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.
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.
Apart Pizza Company approaches pizza making with artistic care and diligence, training all their chefs for up to six months on techniques for hand rolling the housemade dough into ultrathin crusts and balancing optimal blends of sauce, cheese, and toppings. Each chef's personal style and unique skills shine through in the resulting pizzas—specialty pies with inspired combinations of tangy-produce, savory-meat, and gourmet-cheese toppings that have been described by the Chicago Tribune as "perhaps the best in the city."
The staff is as dedicated to their pizza as they are to their community, supporting local artists, theaters, and cultural groups through creative efforts, mentoring, and promotional partnerships. The pizza makers have their own plot in the local Montrose Green community garden, where they hope to grow their own organic produce. They also strive to create a communal atmosphere within the pizzeria itself, encouraging guests to stay and chat in the cozy seating area rather than taking pizzas to go and eating in the privacy of the Soviet-history section of the nearest library.
College roommates James Kinnaird and Jeffrey Zucker dreamed up Pizza Persona in order to furnish diners with a customizable menu full of affordable, fresh fare cooked up in a scant four minutes; Metromix and Chicagoist have already heralded the eatery for its innovation. Guests can create their own pies or calzones, choosing from a selection of three doughs, seven sauces, six cheeses, and more than 25 never-frozen toppings, including unlimited non-premium ingredients. The pizzeria's dough artisans also forge eight pre-conceived specialty pies such as the pesto-laden Hipster, as well as the Cowboy, dotted with grilled chicken and barbecue sauce and complete with its own theme song. Goose Island brews, pint-sized bottles of Woodbridge wine, and sodas slosh in glasses and cool throats parched from gaping at the eatery's gas-fired oven.
Papa John's may be a nationally recognized name in the pizza-making world, but at these Chicago-area franchises, local is the name of the game. Owned and operated by Chicago residents since 2010, these seven shops share more than just a city. 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 working with Chicago-area chapters of the Salvation Army and 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.
Pizza D.O.C.'s chefs knead balls of fresh dough from scratch daily, and toss them into a 700-degree oak-burning brick oven to produce a menu of Roman-inspired creations. Hand-crafted Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas such as the Pizza Silvio & Gabriele piece together a savory puzzle of tomato sauce, mozzarella, arugula, prosciutto, and parmigiano ($16.95). To placate territorial mother pizzas, the restaurant allots a full second kitchen to fresh specialty pastas, salads, and entrees such as the spaghetti alla carbonara with smoked italian bacon, egg, and white wine ($14.25).