In 1974, Everetta Lou and Tony Frasca served their very first Panino—a rolled flatbread sandwich baked to a golden-brown color and stuffed with fresh veggies, meats, and cheese. Once word of their crunchy creation got out, diners began visiting their restaurant in droves, eager to sample the imaginative sandwich and suggest toppings of their own. Today, there are more than 30 varieties of the famous Panino, which was described as "rich and delicious" by the Coloradoan.
Behind the popularity of its signature sandwich, Paninos has expanded to locations across the country, and each restaurant is manned by a member of the Frasca family. Aside from layering housemade flatbreads with gourmet toppings such as pesto chicken and green-chile pork, Paninos' chefs also capture the essence of Italy in classics such as specialty pizzas, pasta dishes, and calzones shaped like an Armani boot. As diners wait for their meals in sunlit dining rooms furnished with cushy booths, they can sip on pints of craft beer and split orders of garlicky breadsticks.
Roll like a cheese-covered circle to Billy's for pizza, pasta, and sandwiches. Billy's pizza comes cut thin and crispy ($7.75–$20.50, depending on size and toppings) or served deep dish ($14.75–$26.50) like they do in Chicago. This stuffed delicacy brings meaning to "pizza pie": it's full to bursting with traditional or creative toppings that aren't on top, making each forkful and knifeful a delectable surprise. Slurpable spaghetti comes with marinara ($7.25–$8.50) or meat sauce ($8.25–$9.50). No breaded bundle of meat from Billy's selection of sandwiches earns the adjective "finger"—sandwiches are mostly Chicago-style delights; try an Italian beef ($6–$6.60) and be sure to make it authentically Chicago-style by asking for plenty of dipping juice.
Bambino's Italian Eatery and Sports Bar boasts an extensive menu of freshly made pizzas, pastas, salads, and more. Handmade pizzas are its specialty, hatched from sauces and dough made in-house every day and pounded, poured, and flourished with an array of decorative delectables. Appreciators of classic Italia and can revel in the Mama Mia Special, a doughy disk topped with pepperoni, mushroom, green pepper, onion, Italian sausage, ham, ground beef, and black olives ($12.95–$19.95). Pie prohibitionists can opt for one of pasta dishes with a combination of Bambino's noodle shapes and sauces, including the primavera ($7.75), the clam alfredo ($8.95), and the bolognese ($7.25), or sink chompers into a hot pastrami sandwich, filled with green peppers, onions, and mozzarella cheese ($5.95). Ward off post-meal boredom or sugar-afeared demons with a full-size peach dessert stromboli (9.95). Libation-seekers can find shelter at Bambino's sports bar, which is fully stocked with beer, wine, spirits, and liquefied sports broadcasts.
CiCi’s Pizza combines the variety of a family-friendly buffet with the thrill of bottomless pizza. Each pie is crafted with dough made from scratch daily and then slathered with homemade marinara and showered with toppings ranging from traditional pepperoni and Italian-style sausage to creative combinations including buffalo chicken and mac 'n' cheese, resulting in more than 28 signature pizzas. The buffet is stocked with a plethora of fresh pastas, such as cavatappi noodles with classic marinara or Alfredo sauce, as well as fully customizable signature salads. After they've feasted on savory options, diners can revisit the buffet for dessert including freshly baked brownies, slices of apple pizza, and cinnamon rolls drizzled with icing—or they can eat dessert first, thereby tearing an irreparable hole in the space-time continuum.
Though they established Mollica's Italian Market & Deli in 1987, Dom, Toni, and Jerry Mollica rely on recipes that date back much further, to a time before Julia Child invented cooking. After emigrating from the Italian city of Pescara in the 1800s, Tony DeAngelis—the father of Toni and grandfather of Jerry—devised his own recipe for sausage, which he later passed down to Toni and Jerry.
Each day at Mollica's, this same sausage still finds its way, unadulterated, onto the buns of sandwiches and doughy bases of thin-crust pizzas. Mollica's kitchen staff also stacks Italian rolls with cured meats and cheeses, crafts rustic lasagna and manicotti, and builds pizzas and calzones with ingredients such as artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto.