Chefs call upon the flavors of Rome and Tuscany as they blend tomatoes, garlic, and plentiful herbs into the Italian cuisine of Francesca’s Tavola, part of a Chicago-based family of Francesca’s restaurants graced with positive media attention. Patrons steep in the trattoria ambiance while skewering filet mignon, sea bass, and monkfish on their rapiers. A gluten-free menu pampers palates with quinoa linguine and desserts whose fresh fruit plays over tongues like a salad made from Debussy's sheet music.
Working late into the evening, the doughmasters at Donny's Pizzeria flip fresh ingredients into Chicago–style deep-dish, stuffed, pan, traditional thin-crust, and double-decker pizzas. The kitchen's passion for overstuffing also shows up in baked pasta shells, ravioli, and tortellini packed with imported cheeses. The most decadent corners of the menu harbor treats including deep-fried Oreos and the much-lauded Epic pizza, a 20"x50" pie that can serve 25–35 people or serve as a small cot.
BaPi Italian Ristorante's proprietor, Cristiano Bassani, bedecks white-linen tablecloths with house-made pasta, chicken, and salmon dishes. The quaint eatery hosts private lunch and dinner parties for 10–60 patrons and all their imaginary friends, or fills households with heaping pans of pastas and entrees via catering services.
Crafted from fresh meats, fish, and vegetables, the dishes on La Zingara’s menu uphold Italian cooking at its most elemental, providing simple, hearty helpings of a few fine ingredients. In addition to crunching bread baked fresh daily, diners can dig into entrees such as risotto and lasagna.
Specializing in thick, Sicilian–style deep-dish pizza, Jet's has indulged palates since 1978, when the eponymous Jetts brothers opened the first joint in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Crusts buckle under the weight of mozzarella cheese and toppings such as grilled chicken and black olives, accompanied by sides such as hot wings, cinnamon sticks, or Jet's Bread topped with cheese, garlic, and butter. Stacks of meat and veggies pile onto piping-hot subs, and a variety of healthy salads helps to avoid the wrath of the Food Pyramid's ancient golems armed with giant wooden tongs.
In 1966, taxi drivers Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli finally became fed up with their stop-and-go lives full of honking horns and rush-hour traffic. So they shut off their engines, handed in their keys, and took root. Along with pal George Loverde, they invested in property just off the bustling Magnificent Mile, but then didn’t know what to do with it. According to a 2004 profile in the Chicago Tribune, they got their direction when someone finally said, “Put pizza in it.”
Though the rest is history, it wasn’t quite easy. Bartoli and Loverde came from Italian and Sicilian backgrounds, but neither knew the key to a good pizza. It wasn’t until they hired Alice Mae Redmond, the woman responsible for the dough at Pizzeria Uno, that the Gino's East Chicagoans know and love was truly born. Although Alice Mae retired back in 1989, the recipe for her flaky, golden deep-dish pizza crust lives on.
Today, Gino’s still stands at its original spot on Michigan and Superior but has also stretched to 10 other city and suburban locations. Whether dining downtown or in St. Charles, customers find Alice Mae’s signature crust piled with mounds of cheese, sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes, and plenty of fresh toppings—from sausage and pepperoni to jalapeños and ground beef. Hot from the oven, pizzas arrive at tables snuggled inside seasoned deep-dish pans, ready to welcome a fork and knife. Thin-crust varieties are also available for those who don’t know how to work silverware, as is a bounty of sandwiches.