As reported by Chicago magazine, a major fire in 2009 left Caffé Italia’s owners, Giuseppe Lollino and his son Angelo, completely devastated. But the article was marked by optimism, as the 78-year-old Giuseppe wasn’t nearly ready to throw in the towel. He spent three years renovating the 62-seat Italian eatery, updating the space with an open kitchen, modern patio seating, and paper menus to replace the outdated stone ones. The 2011 reopening also revealed to guests a mammoth outdoor facility where the family now blends and roasts their signature arabica coffee beans––a Lollino tradition spanning more then 20 years.
Though Giuseppe has been in the biz for 45 years, it's clear that he's never lost touch with his Old-World aesthetics. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times subsidiary ElmLeaves, the Italian-born restaurateur confessed, “I was raised with my family on the farm and we made our own food." The team at Caffé Italia follows suit, cooking meals from scratch using authentic ingredients. Dough is made onsite with fresh imported flour, and then wood-fired to form the base for cheesy pizzas or prosciutto-laden paninis. The Italian menu is rounded out with garlic-infused pastas, housemade gnocchi, and steak and chicken dishes sautéed in wine.
Enormous postcards reading Verona, Mera, and Sorrento sprawl the length of Caffé Italia's walls, overlapping like colorful layers of lasagna. Across the dark hardwood floor, another wall displays enormous shelving units with the Caffé Italia's many offerings of wines and spirits. Patrons can complete meals with scoops of housemade gelato on the outdoor patio, where a line of bright red umbrellas provides shelter from the sun’s melt-inducing rays.
The cooks at Wingstop put the ubiquitous phrase, “It tastes like chicken,” to the test. This is because they serve bone-in or boneless chicken wings in 10 different flavors, based on recipes from around America. They slather hawaiian-style wings in a sweet, mild sauce, or bedeck louisiana-rub wings in a dry blend of spices. They also cater to extreme spice-cravers with an amped up buffalo sauce named atomic, for its ability to disintegrate taste buds and convert them into electricity to power a deep fryer. They pair their hearty servings of wings with tasty sides, most notably fresh-cut, seasoned fries made from Idaho potatoes.
The Lollino family has a long tradition of talented Italian coffee roasters and chefs, fortified by a passion that spans generations. It inspired them to open Massa Italian Cafe & Gelateria using the cooking methods and recipes that had been passed on in their family for years. Spanning the culinary history of Italy, the menu boasts grilled paninis, hearty pasta dishes, and 11" thin crust pizzas with a wide variety of toppings. The centerpiece of the eatery's menu is its espresso bar, with steaming cups of pure espresso or blends such as the caramelccino, cookies-n-cream, and a cup of coffee with a shot of espresso inside. Every morning, the staff makes more than 30 flavors of Gelato onsite, from vanilla and pistachio to spumoni and melon sorbet, and they've spent hours mixing and matching flavors to make specialty treats such as the domenica - two scoops of gelato topped with whipped cream, nuts, and an Italian wafer cookie.
Inari Sushi is the place to be. Japanese cuisine that is part of a healthy and light diet. Carefully prepared fresh fish and seafood are full of nutrients and the elegant way the food is served gives you a good reason to meet with a date, with friends, or for a business meeting.
Nottoli stocks pizza, sandwiches, sausages, and specialty groceries, filling stomachs and kitchens with Italian tradition. Pizza comes in three tantalizing varieties: cheese ($6.99/14"), pepperoni ($7.99/14"), and sausage ($7.99/14"), with frozen pies available for reheating and eating or permanently accenting a freezer. Nottoli's submarine sandwiches also come in a tasty trifecta of 6-inch, 9-inch, and 12-inch incarnations with savory selections such as the italian sub, crowned with volpi salami, prosciutto cotto, capicola, and cheese ($3.25/6"). From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., patrons can also fill up on hot, steaming sandwiches such as the acclaimed meatball sandwich ($3.25/6").
The culinary artisans at Le Poulet Bistro craft crepes le poulet, beef bourguignon, and traditional French dishes in an elegant, rural French setting. Behind a white-brick façade, waiters carry dishes over dark hardwood floors and past burnt-umber walls spotted with French-themed art. Le Poulet’s European style of cooking lets meat continually baste itself through the cooking process, a feat of automation bettered only by barrels of self-linking monkeys. Sweet treats such as the crepes Mon Ami—thin French pancakes filled with fruit and vanilla whipped cream—cap off evenings alongside authentic Italian Lavazza coffee.