Neopolitan ragu Credit: Andrea Bauer

Last year my colleague Aimee Levitt elegantly dissected a River North Italian restaurant’s claim that it served the “best spaghetti and meatballs ever.” She wisely cracked that such proclamations “are grandiose and borderline obnoxious, especially considering how much spaghetti and meatballs there is in the world.” Risk of grandiosity aside, let me say that I can’t imagine a more perfect meaty orb than the one at Paul Kahan’s Nico Osteria, the simultaneously rustic and refined restaurant anchoring the Gold Coast’s Thompson Hotel. Sure, there’s a more limited worldwide number of ground swordfish and pork belly meatballs served with a fried risotto cake, which makes it easier for Nico’s to excel in its class. But that doesn’t make it any less delicious.