It’s no secret that the Southport corridor part of Lakeview is known as “Stroller Row,” since it’s so popular with young families. And lots of restaurants here fit in with the whole “suburban lite” thing, in that they seem like they’d be right at home in a mall (or a mall’s parking lot): they’re generic-looking, with lots of space and giant menus meant to appeal to anyone and everyone. On the surface, Coda Di Volpe looks like it could be one of these chain-y spots, but it actually happens to have great Italian food.
You’ll get the chain feeling right when you walk in. The space isn’t unpleasant, but the decor is neutral, in beige and green, and it looks ordinary enough that it could be transplanted just about anywhere and still fit in. It’s a big place, full of booths that will probably be occupied by parents and young kids if you come here early. There’s also a huge bar at the front, and if you’re here on a weekend night, you can count on it being full of couples determined to enjoy themselves before getting home to relieve the sitter.
After all that, though, the suburban-chain similarity ends. Coda Di Volpe is putting out some definitely-better-than-chain-quality Italian food, starting with their Neapolitan pizzas. These are cooked in a wood-fired oven at the back, where there are counter seats available if you want to watch. The pies are served uncut - you’ll get a pair of scissors so you can cut them yourself. After you get over the performance anxiety brought on by this responsibility, you’ll discover they’re fantastic, with crispy bubbled crusts and great toppings.
Other dishes on the menu are equally good. It’s not a heavy, red-sauce kind of place - most of the food here actually feels light and refreshing. The wood-grilled octopus, for example, is simple and great, and the arugula salad with fried almonds and pickled, roasted grapes, is something you’ll genuinely like rather than something you feel like you should order to balance out all the pizza. Pasta dishes here are also very strong - try the bucatini arrabiata.
There are a lot of fantastic Italian restaurants in Chicago, so we wouldn’t travel to Lakeview just to have dinner here - we prefer eating in neighborhood joints that have a bit more character. But Coda Di Volpe is a really good spot on Southport to have in your back pocket, especially if you’re eating with a group (of children or adults). It’s never too late in life to brush up on your fine motor skills, after all, and it’s a hell of a lot more fun cutting pizza than construction paper - ask any kid you know.
We’ve had quite a few “meh” bruschettas in our day, but this one is really good. It has fresh fig, ricotta cheese, and proscuitto.
This is light and refreshing, and even if you’re not into salads you should consider having it on the table. Fried almonds give it texture, and the pickled and roasted grapes give it a great sweet/sour balance.
Every server tells you to order the octopus. Here, you actually should. It’s tender, delicious, and just a little bit spicy.
If you plan on ordering only one pizza here, get the margherita. The simple ingredients show off the perfect Neapolitan crust.
We’re fans of having both a red and a white pizza on the table. This is a good white pizza that comes with arugula on top for health.
This version has the usual tomato, garlic, and chili pepper, with the addition of pancetta and cooked down red peppers and zucchini. It’s really good if you like a little spice.
This comes topped with a pile of stuff: a pine nut and currant soffritto, shaved fennel, raisins, and orange slices. It all works, acting like a salad that complements the perfectly-cooked fish.