When Salvatore Ferrara first arrived to Chicago in 1900, he earned a living using the pastry- and candy-making skills he had acquired in his home country of Italy. Within a few years, Salvatore opened Original Ferrara Bakery, an Italian bakery that gained popularity during the formative years of Taylor Street's Little Italy neighborhood. The bakery became especially well-known for its candies, which eventually branched out into a second business, Ferrara Pan Candy Company, the manufacturer of perennial favorites such as Lemonheads and Atomic Fireballs. In the meantime, Sal's wife Serafina nurtured the bakery, maintaining its reputation as she became known in the neighborhood as "the Angel of Halsted Street." And though the area has seen rampant transformation over the last century, Original Ferrara Bakery still stands, delighting patrons with its renowned candies and pastries.
Now in its third generation of Ferrara ownership, the Original Ferrara Bakery is run by Sal and Serafina's grandchildren who continue to adhere to their family's original practices. They use all-natural ingredients to create signature items such as cannoli cake--rum-soaked layers of fresh strawberries, Italian custard, and cannoli cream--as well as elaborately tiered wedding cakes, and bite-sized indulgences such as petit fours and Italian butter cookies. Over the years, a lunch menu has been added to the mix, offering options including Neapolitan-style pizza and chicken parmigiana.
Daniel Zemans, a columnist for Serious Eats’ pizza blog, Slice, is an admitted sausage junkie, so it goes without saying that his standards for a sausage pie are pretty high. But La Madia chef and owner Jonathan Fox wasn't worried. The chef perfected his own recipes after eating dozens of styles of pizza across Europe and the U.S., adopting high standards for his cuisine that include making his fennel sausage in-house. Won over by sausage he described as “absolutely stunning—a perfect combination of flavor and texture", Zemens reaction helps explain why La Madia has earned notable press, including praise from Chicago Foodies writer Mandy Zaransky, who called La Madia's pepperoni pizza the best she'd ever had. Each day, La Madia’s chefs prepare dough and pasta from scratch using simplistic combinations of flour, salt, and water. Guests can sample their handiwork in dishes such as chicken-spinach ravioli or white pizza with taleggio and three-hour roasted grapes. To complement the fresh feast, patrons can explore an impressive wine list that offers hundreds of bottles and more than 75 international varietals available by the glass. Or, they can forgo tricky wine list navigating by consulting a magic 8-ball or by selecting one of the two wines featured each week as staff favorites.
After visiting Panino?s Lakeview location, ABC 7's Steve Dolinsky was so impressed by the pie?s ?wonderful, wonderful? dough that he created a list for the ?Top 5 Neapolitan Pizzas In Chicago? that very same week. Not surprisingly, Dolinsky, known around town as the Hungry Hound, put Panino?s at the top of that list, proclaiming that the dough?s ?char and chew captured [his] attention from the start.? The secret behind Panino's crust has nothing to do with the oven, and everything to do with its flour and yeast imported from Naples. Known as Molina San Felice Farnia Tipo ?oo,? the flour?s name may be a mouthful to say, but, all customers need to know is that it is the ?queen? of all flours officially certified for producing real Neapolitan pizzas. Once transformed into dough, the yeast?a mother-strand used since the 1800s?comes into play to provide that signature flavor and chew. This then becomes the canvas for 14 different Neapolitan-style pies, ranging from a simple margherita topped with fresh mozzarella and basil to more complicated creations, including the Verona piled with spinach, bacon, chicken, and parmesan cheese. Although Panino?s Neapolitan-style pies are clearly its claim to fame, the eatery doesn't turn away from other favorites. Chefs also pull Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas from the oven, and sate appetites with Italian staples such as eggplant parmigiana and chicken marsala.
Not a lot of ideas dreamed up on a first date come to fruition. But for Daniela and Brad, their first date in a Sao Paulo pizzeria grew into more than just a romance. With every successive date, their wouldn't-it-be-nice dream of opening a Brazilian-style pizzeria grew too shape. Not too long after, they decided to use the recipes handed down from their Italian ancestors to create their pizzeria, Fogo 2 Go.
In their cozy store-front?taken up by a main counter and an enormous brick oven?they bake crispy, Italian pizzas paired with unique Brazilian influences. Their pies come layered with everything from classic Italian sausages to more unique brie margherita and shrimp scampi toppings. True to the idea's Brazilian roots, they also cook up treats such as coxinha?an empanada filled with seasoned chicken and mashed potatoes?as well as desserts such as flan and Nutella & Banana pizza.
Aside from the Brazilian-Italian comestibles, Fogo's crown jewel is the brick-fired, charbroiled whole, half, or quarter chicken. Thanks to the intensity of the oven's heat and the incantations of the bistro's house shaman, the chicken quick-cooks, leaving a bacon-crisp skin and sealing in juices. What they never decided in their dream was the type of beverages to serve, so the pair let customers make that choice themselves with their BYOB policy. Fogo 2 Go even satisfies late-night hungers by staying open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Ask an out-of-towner what they want to do when they visit Chicago, and they'll probably tell you they want to chow down on some deep-dish pizza. Chicago Pizza Tours owner and pizza aficionado Jonathan Porter leads parties on treks to some of the Windy City's most celebrated pizzerias with three different pie-themed tours. Guests sample Chicago's signature style with the deep-dish only holiday walking tour, enjoy slices with sides of adult beverages during pizza and cocktails outings, or visit the kitchens of four different restaurants during the original tour. Each outing takes visitors to local favorites across a wide range of styles and cuisines, from the caramelized thick crusts of Pequod's, the stuffed pies of Bacino's, or the Neapolitan-style creations of Spacca Napoli.
Recently, Jonathan Porter has teamed up with local writer and tour guide Jonathan Knotek to launch Chicago Prohibition Tours, a romp through some of Chicago's most famous speakeasies still in existence. During the 3.5-hour bus trip through the roaring '20s and beyond, guests can visit the old one-time haunts of gangsters and crooked pols, such as the Green Door Tavern or the Exchequer Restaurant and Pub, all while sipping popular cocktails from almost 100 years ago and communicating only through silent-film title cards.
For the restauranteurs behind Rocco Ranalli's Cafe and Pizzeria, keeping Chicago well fed is a family affair. Run by the Ranalli clan since the 1970s, this neighborhood joint at the heart of Lincoln Park still serves the pizza, sandwiches, and brews that made it a Lincoln Avenue insitution to begin with. In the kitchen, chefs wrangle the ingredients necessary to master their own huge menu, which includes everything from barbecue pork sandwiches to chicken parmesan and beer-battered fish ?n? chips. Their pizzas pair standby flavors such as the Meat Lover's italian sausage, pepperoni, and bacon with unorthodox favorites such as the Mexicano's taco-style ground beef, salsa, and refried beans. A menu of eight Ranalli specialty sandwiches also honors the neighborhood itself, with names like The Redline, The Lincoln Park, and The Blue Demon working in conjunction with gourmet ingredients including fried eggs, sauteed mushrooms, smoked gouda, and balsamic glaze. At the bar, barkeeps serve brews from the restaurant's extensive craft beer list, which includes more than 50 labels. In the warmer months, mealtime revelries also unfold on Rocco Ranalli's gargantuan patio, where diners can soak up mid-meal sun amid Lincoln Park's bustling din and rustling leaves.