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62-seat Italian eatery, updating the space with an open kitchen, modern patio seating, and paper menus to replace the outdated stone ones.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.
Named one of the area's top Italian markets by the Chicago Sun-Times, Nottoli & Son evokes decades-old Italian family recipes with take-away meals and fresh, homemade sausage. A quartet of prepared meals satisfies a family of diners with items such as baked mostaccioli, cheese ravioli, and succulent chunks of beef pot roast backed by a chorus of chopped carrots, celery, onions, and a Simon & Garfunkel mixtape. Nottoli's party pans slake 8–10 people with signature sausage, pot roast, roast beef, or meatballs in easily transportable, reheatable aluminum trays ($21.99–$35.99/entree). Ten to 30 sandwich connoisseurs dote on 20- to 60-piece mini-sub trays with meat and vegetarian fillings, and a three-foot party sandwich feeds several simultaneously or marks the yardage during backyard football tryouts.
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.
At this one-of-a-kind hybrid of fine dining and fast food, chefs are just as adept slinging hot dogs as they are crafting king-crab fondue. The dichotomy plays out down to the last detail at Cassianas: white tablecloths dotted with flickering tea lights cloak the tables, though heaps of giardiniera top its sandwiches. After showing off their miniature-yachting skills in a bowl of acorn-squash bisque, guests can opt for a cocktail, or take the alternative route and down a beer along with golden onion rings fresh out of the fryer.