Artists don’t just gather at this café and gallery; they furnish it. Everything from the rotating artwork to the mural-like, hand-painted tables has been created by local artists. Coffee drinks and Mexican hot chocolate dazzle taste buds as eyes ogle the ever-changing wall candy.
At Chimichurri, chefs marinate succulent cuts of steak and chicken and grill them in the traditional Argentinian churrasco style. Diners can get their steak topped with green and red peppers or a pair of eggs, sunnyside up. The restaurant also serves up pizzas, fresh salads, and entrees made with homemade flat noodle pasta and flavored with pancetta, bacon, and red peppers. Handheld snacks include the milanesa sandwich, which is stuffed with breaded steak and onions, or the choripon––Argentinian sausage seasoned with chimichurri sauce and served on a warm roll. After a spicy meal, you can cool your tastebuds with a scoop of the eatery's housemade gelato.
Giovanni Liuzzo, Nacho Bautista, and Victor Quezada have been working in restaurants together since 1992. But it wasn’t until 2001 that their dream to own one together came to fruition on a humble street in Bridgeport. Enter Gio’s Café and Deli: a one-stop shop for homemade dishes and Italian groceries. Their plates includes decadent raviolis with cheese and meat, chicken parmigiana, or roasted pork chops. But they also specialize in class Italian sandwiches, which they stuff with housemade meatballs, san daniele prosciutto, genoa salami, and fontinella cheese. Such hearty and homestyle meals have earned acclaim from several media outlets including Check, Please! and ABC Chicago.
The petite eatery hosts a small squad of tables topped in red-and-white checkered cloths, arranged so that conversations are intimate yet chatter fills the space. Along one wall, shelves flaunt Italian imports such as homemade giardinera, olive oil, chocolates, and pasta ready for at-home cooking.
There's one glaring difference between a traditional panzarotti—an Italian dish similar to a miniature calzone—and the version that the Scarlata family serves at Punky's Pizza and Pasta in Bridgeport. The panzarotti at Punky's are positively colossal, winning an appearance on Outrageous Food by virtue of that trait alone. The cheesy crescents have a lot more to them than size, however. Cooks stuff them with fresh mozzarella and irresistible, house-made sopressata before sending them into the oven or deep fryer. If you have room left over after conquering the panzarotti (not a likely scenario), try the stuffed gnocchi or a pizza slathered with vodka sauce.
Jim Stolfe faced a difficult choice. In order to open a family-style pizzeria on Chicago's South Side, he would have to trade his 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire. But the opportunity was too tempting to pass up, and so the Stolfe family, minus one car, started Connie's Pizza on 26th Street in 1963. It proved to be more than a fair swap—since opening that original location, the family has grown the business from a neighborhood pizzeria to a Chicago culinary icon. Connie's Pizza now features six locations throughout the Chicagoland area, and its frozen pies are sold in grocery stores in eight states, much to the envy of the other sixty-two.
Connie's might have expanded, but its focus on homestyle Italian cuisine remains unchanged. The Stolfe family's signature pizzas are still crafted from freshly made dough, which is then rolled out into crispy thin crusts or belayed into deep-dish pans. The savory foundation arrives from the oven topped with classic ingredients such as sausage and pepperoni, or sandwich emulating combinations of italian beef and giardiniera. Besides pizza, the chefs also prepare a number of pasta dishes and classic Italian entrees, including eggplant parmesan and hearty lasagna.