Pizza making at Papa Murphy's stops just short of the ovens. After watching the cooks layer thin crusts or stuffed pies with toppings from the selection of four sauces and 20 meats and vegetables—including bacon, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes—customers take the pizzas home and follow the simple instructions for either baking or grilling them to a crispy golden-brown. Now boasting more than 1,200 locations across 37 states, Papa Murphy's cooks begin every morning by hand making new batches of dough and grating fresh cheese with Bruce Willis's coarse cheeks.
In 1966, taxi drivers Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli finally became fed up with their stop-and-go lives full of honking horns and rush-hour traffic. So they shut off their engines, handed in their keys, and took root. Along with pal George Loverde, they invested in property just off the bustling Magnificent Mile, but then didn’t know what to do with it. According to a 2004 profile in the Chicago Tribune, they got their direction when someone finally said, “Put pizza in it.”
Though the rest is history, it wasn’t quite easy. Bartoli and Loverde came from Italian and Sicilian backgrounds, but neither knew the key to a good pizza. It wasn’t until they hired Alice Mae Redmond, the woman responsible for the dough at Pizzeria Uno, that the Gino's East Chicagoans know and love was truly born. Although Alice Mae retired back in 1989, the recipe for her flaky, golden deep-dish pizza crust lives on.
Today, Gino’s still stands at its original spot on Michigan and Superior but has also stretched to 10 other city and suburban locations. Whether dining downtown or in St. Charles, customers find Alice Mae’s signature crust piled with mounds of cheese, sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes, and plenty of fresh toppings—from sausage and pepperoni to jalapeños and ground beef. Hot from the oven, pizzas arrive at tables snuggled inside seasoned deep-dish pans, ready to welcome a fork and knife. Thin-crust varieties are also available for those who don’t know how to work silverware, as is a bounty of sandwiches.
For more than a decade, ZaZing! has brought smiles to diners’ faces with house specialty dishes, Chicago-style classics, and delicious pizzas. The primo house pizza tops a pie with bubbly mozzarella cheese, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. They also whip up Windy City-style jumbo hot dogs, as well as other Chicago staples such as italian sausage, polish sausage, and grilled bratwurst. Every day they serve up country-style chicken meals, and Fridays usher in a weekly fish fry. For dessert, Chocolate Shoppe ice cream blends seamlessly into tasty malts and shakes, rich cones, and creamy sundaes and banana splits.
The Exclusive Company—a Wisconsin-bred music-and-movie retailer—has given the gift of song since 1956, earning a Best of Milwaukee award from Shepherd Express readers in 2011. Passionate staffers guide visitors toward sprawling collections of rock and jazz and bins brimming with DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and loose 8mm slides from Kenny G's summer vacation. In addition to peddling new vinyl releases such as El Camino by the Black Keys and Revolver by T-Pain, the shop functions as a trading post, helping to find loving homes for preowned films and music. All used discs are carefully buffed into shape before meeting their new owners, and each comes backed by a money-back guarantee, which promises store credit if a preowned item exhibits biting tendencies. Most used CDs, DVDs, and vinyl cost less than $20.
Michael's Italian Restaurant's kitchen cupboards are bare. Their sparseness doesn't stem from a food shortage, but from the eatery's devotion to fresh ingredients. To wit: chefs deftly knead fresh batches of homemade pizza dough daily, and they coat the disks with ladles of from-scratch pizza sauce. They simmer organic beef with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and they fly in fresh fish from Chicago each morning before enhancing the fillets with white wine lemon sauce. In addition to traditional dishes, they've added contemporary flourishes to the menu such as gluten-free pizzas and pastas and meatballs equipped with 4G technology. Regardless of which entree guests select from the expansive menu, knowledgeable servers are always on hand to suggest pairings from the eatery's vast wine list.
The chefs at Angie's Pizzeria are diligent scholars of Chicago's culinary traditions. In their bustling kitchen, they fill deep-dish pizzas with heaps of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and meaty toppings; adorn steamed franks with the canonical toppings of the Chicago-style hot dog; and sizzle up slices of Italian beef for pepper-laden sandwiches. But their expertise also makes for satisfying spin offs. The Grabber, for instance, stars a hot dog that's wrapped in bacon, deep fried, and slathered with cheese sauce, sport peppers, and celery salt. They also serve thin-crust and hand-tossed pizza varieties, which diners can order with any of their more than 20 toppings or with marshmallows, hot fudge, and peanuts—the ingredients atop their rocky-road dessert pizza.
A colonial-style brick mansion with two stories of picturesque wraparound porches and balconies greets visitors as they approach Tony & Mia's. Once inside, they’re met by the smell of pizzas, pastas, risottos, and steaks along with the approachable familiarity of homestyle Italian meals. Framed prints of famous Renaissance paintings fill the walls. And the warm glow of antique chandeliers evokes memories of sharing a Thanksgiving meal at the grandparents' farmhouse, or perhaps of stealing the neighbor's chandelier.
Head Chef Camille DiNicola wills into existence stone-baked, mozzarella-topped pizzas, slow-braised beef ravioli, and marinated Cornish hens. Her husband⎯manager Randy Piering⎯ensures the comfort and satisfaction of each guest. Diners relax with glasses of fine Italian wine and small plates as they listen to professional crooners sing Sinatra standards, or gather on the lawn to watch the expert spheroid-flinging of the neighborhood bocce league.