When Mario Aliano set out to start his own restaurant, he kept three simple principles in mind: pizza, pasta, and friends. Today, that triumvirate remains on the crest of Aliano’s Ristorante, emblazoned across an Italian flag that symbolizes their dedication to old-country recipes and hospitality.
Though the piles of pasta, piping-hot pies, and pressed sandwiches evoke the flavors of the distant Italian countryside, all of the dishes are homemade with fresh ingredients. They also look closer to home for inspiration, drawing on Italian-American inspirations to concoct Chicago-style pizzas famous for thick crusts that stay anchored to the ground on windy days. Occasionally, guests can enjoy occasional live entertainment from musicians and comedians—if they can pry their attention away from the veal cutlets or pastas piled on their plates.
Chef Eric Olsen oversees a menu of delectably stacked dough disks and hearty Mediterranean and American fare. Strip a kebab skewer of savory chicken parmesan ($7) before slaying the artichoke-hearted minotaurs and olive-eyed gorgons of the feta-topped Mediterranean pizza ($23). Transfer years of Lego love to the dinner table by building custom pizzas or pasta dishes, piling eclectic toppings ($1.50–$2) atop an array of crusts, including honey thin ($12–$16), pan ($13–$17), and stuffed ($15–$19). Veggie-laden soups and salads round out full-fledged feasts, and a children's menu caters to mini mouths with options such as mac 'n' cheese and 8-inch pizzas ($5 each, including beverage).
Fresh D'Lite focuses on fresh, speedily prepared meals—all of which contain fewer than 500 calories—and it prominently displays all nutrition information on its menu and website. Treat tongues to a treasure trove of fresh dishes ($6.29-7.29) from across the globe, such as the sesame-chicken salad with crispy wontons and edamame or the tomato-basil chicken salad with Mediterranean fixings and herb vinaigrette. The chipotle-chicken panini stacks tomatoes, red onions, avocado, and pepper-jack cheese atop herbed chicken, and a steak 'n' potato wrap reveals fresh, grilled sirloin in a passionate embrace with sautéed vegetables, roasted potatoes, cheese, and Fabio. Sip an iced tea or fountain drink (both $1.69) in the eatery's upbeat, casual interior before sinking sweet teeth into a guilt-free dessert ($1.99), available in 100-calorie, low-fat, and immortality-giving options.
Gas lanterns and flat-screen TVs illuminate the wood tables in Charlie Fox's newly renovated dining room, where hearty Italian treats greet diners with piping-hot howdyados. Pizza toppings of ground Angus beef, black olives, spinach, crumbled blue cheese, and more rest warmly atop a variety of dough styles, including thin crust ($9.95+), double dough ($11.45+), pan ($12.95+), and stuffed ($14.45+). The pizzeria's pasta specialties come smothered in homemade red or vodka sauce and include baked and bubbling mostaccioli ($8.95) and eggplant parmigiana ($10.95). Fork-frightened patrons can steady quaking fingers on a creative sandwich such as the pizza burger ($6.99), while those spoon-smitten can whittle a ladle out of an appetizer of cheesy bread ($3.99).
The menu at Amato's Pizzeria spans the entire spectrum of Italian cooking with lasagna, meatball sandwiches, panzerotti, and calzones each eliciting their share of salivating, but the pizza is the true centerpiece of the menu. Since the establishment's inception in 1966, the chefs have whipped up their own pizza sauce from scratch and made dough fresh each morning to create a delectable canvas for 24 available toppings. Pies arrive in thin-crust, double-dough, pan-style, and stuffed Chicago-style forms, piping hot and ready to be devoured by the slice or handed out to members of an easily persuaded jury.