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Balena

Italian Restaurant$$$$
Lincoln Park, Chicago
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9.2/10
332
ratings
68 Tips and reviews
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  • good for dates
  • pizza
  • pistachio pesto
  • tagliolini nero
  • desserts
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  • Damon S.
    There are two secret seats which overlook the kitchen at the bar.
  • Dave N.
    Dave NathanJanuary 20
    Been here 10+ times
    Squid ink pasta (tagliolini nero)
  • Olivia
    OliviaOctober 31, 2016
    Great place for a date! Great pasta. Love the space.
  • s h.
    s h .October 8, 2016
    Peach coppetta nicely done - amaretto gelato and almond cake
  • Eater
    EaterAugust 30, 2016
    Chef Chris Pandel shows off his rustic Italian side with a breakfast-y selection of dishes including scrambled egg bruschetta, crispy polenta hash with pork ragout and a porchetta sandwich. Read more
  • Eater
    EaterMay 31, 2016
    Dievole Le Due Arbie 2015 ($11). "It pairs great with all of Balena’s seasonal dishes like the rhubarb bruschetta, grilled asparagus and seafood specials,” says beverage director Keith Whitten. Read more
  • Hank C.
    Hank CoutureMay 6, 2016
    Bavette pasta was delicious
  • Tasting Table
    Tasting TableJanuary 28, 2016
    Still looking for that perfect place to celebrate your birthday? You found it. Balena’s charming wine cellar immediately transports you to Tuscany and the authentic Italian food will do the rest. Read more
  • Erika D.
    Erika DavisJanuary 15, 2016
    I've been here for restaurant week 2015 for a date. Atmosphere is nice and friendly staff. Great choice for a romantic date.
  • Scot W.
    Scot WheelerSeptember 27, 2015
    Their barstaff are brilliant with amaro, an Italian herbal liquer. Service was very nice. Food was a bit average.
  • Raed M.
    Raed MansourJuly 14, 2015
    Service is impeccable! Great wine selection and food had a rustic, traditional feel. Really enjoyed it but only minor complaint is that music is a little too loud for a restaurant.
  • Molly L.
    Molly LynnJuly 5, 2015
    The kale & lemon orecchiette is amazing. The grilled octopus with romesco stands out as well. Great spot for more inventive Italian.
  • Kristin L.
    Kristin LukowskiJune 7, 2015
    Extensive wine list; ask for recommendations. Food was delicious, served quickly and accommodated special diets with no hassle. Friendly waiter never rushed us even as we were the night's last diners.
  • David S.
    David SmithJune 3, 2015
    Delicious cocktails. Spaghetti Western and Strawberry.
  • Leslie L.
    Leslie LulkaMay 31, 2015
    Try the sardine.. Awesome... And any pizza, I tried the sausage/mozzarella one and was outstanding,, great balance between flavors...
  • Alan W.
    Alan WeedApril 27, 2015
    Brussel Sprout Pizza is the best
  • Kevin D.
    Kevin DulinApril 19, 2015
    Delicious pizza and pasta. I recommend the pistachio pesto pizza and the rigatoni with pork ragu! The strawberry No1 cocktail is also delicious.
  • Teresa
    TeresaApril 2, 2015
    Absolutely delicious and the ambience is great. Skip the pizza and choose pasta (squid ink) and meaty mains (chicken breast was recently added back to the menu!) The tiramisu is to die for!!
  • Sara
    SaraFebruary 16, 2015
    Everything is delicious and the staff are fantastic.
  • Alex T.
    Alex TomasikNovember 29, 2014
    Tagliolini with sea urchin. Solid drinks. Pizza is good but rest of menu is great.
  • Wrigley F.
    Wrigley FielderOctober 2, 2014
    Trout is amazing-tripe bruschetta-not so much! Great wine list with lots of French and Italian wines.
  • Wrigley F.
    Wrigley FielderSeptember 22, 2014
    Just a wonderful, in-depth wine list served in big, beautiful stemmed wine glasses. Perfect for friends or a date especially before or after a Steppenwolf Theater show. The trout was delicious.
  • Esther S.
    Esther ShamieSeptember 21, 2014
    Orechiette pasta 😍😍 lemony, creamy goodness topped with bread crumbs
  • Dane D.
    Dane DeasyAugust 21, 2014
    I don't think you can go wrong with anything on the menu.
  • Matt C.
    Matt CosentinoAugust 7, 2014
    Tagliolini Nero
  • Giovanni S.
    Giovanni ScottiAugust 7, 2014
    Butter sage pasta!!
  • Redeye Chicago
    Redeye ChicagoAugust 3, 2014
    Chris Pandel of Bucktown favorite The Bristol channels the simplicity of Italian cooking with roasted meats, wood-fired pizzas and homemade pastas. Read more
  • Chicago Tribune
    Chicago TribuneAugust 1, 2014
    Potato gnocchi with beef heart Bolognese: know that the heart, makes for a wonderfully robust, tangy, meat sauce that, spread across a gentle bed of gnocchi, adds up to a soul-warming winter dish. Read more
  • Pam
    PamJuly 24, 2014
    The pork ragu rigatoni is delicious.
  • Cat G.
    Cat GaoMay 10, 2014
    The rigatoni with pork ragu and porcini mushrooms is amazing, as is the affogato. Easy to find free parking on Clybourn (near its intersection with Halsted) anytime outside of 4-6pm M-F.
    Upvoted 3 days ago
  • Erick N.
    Erick NeuMay 8, 2014
    Been here 10+ times
    A meal here is not complete without at least one pizza and pasta for the table
  • Mac V. W.
    Mac V. WallachJanuary 17, 2014
    Don't get the arugula salad. Incredibly salty. #springbreak4eva
  • Karyn T.
    Karyn TanisJanuary 2, 2014
    Cool Industrial space and ambiance.
  • Time Out Chicago
    Time Out ChicagoDecember 20, 2013
    The tagliolini nero at Balena is one of the 100 best things we ate this year. http://tmout.us/rLOtk Read more
  • Blunt R.
    Blunt RobbinsDecember 13, 2013
    I was just across the street picking up a Wolf going to Kolmar
  • Serious Eats
    Serious EatsDecember 2, 2013
    It's hard to go wrong at this mega Italian joint in Lincoln Park. Both the pizza and pasta are top notch.
  • Brian R.
    Brian RydzNovember 22, 2013
    Everything is awesome
  • Cara
    CaraNovember 17, 2013
    Ask for Linus....best waiter in the City!
  • Eric M.
    Eric MunnOctober 14, 2013
    Start the night off with one of their amazing vermouths and order one of their outstanding pizzas
  • Nick H.
    Nick HorkOctober 12, 2013
    If they still have it, the balena charcuterie board is a perfect mix for drinks and socializing.
  • Kenny H.
    Kenny HuntSeptember 16, 2013
    Amazing!!! Tasty and inviting!
  • Cristina D.
    Cristina DordasJuly 4, 2013
    Lovely restaurant. Don't miss the tagliolini nero and the tiramisu. It is to die for!
  • Mike G.
    Mike GonzalezJune 15, 2013
    Mushroom pizza was delicious! Excellent service great date night place! Small plates meant to be shared pastas were excellent specifically the pork shoulder pasta
  • Tatiana F.
    Tatiana F OMay 29, 2013
    In my opinion the best dish is the nero spaguetti and for dessert ask for tiramissu. Very good an italian restaurant.
  • Shari
    ShariMay 6, 2013
    Orichette, Hanger Steak, Canoli Sundae, & Mozzarella + Basil pizza with Chili sauce :-) :-)
  • Jessica K.
    Jessica KosturkoApril 24, 2013
    NYT article: http://nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/mushroom-bruschetta-that-can-carry-a-meal.html
  • amanda
    amandaApril 22, 2013
    Been here 50+ times
    mmmmust haves: 1) smoked mackerel with soft egg starter. 2) pork ragu rigatoni. 3) tagliolini with crab and sea urchin.
  • Veronica H.
    Veronica HMarch 30, 2013
    Mortadella pizza with the pistachio pesto was amazing! And the pork ragu was surprisingly out of the box. Enjoy with a glass of barbera
  • Anna B.
    Anna BokunMarch 27, 2013
    Before I even sat down to my strawberry drinky drank, my eyes glazed over the somewhat rustic yet elegant decor. I enjoyed the large displays of dazzling tumbleweed hanging from the ceiling rafters.
  • Ashley A.
    Ashley AckermanFebruary 28, 2013
    The brown butter and sage pasta is one of the most flavorful and simple pastas I've ever tasted. Delicious.
  • Kate
    KateFebruary 17, 2013
    Upstairs is quieter spot to dine. Great wine list (bottle and by the glass). Mushroom pizza was amazing and make sure to save room for dessert.
  • Eater
    EaterJanuary 28, 2013
    Between the rustic Italian fare, heavenly desserts, and fantastic cocktail list, the partnership between the Bristol and Boka groups doesn't show any signs of slowing down. [Eater 38 Member]
  • Brian H.
    Brian HanscelNovember 6, 2012
    Bread that will convert even the most devout Atkin's dieter.
  • Kamilah M.
    Kamilah MOctober 29, 2012
    Belly up to the bar and treat yourself to an unforgettable dinner! Every dish better then last.
  • Matt B.
    Matt BentonOctober 22, 2012
    Been here 5+ times
    Don't leave without getting the bread plate.
  • BlackboardEats
    BlackboardEatsSeptember 13, 2012
    There are many reasons why Balena was named one of Bon Appetit's Top 50 Best New Restaurants, and their Farm Egg Tajarin is one of them. Topped with sage and brown butter, this pasta dish is perfect.
  • Chad
    ChadJune 15, 2012
    Been here 5+ times
    Tagliolini Nero!
  • Olivia L.
    Olivia LeighJune 1, 2012
    BREAD BASKET
  • Meg B.
    Meg BowesJune 1, 2012
    Bread is amazing. Blueberry pie dessert, polenta, and mushroom pizza are very good. Overall, pastas and desserts are the high points
  • Tasting Table
    Tasting TableMay 9, 2012
    Make a beeline for the bitterness scale’s lone 10: the FIB. It’s a refreshing, botanical-heavy combination of Amaro dell’Erborista, Ransom gin, fresh grapefruit and basil: Read more
  • Chicago magazine
    Chicago magazineMay 1, 2012
    We'd go back for the orecchiette alone. Breadcrumbs, kale, and lemon tuck. Yum.
  • agirl&herfood
    agirl&herfoodApril 29, 2012
    The butterball potato and arugula pizza is so forking good!
  • agirl&herfood
    agirl&herfoodApril 29, 2012
    Beet salad is amazing!
  • Jessica R.
    Jessica ReynoldsApril 29, 2012
    The Strawberry cocktail is a treat, more citrusy than sugary. Try the spicy salami pizza with the special hot sauce and the mini-donuts and vanilla gelato for dessert.
  • Chicago Realtor M.
    The bread basket is amaze-balls
  • Alex K.
    Alex KarasMarch 16, 2012
    Get. The. Tiramisu.
  • Courtney P.
    Courtney PluffJuly 9, 2014
    Best Salted Caramel Gelato ever! 4 Stars!!!!!
  • Gustavo D.
    Gustavo DoriettoNovember 16, 2013
    Bad service. Cattivo servizio. Serviço ruim.
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