The Reader's Choice: Piccolo Sogno
Charlie Trotter's and a handful of other top-end restaurants are renowned for their encyclopedic wine lists; what makes Piccolo Sogno's special is partner Ciro Longobardo's uncompromising commitment to Italian wines. He recently boosted the lineup from 400 to more than 500 bottles, but even more impressive than the number is the range: every region of the mainland is well represented, along with Sicily and Sardinia. While notable producers and great grapes—the Brunellos of Tuscany, the Barolos of the Piedmont—show up in abundance, Longobardo has gone out of his way to find selections from as many microareas as possible to showcase a variety of styles, both traditional and modern.
He's also sensitive to price, and his list starts at $20 for a 2007 Trebbiano D'Abruzzo DOC, Farnese, and includes lots of bottles for less than $45. It tops out at $550, for a 1999 "Masetto" Rosso Toscana IGT, Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia, but since the markup is 2.2 times wholesale or less (compared to the industry standard of three times wholesale), even that's not exorbitant, relatively speaking.
Longobardo has managed to snag a few rarities, among them a 2005 "Orma" Rosso Bolgheri DOC, Podere Orma ($148), a Super Tuscan from a small producer. On his wish list for the future are more older vintages, because he admits some of the wines are too young to drink.
Even the 40 or so sparklers are all Italian—including complex pours like N.V. Cuvee Brut Franciacorta DOCG, Bellavista ($14 glass, $56 bottle). More than 40 wines are available by the glass ($4-$19), facilitating wine-and-food pairings and regional explorations. And when warm weather arrives, I can sip my Nero D'Avola from Sicily, Carignano from Sardinia, and Barbaresco from the Piedmont in one of the loveliest gardens in the city. 464 N. Halsted, 312-421-0077, piccolosognorestaurant.com. —Anne Spiselman
&Our readers' choiceItalian Village
71 W. Monroe, 312-332-7005, italianvillage-chicago.com.