Trattoria Gianni is right across the street from the Steppenwolf theater, and I think the crowd depends on whether or not there's a show that night. I've been there twice and had reservations both times. It's not hard to get one, but even if you don't you'll probably get sat pretty quickly. The service was pretty good, but the food took a little longer than I would have hoped.
The cost was more reasonable for some things than others. The homemade pasta dishes were around $15, but the portions varied. The appetizers were between $7-$10, and besides the calamari the portions were far too small. The veal, which was a popular entree, was very small. At the same time, my dad's pasta was gigantic. So between the cost and the portions it can be a little hit or miss.
We started off with some appetizers for the table including the Fried Calamari, the Marinated Portabello Mushroom, and the Polenta with Mushrooms. I didn't try the Calamari, but the table had mixed feelings about the texture and seasonings. The Polenta had a nice creaminess inside and a crispy outside. The Mushroom was tasty and well marinated, but it was far too small.
The Marinated Portabello Mushroom
Most everyone with us got a salad whether it was the Caesar, the Variopinta (apple, pear, pine nuts, and goat cheese), or the Caprese. These were all very well dressed with nice peppery seasonings. I liked that in the Caesar dressing you could taste the anchovies. The Caprese had a very fresh sense to it as well. I'd recommend any of their salads.
The Variopinta Salad
The Caprese Salad
The Caesar Salad
For the entrees we got the Tagliatelle Bolognese, the Gnocchi, the Rigatoni, the Spinach Ravioli, the Veal Scaloppine, and the Marinated Chicken with Spinach and Mushrooms. We were informed by our waitress that you can combine any two dishes that you'd like. Accordingly, most everyone made their own combo platter of those dishes I mentioned. The Tagliatelle was tasty with a rich sauce. The Gnocchi was good, but they stuffed it with ricotta cheese which threw me on the texture a bit. The Ravioli was in a brown butter sage sauce that was a little heavy on the butter. The ravioli itself had a nice flavor to it but was a little too al dente for my liking. Everyone who had the Veal absolutely loved it. Mrs. Schneider got the Chicken and seemed very content as well. The Rigatoni was in a basil cream sauce with sun dried tomatoes that made it my favorite pasta dish.
The Marinated Chicken with Spinach and Mushrooms
The Ricotta Stuffed Gnocchi
The Brown Butter and Sage Ravioli
The Tagliatelle Bolognese
There was a general consensus reached by all which was that the quality of the food was fantastic, but the portions didn't necessarily live up to the prices. Homemade pastas, fresh salads, and tender meats are the hallmarks of a meal at Trattoria Gianni. The last time I was there, I even saw Ted Allen eating there (which means it must be good right?). I'm giving Trattoria Gianni 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.
Also, after the meal we were in the mood for dessert. None of the special desserts they had really struck our fancy, so I took everyone over to Annette's Italian Ice. It won't be open for much longer as the season comes to an end, so if you're in Lincoln Park and in the mood for ice cream I suggest you hit it up.