Fontana Grill & Wine Bar's modern dining room reverberates with the clink of glasses of fragrant wines and pleasant chatter as diners dig into a menu of all-natural pastas and Italian fare. As chef Nino transmutes premium meats and organic ingredients into solid fare, the skilled bartender chooses the finest whites and reds, much like an artist painting a sunburned snowman. The shimmering black surfaces of the bar and tables reflect stone-fired pizzas laden with gourmet morsels, such as truffle oil and prosciutto di Parma. Guests lounge upon wrought-iron furniture on the spacious brick patio surrounded by neatly trimmed shrubs and low-hanging trees.
It's been almost 50 years since the first wheel of dough spun in the air at The Godfather's Famous Pizza, but customers are just as hungry as ever. Whether ordering delivery or dining in, you'll likely struggle to decide which pizza toppings?pepperonis, mushrooms, onions, another pizza?sound the most enticing. And that's to say nothing of the sandwich choices, which include hearty Italian favorites along with juicy burgers. Like any time-tested Chicago eatery worth its weight in celery salt, The Godfather's also specializes in hot dogs, italian beefs, and polish sausages.
Chef Giuseppe Scutaro was born on the island of Sicily: a biographical detail he shares with the Roman goddess of the harvest, Ceres. Scutaro has a few other traits in common with Ceres, such as an affinity for local produce and a mastery of simple Italian cuisine. Chicago's Uptown neighborhood is a long way from Sicily, but Ceres' Table almost feels like a reclusive island amid the city's bustling streets and concrete buildings. At the quiet restaurant he co-owns with his wife Carolyn, Scutaro creates Sicilian cuisine using sustainable ingredients and a bit of the flair he honed during his previous stints at BOKA and Topaz Café. His unpretentious flat-iron steaks and pillow-soft gnocchi have earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand award as well as the attention of publications such as Time Out Chicago, whose David Tamarkin praised as "uncomplicated, but highly flavorful." Tamarkin also noted the familial sense that pervades the restaurant: Carolyn handles the coat check and the chef has been known to serve plates to tables himself.
If Green Mill’s walls could talk, they’d probably run out of breath before they could divulge all the stories they’ve witnessed over the years. The jazz spot’s history, which teeters on the edge of believability and local lore, began when the bar originally opened as Pop Morse’s Roadhouse in 1907. After undergoing a transformation in 1910, the newly renamed Green Mill Gardens began attracting visitors from nearby Essanay Studios, including Charlie Chaplin. Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is serving as a hangout for the infamous Al Capone, who frequented the club while his right-hand man, Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn, ran the show. While some of Capone’s favorite performers took the stage, Green Mill’s network of hidden underground tunnels were used by mobsters to transport illegal booze, facilitate law-evasion, and play cruel games of Marco Polo with new recruits. Eventually Prohibition ended and propositioning gangsters gave way to upscale crowds, a badda bing vibe, and Frank Sinatra visits. During this time, the surrounding Uptown neighborhood deteriorated, but somehow the club survived and eventually underwent a restoration in the mid-‘80s. Over the years it has appeared in films such as Thief and High Fidelity, but patrons today aren’t as concerned with keeping track of all the history as they are with kicking back and soaking in the music or slam poetry. During a typical visit, Jazz musicians tickle their instruments late into the night as well-dressed guests stop in, sidle up to the bar, and converse in respectfully hushed voices while downing stiff drinks.
In order to make authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, Jon Goldsmith went to the source: Naples. The bustling city is said to be the savory pie's birthplace, and it’s where Goldsmith studied and became a certified pizza maker. He brings this expertise to Spacca Napoli, a charming pizzeria that churns out 14 styles of pizza inside a custom-built oven. The pizzas come smothered in traditional red sauce or lightly drizzled with olive oil, and boast flavorful toppings such as porcini mushrooms, prosciutto, and spicy salami. The menu also includes appetizers made with Italian extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, as well as rich desserts best enjoyed with an espresso or glass of wine. In addition to earning accolades from multiple press outlets, Spacca Napoli has won over the heart of Kelsey Grammar, who frequents the restaurant when he’s in town.
At Ranalli’s of Andersonville, a story populated by five styles of pizza and a range of gluten-free options continues to unfold on a menu created more than 70 years ago. The restaurant’s chefs lovingly dote on tasty morsels, hand-battering calamari appetizers and carrying scents from thin-crust, double-decker, and chicago stuffed pizzas directly to noses.
In the dining room, toppings such as imported genoa salami, mortadella, and pine nuts tumble from slices onto eager tabletops, and fresh herbs and vegetables crunch cheerily from slices cloaked in goat cheese and gorgonzola. Clinking glasses reverberate off chartreuse walls freckled with exposed-brick accents, the work of local artists, and a plasma television for watching athletic competitions. Laptops on gleaming hardwood tables chatter with free WiFi to maintain contact with offices and investors in transatlantic marinara pipelines.