Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune
There is no shortage of fine restaurants in the Near North area, but affordability is another matter. So kudos to Tony Mantuano (no stranger to fine dining, as he oversees Spiaggia and the Art Institute's tony Terzo Piano) for turning the old Bistro 110 space into a pizza-focused Italian light-bites cafe. Bar Toma takes its name from its creator's initials and its culinary inspiration from "Wine Bar Food," the cookbook Mantuano co-wrote with his wife, Cathy, so tiny plates dominate the menu — prosciutto-filled arancini, plancha-seared carrots drizzled with high-quality balsamico, an appropriately fiery octopus purgatorio. The pizzas have satisfyingly chewy crusts but taste extraordinarily light, thanks to the dough's 48-hour rise time, and there are at least a dozen flavors of gelato offered daily. Just what this neighborhood needed.
Bar Toma, 110 E. Pearson St., Chicago; 312-266-3110
— Phil Vettel