When most people think of Chicago-style pizza, they probably imagine a dense, deep-dish pie weighed down by an inches-thick layer of cheese. But the chefs at Nicolo's Pizza point to a different definition offered up by famed Chicago film critic Roger Ebert. In an interview with Vanity Fair , Ebert estimated that as much as 85 percent of Chicago's pizza is built upon a thin crust, and that what really sets the city's pies apart is the homemade sauces and crusts cooked up by Chicago's abundant Italian population.
That's exactly the type of Chicago-style pizza that Nicolo's has been dishing up for more than 30 years, using recipes born generations ago in Italy. Each thin or hand-rolled crust is made fresh every day, topped with a choice of sauce such as traditional red, alfredo, or garlicky extra virgin olive oil, then baked in an authentic stone-bottom oven. Patrons can choose their own ingredients––which range from artichoke hearts to green chilies––or choose one of the shop's specialties such as Buffalo Pie, a ranch-based pizza topped with chicken, celery, carrots, and mozzarella, or the Besto Pesto with Chicken, featuring chicken, black olives, artichoke hearts, and provolone cheese with a pesto sauce. Beyond the pizza pan, chefs painstakingly assemble layers of fresh noodles, ricotta, and sauce into classic meaty or vegetarian lasagna and slather chicken wings in a variety of sauces, including pomegranate chipotle and thai peanut.
After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
The ovens at Joyce's Famous Pizza fire up seven days a week to bake fresh dough for the eatery’s sub sandwiches, filled calzones, and seven varieties of pizza. Elsewhere in the kitchen, chefs toss crisp chef's salads with mushrooms, black olives, ham, and pepperoni and coat chicken wings with hot or mild barbecue sauce. Pasta specialties such as eggplant parmesan and lasagna help make the menu as well-rounded as a python after swallowing a beach ball.
Under the supervision of an experienced chef at Woody’s Tavern, crackling logs not only give pizza dough a crispy crunch, but also create complex, smoky flavors. Chefs top pizzas with specialty combinations, such as the California Dream's basil pesto and artichoke hearts or the Pep Pep Pepperoni's roasted poblanos and jalapeños, and use gluten-free crusts and big, round carrots for those with dietary restrictions. Customers can enjoy the slices by the pie or sample a variety at the shop’s featured all-you-can-eat salad, soup, and pizza bar. These dishes and their hearty half-pound burgers pair well with the 16 drafts on tap, award-winning wine, margaritas, and other cocktails from the bar.
Modmarket's chic interior serves as an ideal stage for the mouthwatering performances of the restaurant's wholesome, seasonal culinary stars. The menu—which contains nutritional information for each dish—eases diners into their restorative repast with an array of salads, available in such verdant configurations as thai coconut, whose bed of greens teems with sweet potatoes, chicken, and peanut-mango dressing ($8.75). Many of the eatery's salad dressings contain no gluten, animal byproducts, or narwhal tears, and the from-scratch soup selection always includes at least one vegan option. The restaurant's pizzasmiths forge exotic, innovative creations, such as the pizza sporting fig, goat cheese, gorgonzola, arugula, and pepper ($8.50), and all pizzas are available with soy cheese and whole-grain or gluten-free crusts. Sandwiches, such as the chipotle steak ($8.50), come with a choice of vegan bread or gluten-free wrap and toast to toothsome crispness in a 600-degree brick oven.
A step up from collegiate-era O-bombs, Rack & Rye's cleverly crafted tongue wetters are not to be missed. From the champagne-splashed lime-and-lychee-flavored Gilded Lily ($8) to the Wild Willy (with Jack Daniel's, ginger syrup and ale, fresh Fuji apple, and a spritz of lemon juice, $7.50), the drink menu is full of inventive options, as well as a well-edited selection of draft and bottled beers. Counter potency with finger-beckoning small plates like the spam fries with chili-oil aioli ($5) or grapefruit-glazed baby-back ribs ($6). To temper more-sizable stomach rumblings, Rack & Rye also serves up large platters of upscale comfort food. Fork oozy helpings of bacon-and-mushroom-studded mac & cheese ($7 for lunch, $9 for dinner) or the fried chicken bedded atop maple-drizzled cornbread waffles ($10 for lunch, $12 for dinner). The dessert menu, boasting doughnuts with mascarpone dipping sauces ($5), bread pudding with bacon brittle ($5), and peanut-butter-and-jelly wontons ($4), continues with the fancy yet classic theme.