Giacomo's Ristorante Italiano has been a family affair ever since Sicilian-born Chef Giacomo Zito, his wife Anna Maria, and daughter Amanda originally opened the eatery in 1998. Above all else, the Zitos sought to create a casually elegant setting where locals could find the familiar tastes of authentically grounded southern Italian cuisine. As Chef Giacomo told Check, Please!, "I want [diners] to say, 'this is the way restaurants used to be.'"
He embraces these time-honored roots by adhering closely to culinary tradition and making fresh pastas every day. This unwavering dedication to comforting flavors of Old World cuisine is readily apparent throughout the menu, which overflows with familiar classics, including braciole, eggplant parmigiana, and hearty lasagna with layer after layer of ground beef, ricotta and mozzarella, meat sauce, and polenta. Even the tiramisu goes one step beyond the traditional trattoria staple by using imported ladyfingers soaked in espresso and various Italian liqueurs.
The timeless quality of the cuisine is echoed by the cozy, homespun ambiance in the restaurant's dining area. Exposed brickwork lends a rustic vibe to the space, although there's a fine attention to detail, such as tables draped with crisp white linens and the black napkins folded into perfect dodecahedrons. During the snow-free months, the restaurant also features an outdoor seating area.
When asked to name a favorite sandwich, Cibo Racconto's managing partner, Mike Sheahan, immediately thinks of the porchetta—a ciabatta roll containing thin slices of pork tenderloin slow roasted in a garlic-white-wine sauce. Perhaps it’s the oven-roasted tomatoes or the provolone cheese, which are both imported from Naples, Italy, like most of the ingredients that make up Cibo Racconto’s menu. Pasta dishes teem with fresh noodles and san marzano tomatoes, including the lumache arrosto, in which a tomato cream sauce douses sliced sausage and roasted peppers.
Two of the restaurant’s partners crafted the panizza themselves while brainstorming new ways to use their existing ingredients. They hand-stretched pizza dough, lining it with imported ricotta before rolling the sides over and baking it to a crisp golden brown. Panizzas and pastas alike are served on granite-topped tables surrounded by sand-colored walls under a gilded tin ceiling, which often leans down to steal bites of unattended paninis.
Hand-carved tikis and 12-foot-tall stone Easter Island moai preside over Tiki Terrace. Seated under swaying palms at hard-carved booths and tables, dinner guests enjoy a regional menu that starts with traditional pupu appetizers, such as taro chips and housemade pineapple salsa, and proceeds to traditional seafood and pork specialties. In the party-friendly tiki tradition, groups of up to four can share the Hawaiian punch bowl, a powerful elixir that arrives in a volcano tiki bowl with a fiery surprise. On Friday and Saturday nights, the dining room's elevated center stage fills with the South Pacific’s dances, music, and ceremonial red-rover matches.
Crystal chandeliers glint over Caf? la Cave's main lobby, beckoning diners into opulent ballrooms, spacious banquet rooms, and the cavern room itself. Inside the restaurant?s rock-lined walls, rippling lighting, and singing stalagmites, chefs carve and cook many entrees tableside, including the tenderloin medallions of steak Diane saut?ed with garlic, shallots, and cognac. Cocktails from the full bar and a carefully selected wine list pair with entrees as smoothly as creamy sides of garlic mashed potatoes pair with wild-mushroom mac 'n' cheese.
Created in 1981 on the back of a few family recipes, Buona’s serves up appetite-satiating italian-beef-based sandwiches and comfort-fare classics. The menu is packed with palate-pleasing favorites such as hot dogs, sandwiches, grilled paninis, and thin-crust pizzas. Try an original Buona beef sandwich ($4.95 for a 7" size) made from a family recipe and served on freshly baked italian bread with natural gravy and beef that arrives tender, lean, and sheepish following an in-house roasting. Larger feasts such as the barbecue baby-back ribs ($9.95 for a half slab) or the grilled salmon cibatta ($7.25) quell the quagmires of even the most sovereign starvations. To keep meals as light as a globetrotting eccentric's hot-air balloon, try one of eight crisp, hand-tossed salads, such as the pesto balsamico, tossed with whole-wheat pasta, pesto, and toasted pine nuts, and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette ($7.25).
Giuseppe's La Cantina has been a staple of the Des Plaines dining scene for more than 50 years, humbly starting as a little family Italian joint and evolving with the times. The eatery's latest adaptation comes in the form of Giuseppe's Express, a quick-dining counterpart to the main restaurant's sit-down experience. At Express, the chefs churn out hot pizza and sandwiches, as well as take-and-bake entrees from the classic restaurant menu. The cooks' eats demonstrate their knack for creativity: One such dish combines the flavors of pan pizza with the fillings of an Italian beef sandwich, and their signature panini layers four Italian meats topped with a splash of Italian dressing. They keep plenty of refrigerated trays of lasagna handy, sending guests home with a dinner that just needs a quick stint in the oven before satisfying the entire family or one really demanding toddler.