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Nico Osteria
Handmade pasta at Nico Osteria.
Photo by Derek Richmond.

We?ve tried enough tacos at Big Star and bacon-wrapped dates at Avec to know for sure: When the guys behind those standbys open a new spot, we?re there.

There?s just one problem: So is everyone else.

Our secret to snagging a table at Nico Osteria, the seafood-focused Italian restaurant now shaking up the steakhouse scene in the Gold Coast? Lunch, of course.

On a weekday at 11:30, we were quickly seated at a prime window table and then (subtly) swarmed by a team of attentive waiters in preppy plaid aprons.

While we watched shoppers bustling past on Rush Street, we started with a colorful escarole and gem-lettuce salad ($12) with chunks of red-fleshed cara cara oranges.

Then we tried one of Nico Osteria?s standout house-made pastas, tagliolini in a light sauce with a spicy red-chile kick and topped with delicate Hama Hama clams in gorgeous purple shells ($18, available at lunch and dinner).

We loved soaking up Nico by the light of day, but you have options if you must go at night. Wait for your table over cocktails in the sultry adjoining Salone Nico lounge, or stop by late night for an aperitif and a just-sweet-enough walnut flan tart ($11).

Nico Osteria, 1015 N. Rush St.; 312-994-7100 or

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