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Balena Italian - Temporarily Closed

4.4
2248 reviews
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$30 and under
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Italian
Perfect For:
  • Fit for Foodies
  • Special Occasion
  • Neighborhood Gem

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About

Balena has been executing honest, Italian cooking in Lincoln Park since 2012. Led by Executive Chef/Partner Chris Pandel, the restaurant is the first collaboration between Boka Restaurant Group and B Hospitality. Balena's many accolades include Best New Restaurants in America by Gayot and Bon Appetit, 3 stars by the Chicago Tribune, and a James Beard semi-finalist nomination for Best New Restaurant at the James Beard Awards. In addition to its 150 seats, Balena contains a chef's table right across form the hearth of its brick oven. as well as a gorgeous 18 seat leather topped bar, and a section dedicated to walk-ins.
Dining Style
Casual Dining
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Cuisines
Italian, Pizzeria, Wine Bar
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Hours of operation
Monday: 5:00pm-9:00pm
Tuesday-Thursday: 5:00pm-10:00pm
Friday: 5:00pm-11:00pm
Saturday: 4:30pm-11:00pm
Sunday: 4:30pm-9:00pm
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Phone number
(312) 867-3888
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Payment options
AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
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Dress code
Casual Dress
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Executive chef
Chris Pandel
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Private party facilities
Please reach out to us to inquire about our private wine cellar for your next special event!
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Private party contact
Skyler Harrah: (312) 867-3888
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Neighborhood
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Cross street
North Ave
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Parking details
$14 cash
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Public transit
The North/Clybourn Red Line stop is one block SW
Additional
Banquet, Bar Dining, Beer, BYO Wine, Chef's Table, Corkage Fee, Full Bar, Gluten-free Menu, Non-Smoking, Private Room, Wine
What 2248 People Are SayingWrite a review
Overall ratings and reviews
4.4based on all time ratings
4.3
food
4.3
service
4.4
ambience
4.0
value
Noise · Moderate
91% of people would recommend it to a friend
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4.0Dined on August 8, 2017

Great food, but a bit pricey. 2 pasta entrees, 2 beers, 1 wine, 2 desserts $120

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5.0Dined on August 5, 2017

Excellent! Would highly recommend

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4.0Dined on August 5, 2017

Wasn't impressed with the food. Expected more. Great ambience and decor.

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5.0Dined on August 5, 2017

My girlfriend and I had a wonderful meal at Balena. Compared to other restaurants serving similarly high quality food, the value is good. The pasta is clearly made in house and is delicious, as were the vegetables and the spicy lamb meatballs. Great place to visit for great Italian food!

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3.0Dined on August 5, 2017

This place is beautiful. Food could use some improvement. Pizza was just ok, pasta was alright. Food does not match the grander of the decor!

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5.0Dined on August 4, 2017

I think Balena is my favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago. Everything we ordered was great. I loved the pasta especially the tagiolini nero and orecchiette. The spumoni inspired dessert was also excellent. Can't wait for it to reopen!

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5.0Dined on August 2, 2017

We had a delicious meal with great service.
Highly recommended Italian fare.

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5.0Dined on August 1, 2017

Great decor. Attentive server. Great food recommendations. Courteous staff and updates. Superb.

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3.0Dined on July 29, 2017

It's no where close to what it used to be. but it was decent.

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4.0Dined on July 29, 2017

The menu was very interesting. Food fresh but way overly salted. Wine selected by waiter was very good. A little noisy due to high ceilings.

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1.0Dined on July 28, 2017

Poor service. Small pasta portions. Forgot birthday request

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5.0Dined on July 27, 2017

Everything was delicious and the service was excellent!

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2.0Dined on July 25, 2017

We had nice service but meatballs were dry and the gnocchi had no taste. It also took too long, but waiter stopped by to say chef had overcooked it and was making another. Instead of comp'ing the dish, a second bland (arugula) salad was brought out. Was expecting more flavor and a more lively scene from a BOKA group restaurant. Was unimpressed and will not be back or recommending this restaurant to friends, unfortunately.

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5.0Dined on July 24, 2017

Calling all Italian-food lovers: go to Balena! The restaurant itself is beautiful, with rustic wood floors and and twinkling lights. The food is straightforward, healthy, and delicious. The house focaccia is a must-get starter, and the charred broccoli is a great side. As for pastas, you can't go wrong with any of them. Try the mafaldine with tomato fondue and basil and then go for a "craft your own" white pie. Pro-tip: this is a great place to go before or after theater at Steppenwolf, which is right across the street!

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5.0Dined on July 23, 2017

Thank you our Server was awesome! Sunday night- cannot remember her name she gave use great recommendations.
Sherry

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4.0Dined on July 23, 2017

Food was excellent. There's so many great options. Tables are a little close together but that was my only complaint.

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5.0Dined on July 23, 2017

Great menu, changes seasonally. The dishes are perfect for sharing, we shared the spicy lamb meatballs, two pastas, and a salad (two of us). Lovely ambiance, be back!

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5.0Dined on July 23, 2017

This was before theatre dinner. The food comes quickly, (but not too)! Everything tastes great. The servers are well-informed. We split an arugala salad, the 1/2 roast chicken, and a truffle pasta. They were all great. (and we were not given the sometimes 'snub' nose you get when you ask to split). It is a relaxed atmosphere while eating good food.
The menu is limited, which is fine and there were no specials, which was also fine. We've eaten there 2x and I will go back!

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5.0Dined on July 22, 2017

The food was INCREDIBLE! Cocktail were tasty!

Our waitress started off incredibly and somewhere in the evening a switch was flipped. She began literally dropping plates and beverages angrily on the table and stomping away. It was bizarre. Honestly, I'm hoping she was just have a rough evening. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, but not awesome.

I would still definitely go back for the food.

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5.0Dined on July 22, 2017

I chose to come to Balena with my sister and dad since it was right next door to the Royal George Theater where we were seeing Spamilton. I looked at a few nearby and picked this one based on the menu, as I hadn't heard of any of them. We were all so pleased!! I couldn't believe the luck of picking this awesome place. Our waitress was amazing, the food was fantastic, and the atmosphere was beautiful! It wasn't too loud, and they were very accommodating with our show time - very fast with the check when we only had a little time before the show. I would highly recommend checking out Balena!

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3.0Dined on July 21, 2017

The food was mediocre. The main issue regarded the people sitting next to us that were so close and being very disrespectful to the other guests of the restaurant. Once our waitress came over she didn't address the situation throughout the evening even after they left. I couldn't enjoy anything about the experience based on how they were acting. We asked to be moved and they told us it would be an additional 30 minute wait. A frustrating experience...

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3.0Dined on July 21, 2017

I found a hair in my food and a big fly came to say hello to me in the middle of my meal. Food was comped and free sorbet was given but I still feel nauseated.

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5.0Dined on July 21, 2017

Great atmosphere not too loud. Service staff was perfectly attentive and accommodating to a complicated dinner. Would highly recommend for any special occasion, date or nice dinner!

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5.0Dined on July 16, 2017

Our Balena experience was outstanding. I told our server, Stacy, that I was vegan. She knew which of the menu items were vegan-friendly. She was great. The food was delicious! I definitely recommend Balena.

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5.0Dined on July 16, 2017

would have liked more gluten free options but really enjoyed what I had and loved the ambiance.

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5.0Dined on July 15, 2017

went here for a late dinner with a big group of friends. we split bottles of wine, ordered various pastas, and were there for 2.5 hours! this place is one of my favorite italian resturants in chicago. would recommend everything on the menu - and definitely split bottles of wine - great price and so worth it!

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3.0Dined on July 15, 2017

We have been several times and we're disappointed this time. The menu changes and we found very few things that seemed appetizing. The menu was very small. It's supposed to be a fish place and there was hardly any fish on the menu. The staff was nice and the ambiance is fun. May give it another try to see if they improve the menu.

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3.0Dined on July 15, 2017

There were 3 of us and we did not care of what we ordered although the restaurant was crowded and we had been told it was very good.

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4.0Dined on July 13, 2017

Good food and cocktails, and excellent service. Right across the street from Steppenwolf, and right on time. I loved the roasted cauliflower, and I had a lemony pasta with greens that was delicious. The cookie plate and lovely tea were a great end to the meal.

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4.0Dined on July 12, 2017

Good but food was over priced for quality. Great atmosphere though.

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3.0Dined on July 10, 2017

Food was actually very good, and the people were nice but the service can certainly be improved.

I made a last minute reservation for my wife's birthday on opentable. We arrived with our 2 sons and were given a nice table. The restaurant was not crowded and our server was immediately attentive. We explained that we were not in a hurry, but after receiving our cocktails we felt pressured anyway to place our food order. We ordered our food and then my wife proceeded to open some cards and gifts at the table.

The food started rolling out of the kitchen. My sons were splitting a pizza and I wish the server had taken a moment to realize that my young son had ordered the fennel sausage pizza, which included chili flakes. I like spicy food, but this was way spicier/hotter than most adults would ever tolerate. Kids should not order that pizza! The server never stopped by to check to see if our food was good - he pretty much disappeared when the food started coming. I had to give my gnocci to my son and eat his pizza. We waited patiently for my wife's hangar steak to arrive, and it never did...so she nibbled on the gnocci.

Surprisingly, our server never actually asked if we wanted any desert - even though we had opened presents in full view. I would have loved to have a simple piece of cake and a candle for her (actually more for my kids since birthdays are important to kids) - but I barely had a chance to speak with the waiter.

Finally the waiter came by and I simply asked for the check. I told him to make sure that I was not charged for the hangar steak since it never arrived. He barely apologized and just brought the check - what a lost opportunity to simply recognize the mistake and perhaps ask my wife if there was anything he could bring her.

Anyway, this place has a nice ambience and nice people, but if our server was a little more observant then I think in time he can become an excellent waiter and probably do a much better job for the diners and the restaurant.

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5.0Dined on July 9, 2017

The staff made our experience easy and enjoyable as we celebrated a friend's engagement. Our waiter was friendly, approachable and knowledgeable about the menu items.

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5.0Dined on July 8, 2017

Second visit and it is amazing again. Great drinks and the meal was outstanding.

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5.0Dined on July 7, 2017

menu selections were varied. There was something for everyone no matter what they favored
Food was great and enjoyed by all

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5.0Dined on July 5, 2017

Pretheater. Great service, food, atmosphere, beverage.

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4.0Dined on July 3, 2017

Nice neighborhood place.Very good service, nice ambience and decent prices.

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5.0Dined on July 2, 2017

Food was excellent. Very flavorful. Everything we ate was equally great. Server was very friendly and attentive.

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5.0Dined on July 1, 2017

Excellent meal with outstanding waiter! All good was fresh and delish!!

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5.0Dined on June 30, 2017

The staff at Balena were great. They had asked if we were celebrating anything when they confirmed the reservation (it was my Dad's birthday) and there was a birthday card signed by Balena staff members on the table when we got there. They also made sure to get us out the door in time to see our show. I will definitely be returning.

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4.0Dined on June 28, 2017

Faccia bread was excellent, black pasta was to salty

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