As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
Owner Dominic Barraco has been flipping pies and crafting Italian cuisine alongside his family for more than 30 years. Today he relies on culinary traditions passed down by his grandparents as well as modern techniques to populate a carry-out and delivery menu with thin-crust, deep-dish, Sicilian-style, and stuffed pizzas as well as more than 15 sandwiches, such as the fillet of fish. His pasta dishes include classics such as lasagna and gnocchi, and ribs, wings, and roasted chicken round out the hearty edibles.
Though Dino’s is a pizzeria at heart, they also pride themselves in their fresh-cut fries. And just as with the pizzas, customers can deck out the fries with an array of toppings—buffalo sauce and jalapenos ignite the Spice of Life fries, and the Hungry Man fries get bulked up with ground beef, cheese, sour cream, and flannel napkins. They pair nicely with the restaurant’s half-pound Angus burgers, as well as the fresh wings. Of course, much of the menu is devoted to pizza, and diners can build their own or order a specialty pie, such as the gyros with meat, onion, tomato, feta, and gyro sauce.
For more than 15 years, Via Bella has piled plates high with authentic Southern Italian cuisine in a friendly, romantic atmosphere. Guests in the separate dining room lift forks laden with housemade lobster ravioli or grasp slices of thin-crust pizza. Nearby, guests in the spacious bar room can share littleneck clams or shrimp bruschetta at the Brunswick back bar, which dates back to the turn of the 20th century.
Back in 1956, childhood friends Michael Caringella and Armand Christopher combined their talents and started a restaurant. While Mike made his signature thin-crust pies, Armand handled the business logistics and lent his art skills to the décor. Although Armand left the restaurant world in the ‘60s, his name remained as Mike built the business with his own signature recipes, such as his stuffed artichokes and baked clams—and of course, his pizzas. Soon Mike’s mother, who went by “Grandma Caringella,” took over the kitchen and kept business booming for many years, helping seal the pizzeria’s fate as a true family affair. As time went on, Armand’s opened multiple locations in the city and throughout Illinois and brought its timeless name along for the ride.
With a list of eight meats, eight cheeses, and more than 15 veggies, it’s rare that two custom pizzas at Fireside Wood Fired Pizza & Cafe result in the same combination. However, they all wind up in the same place: the family-owned pizzeria's wood-fired brick oven. A trip into the wood-fired flames renders crusts crispy, cheeses bubbly, and artichoke hearts no longer beating, and is also the fate of their 13 specialty pies. Baby spinach, yellow peppers, and housemade sauce crown the Very Veggie, and a blend of hot and mild italian sausage, mushrooms, and provolone top The Fireside. Beyond pizzas, the oven toasts artisan sandwiches, including the Italian Grinder filled with black forest ham and pepperoncini peppers.