In Jimmy's Place's kitchen, chefs cook chicken vesuvio in a finely-tuned blend of olive oil, garlic, and Italian seasonings. According to a December 2011 article in the Forest Park Review, this signature dish is a favorite of Food Network star Jeff Mauro, who featured it on his show Sandwich King. The crispy Italian-American meal uses a recipe passed down through owner Jim Jodoin's family?as does the rest of the menu. Years of culinary tradition are written into the homemade marinara sauce that blankets the restaurant's chicken parmesan, the meat that stuffs its homemade ravioli, and the weighty toppings that keep its pizzas from floating up to the ceiling.
Out in the dining room, these meals pair with a distinctly local atmosphere?newspaper clippings and photos of customers line the walls, and bartenders pour drinks at a full bar as flat screen TVs beam in sports.
At Francesca’s Fiore, the 10th in the group of Francesca’s restaurants sprawled across Illinois's Chicagoland—as well as four other states—tongues embark on a culinary journey, sampling the cuisines of Rome, Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio. Executive chef and owner Scott Harris opened his first Francesca’s eatery—Mia Francesca—on Clark Street in 1992, to the rave reviews of both critics and patrons praising it for its simple, rustic cooking, unpretentious elegance, and lack of black holes. He later hired award-winning chefs Kevin Ives and Massimo Salatino to help oversee his other restaurants and create the weekly changing menus that are often handwritten. The chefs and their teams may craft starters such as tricolor bruschetta and risotto, or heartier fare such as pizza, rigatoni primavera, sautéed chicken, and roasted salmon.
Inside Briolette Beads & More, hardwood floors and walls lined with multicolored glass beads and beading supplies envelop customers perusing DIY materials or embarking on jewelry-making classes. Under the tutelage of experienced teachers, hands-on sessions abound, from metal smithing to stringing to wire working—in which students twist government surveillance materials into rings and pendants. The brightly hued party room's](http://gr.pn/w7ZafC) neon-green walls are decked in a vibrantly painted peacock and flowers, inspiring revelers as they fashion myriad beaded items, and Thursday evenings boast crafty diva night, during which participants can finish new or existing projects in the company of other crafters.
Understanding that each child learns differently, the staff members of Sylvan Learning?s numerous study centers design custom lesson programs. Based on the results of standardized testing, diagnostic tools, and one-on-one interviews, the staff works with students to help them firmly grasp basic skills such as reading, writing, math, and how to remember facts without tattooing them to their chests. Programs target students in kindergarten through grade 12 and mold to various learning styles, helping kids feel more comfortable in the classroom. Afterschool or summer classes can ready high-school students for the rigors of the ACT or the SAT, or they can help students wow college-admissions officers with their superior writing skills, exemplary test scores, and willingness to arm-wrestle the school mascot.
The experts at Wine Discount Center taste wine like it’s their job—because it is, actually. Every month, they taste hundreds of wines, assessing each one’s color, aroma, flavor, body, knowledge of American history, and finish in the same manner that the critics of Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate use to grade wines on their 100-point scales. This never-ending sampling and scoring lets Wine Discount Center’s team continually update and hone the selection at each location, regularly announcing new finds on the company's website and ensuring each bottle it stocks is worthy of 85 points or more. The oenophiles further enhance guests’ enjoyment of their wines by leading in-store tastings every Saturday at noon.
Athena Uslander used to be a structural engineer, but today she's a baker. If you asked Athena what the two professions have in common, she'd likely say attention to detail. If you asked her customers at Athena’s Silverland Desserts, however, they'd be too busy chewing a mouthful of cookie, rice treat, or brownie to answer. Since 1983, Athena has helmed the ovens at her bakery in Elmwood Park. Her signature brownie recipe has garnered her some national attention, including an appearance on Oprah and The Today Show. Now, customers nationwide call in or hire a banner plane to put in their orders for the confections that Athena and her staff make from all-natural ingredients—free of trans fats, additives, and preservatives.