails from the Campania and Lazio regions of Italy. Already open as part of phase one is DeSano Pizzeria, a true Neapolitan-style concept that also offers salads and calzones, and which has locations in Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, and Charlotte.


Casa Don Alfonso Dining Room

Casa Don Alfonso's dining room at the Ritz-Carlton St. Louis. Credit: The Johnson Studio

Casa Don Alfonso at Ritz-Carlton St. Louis

Mario Iaccarino of two-Michelin star Don Alfonso 1890 in Sorrento opens his first U.S. restaurant inside the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis this spring. The chef will bring sophisticated Sorrento coast and Mediterranean cuisine to what should be one of the most intriguing restaurant openings in early 2021.

Tony’s St. Lous

OK, Tony’s is not new, but the longtime Italian favorite has been closed since last year and is reopening in an entirely new space. The restaurant, a downtown fixture for decades, will now be located on the campus of healthcare giant Centene in nearby Clayton. Expect a menu of upscale Italian dishes such as agnolotti with prosciutto, veal Milanese, and lots of seafood and grilled meats.