Italian Exhibitors Pick Their Favorite Hot Spots in Chicago

Italian menswear and accessories brands selected and sponsored by the Italian Trade Agency are heading to Chicago to showcase their new collections at the industry-leading trade show Chicago Collective, running from Saturday to Tuesday. Despite the tight schedule, exhibitors manage to find some downtime to spend in the city and shared with WWD their suggestions for the best ways to enjoy the Windy City.

Filippo Decotto, North America commercial and marketing manager at Ploumanac’h

“Ah, Chicago. I like those wide sidewalks and that undeniable energy, that does it for me. But here’s the twist — it’s the ‘burbs that capture my heart. A little quiet charm amidst the city’s hustle? Count me in. As much as I love our cuisine, I leave it back home when I travel. In Chicago, it’s all about diversity for me. Virtue Restaurant, Duck Sel, Kasama — they’re my kind of spots. And Italian dining? I’d rather extend an invitation to experience it in Italy itself. Leisure time is a rare gem, but when it’s there, you’ll find me by the beach, frisbee in hand, joining a game of Ultimate. Nothing beats the summer sun and a bit of friendly competition. In winter, I prefer the cozy confines of a hotel, where the ambience is often perfectly suited to treat guests with warmth and comfort. The London House is my hotel of choice in Chicago. Its location is ideal, striking a perfect balance for both business engagements and leisure time.”

Annalisa Calabrese, owner of Calabrese 1924

“The river between the skyscrapers is very beautiful, the thing I don’t like is the freezing cold. For pizza I go to Portofino. During summer we were not able to fully enjoy the city but we had the opportunity, thanks to ITA, to take a cruise and see the architectural beauties. I suggest Holiday Inn and Voco because they are directly connected to the fair.”

Sausage deep dish and a Miller Lite at Lou Malnati's in Lincolnwood in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Jason Little for the Washington Post)

Sausage deep dish in Chicago, IL.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

Gennaro Sannino, marketing and communication director at Camiceria Sannino

“I’ve attended the Chicago Collective for over two years now and managed to know the city a little bit better. It’s a city with energy and great vibes when it comes to nightlife, especially in the summertime. The Riverwalk downtown is enjoyable. It’s busy with so many bars and sports activities, like kayak or boat tours. Also, the jazz culture is unmatched. Must-have experience! The long distance between one point of interest to another can be a bother. The winter is freezing — if you are not used to this weather, it can be challenging. If you are obsessed with Neapolitan-style pizza, you might be disappointed. Chicago is a famous house for its deep-dish pizza — multiple layers of dough pizza. The best spot is Robert’s Pizza & Dough Company siding the Chicago River. Tasty and crunchy, the pizza has to be shared as it’s heavy. Meatballs are a great appetizer. Don’t bother with pasta — Chicago is the destination for a great steak. Don’t miss out on Gibsons — they are an established spot famous for their large portions of fresh seafood and tender steak. Been there, done that. Let’s finish with dessert: Scooter’s Frozen Custard is the place to experience the authentic Chicago ice cream. If you are into Mediterranean flavors, ABA is definitely worth a visit both for the atmosphere and food. Thanks to the ITA, I experienced a boat tour on the River North, which was striking. From there, you could appreciate the city skyline. Any hotel surrounding the Mart area is great and affordable in the wintertime. I happened to stay at the Hyatt Centric, Cambria and Kinzie Hotel. No complaints — polite and resourceful staff, big rooms with all the amenities required. But it’s different in the summer. You need to book way in advance to stay on top of the game. The price range is almost double because the city is full of tourists enjoying what the lake and city have to offer.”

Copy of Gibsons Dining Room2

Gibson’s Restaurant in Chicago.

Courtesy of Gibsons

Luigi Cordone, commercial finance manager at Cordone 1956

“I think that Chicago is a wonderful city during summer and an incredibly cold city during winter but the beautiful thing is that between the two seasons you can see two completely different cities and this is something very fascinating. While I’m there, I love to run on the riverwalk in the morning when the city is still asleep or in the evening when the road is enlightened by all the clubs’ lights. Honestly, [when it comes to] Italian food, it’s a sore point. There are several places but I can’t recommend anyone to eat as well as in Italy. I always stay at the Hilton Chicago and I can recommend it for its quality-price ratio.”

Nicola Martorana, export manager at Salvatore Martorana

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 03: People ride a tour boat on the Chicago River on August 03, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. Many American tourists are traveling to Europe instead of domestic locations driving international rates for airfare higher while the price of domestic airfare has dropped from last year.   (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

People ride a tour boat on the Chicago River on August 03, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.

Getty Images

“Downtown Chicago offers the right amount of good vibes — especially the Riverwalk in summertime. I try not to eat Italian when I am abroad, but one of my favorite spots in town, when I miss my mother’s food, is Riccardo Trattoria in North Clark, or if I want to stay around the Mart, Portofino is also very good. The river cruise is one of the best experiences to enjoy the city landscape. Normally I don’t have time to go to spas. The show is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., then it’s time to share some drinks with clients. But once I got wet at the Crown fountain at the Millennium Park. I am used to staying at the same hotels: Westin River North or The Allegro have a familiar air for me.”

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