When guests enter Luigi's Italian Restaurant, they're greeted with the scents of baked pasta, meatloaf, lamb shanks, and minestrone. Chefs prepare each margherita pizza and prosciutto-stuffed chicken with fresh cheeses, meats, produce, and spices, presenting each meal amid the charmingly familiar decor of red-checkered tablecloths, a darkly stained wood bar, and the saltshaker from your grandmother's kitchen. Diners clink glasses of rich Italian wine over plates of italian meatloaf and eggplant parmesan or order offsite catering for their parties and banquets. Occasionally, the restaurant also hosts events, such as a New Year's Eve bash set to live jazz.
When most people think of Chicago-style pizza, they probably imagine a dense, deep-dish pie weighed down by an inches-thick layer of cheese. But the chefs at Nicolo's Pizza point to a different definition offered up by famed Chicago film critic Roger Ebert. In an interview with Vanity Fair , Ebert estimated that as much as 85 percent of Chicago's pizza is built upon a thin crust, and that what really sets the city's pies apart is the homemade sauces and crusts cooked up by Chicago's abundant Italian population.
That's exactly the type of Chicago-style pizza that Nicolo's has been dishing up for more than 30 years, using recipes born generations ago in Italy. Each thin or hand-rolled crust is made fresh every day, topped with a choice of sauce such as traditional red, alfredo, or garlicky extra virgin olive oil, then baked in an authentic stone-bottom oven. Patrons can choose their own ingredients––which range from artichoke hearts to green chilies––or choose one of the shop's specialties such as Buffalo Pie, a ranch-based pizza topped with chicken, celery, carrots, and mozzarella, or the Besto Pesto with Chicken, featuring chicken, black olives, artichoke hearts, and provolone cheese with a pesto sauce. Beyond the pizza pan, chefs painstakingly assemble layers of fresh noodles, ricotta, and sauce into classic meaty or vegetarian lasagna and slather chicken wings in a variety of sauces, including pomegranate chipotle and thai peanut.
Before an audience of excited patrons and supporting cast of bloody marys, wine, and imported and domestic bottles, 10 domestic and handcrafted brews dive from taps into chilly glasses. A menu of pub grub complements the adult libations with classic burgers, Mexican favorites such as tacos and enchiladas, and Italian delights including grinders, pizza, and pasta. Fatigued golfers and complacent dry cleaners grow alert at the sight of the Pueblo Slopper, in which green or red chili and shredded cheese ooze over a thick cheeseburger and crisp fries. A covered patio in back shields diners from hot sunbeams, while the front side of the grill boasts outdoor seating that's open to seagull serenades. Flat-screen televisions peppered throughout the space flicker with sports match-ups, and nightly events—such as live music on Fridays and Saturdays and karaoke on Wednesday nights—help customers stay on key without having to eat with a tuning fork.
Chef Matthew Franklin of Farro Italian Restaurant delights discerning palates with an extensive wine list and a menu of innovative Italian fare that won acclaim in the Denver Post. Catch a handcrafted, brick-oven-baked dough disk decorated with prosciutto, gorgonzola, and balsamic fig preserves ($12), or dive into spaghetti swimming with shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams in a spicy red sauce ($17). The flat-iron steak, doused in gorgonzola butter and accompanied by a mountain of roasted Yukon Gold potatoes ($18), straightens out wrinkled tongues with an overload of savory flavors.
With aged dough and Wisconsin whole milk mozzarella the chefs at Willie's NY Pizza make stone oven-baked pizzas. They heed customers' requests for more than 20 toppings, adding bell peppers, jalapenos, and artichoke hearts before shoveling it carefully into the stone oven. The kitchen staff also prepares other pub-style food such as wings and garlic knots—which are what Vampire Boy Scouts fear above all else. Willie’s can also host special events and parties, and it can even accommodate groups for fundraisers.