It might be obvious, but basil is a signature ingredient at Basil Doc’s Pizzeria. The restaurant’s staff members use the green leaf for just about everything, whether its blended into their sauce, scattered atop their pies, and thrown at weddings if they run out of rice. Basil Doc makes their pizzas, calzones, and panino the same as they have since 1996, when the original location opened in the Washington Park neighborhood. The operation has expanded to include three additional spots, all of which exemplify Basil Doc’s philosophy of serving the freshest ingredients and minimizing their environmental impact. At each location, vegetables are sliced fresh daily, and sauces and dough get crafted from scratch to create specialty pies ranging from the Florentine, a combination of eggplant and spinach, to the Fargo, a white pie topped with grilled chicken, pine nuts, and green chiles.
Starting at 5 p.m. each day, members of the Gilhooly family begin twirling doughy disks high in the air. These stewards of Oblio's Pizzeria then flick their creations into the oven and watch as the almost-tangible heat forms a 3-D platter complete with cheese, tomato sauce, and a bounty of toppings. Customizable pizzas come with one of three types of sauce—tomato, seasoned olive oil, or barbecue—and any of 23 available toppings, including canadian bacon, banana peppers, and salami. Specialty pies combine these treats into themed meals; the Giovanni features five meats, the Berkeley Blues has bountiful veggies, and the Santa Cruizin’ boasts Cali-inspired artichoke hearts and minced garlic. Patrons can watch all the action unfold, ogling their pies, lasagna, or meatball sandwiches as they take shape within the open kitchen. Those content with a little surprise can leave the cooking to the Gilhoolys and decamp to the sunny patio or sip luscious nectars from the vino bar as they wait.
To say The Cork House Broker Restaurant is a wine restaurant that just happens to serve food wouldn't be totally inaccurate. The extensive wine list encompasses a wide range, welcoming bottles of sparkling and still, red and white, inexpensive and indulgent. Those who join the restaurant's wine club receive exclusive invitations to events such as wine dinners, tastings, cooking classes, and meet-and-greets with winemakers.
With that said, the restaurant’s chefs certainly know their way around the kitchen. Guests can pair their wines with a flight of carefully curated cheeses, made from goat's and cow's milks, or consult a dinner menu filled with timeless entrees including steak diane, french onion soup, and fabulous mussels. Meals unfold in the restaurant’s intimate dining room or under the patio’s generously shady cover of trees.
To see all of the patrons at Watering Bowl, you can't just look around the bar. You also have to peek under the tables, where dogs of all sizes hang out next to their owners. But Watering Bowl isn't just a dog-friendly bar. It's also a dog playground, with a full fenced in, 7,000-square-foot dog park attached to the building. Of course, the bar has amenities for its human guests as well. They can sit at the bar and socialize over one of 12 available craft beers or grab a table inside to eat pulled pork sandwiches and artisan pizzas. The bar also hosts many events, whether supporting local dog rescues or celebrating milestones in a dog's life, such as his birthday or the day he finally rescues the treat from that kong.
The Cherry Tomato leads taste tours of Italy via a menu of fine wines, hearty meat dishes, and customizable pasta platters. Guests can honor an Italian cultural heavyweight with the caper-filled beef carpaccio, named for Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio ($8.95), and then celebrate Winston Churchill’s fashion flair with bow-tie pasta. Meat lasagna bakes beef into a hearty pasta bundle filled with homemade marinara ($10.95). Heat-seeking taste buds backstroke through linguine waves in fiery arrabiata moats ($10.95). Order the pasta puttanesca alla famiglia to share communal tureens of garlic-kissed tomatoes and pesto-pawed kalamata olives ($11.95). Naked potato gnocchi get gussied up with meaty bolognese boas, creamy alfredo gowns, or savory butter-and-herb onesies. The color scheme of the pasta felese evokes patriotism, its white chicken melding with green peas and red tomatoes to create an edible Italian flag on an uncharted plate island ($11.95).
Nonna's Chicago Bistro, named Best Italian in 2011 on Denver's 7 A-List, lures hungry passersby with a menu of Windy City–style Italian fare, more than 20 wines by the glass, and complimentary ciabatta bread with saucy marinara. The owners, a family of Chicago natives, dedicated Nonna's to their grandmother, whose passion for hearty, homestyle fare inspired their chefs to perfect such classics as chicken parmigiana, lasagna, and slow-cooked, Chicago-style ribs. Dinners pair with a glass of Italian Da Vinci chianti or a Californian 181 merlot, or assorted well drinks and domestic brews from the exposed-brick bar.
Nonna's Chicago Bistro's dining room provides guests with an elegant eating coliseum, boasting walls painted with grapevine designs and windows that welcome a breathtaking view of the Leaning Tower of Willis. The quaint eatery also fills ear canals with live music performed by jazz trios, classical guitarists, and country crooners on weekend evenings.