Celebrating its 25th birthday in 2013, Bella Luna Cafe continues to do what it does best: quench appetites with Italian favorites. The restaurant anchors its menu with three styles of pizza: deep dish, thin crust, and stuffed, which come packed with enough goodies to address different topping cravings. The cafe also offers a build-your-own-pizza option, enabling diners to customize their pies with varying sizes, crusts, saws—a rotary saw puts a pizza cutter to shame. Pizzas aside, Bella Luna specializes in pasta, too. In fact, the cafe has 10 different pasta options, including a home-style, eight-finger cavatelli creation served with a vodka sauce.
Skuddlebutts Pizza, which opened in 1939 as a small tavern specializing in baked ham sandwiches, outgrew two locations over the decades and vastly expanded its menu to include an array of comfort fare. Diners begin to slow clap when the cooking staff performs piping-hot pizza preparation, hearty sandwich layering, and crisp salad tosses with fresh, homemade dressing. Polite and timely waiters parade thin-crust and Chicago pan-style pies into the dining room two at a time, as each pizza is sold on a two-for-one basis, and juggle an assortment of sandwiches and half-pound burgers. Skuddlebutts' catering menu makes gatherings of 10–30 friends and family members simpler with a selection of salads, sides, and entrees.
Chicago Street Pizza's dough artists pile crusts with enormous helpings of fresh, tasty meats, melted cheeses, and a garden's worth of vegetables. Ten distinctive specialty pies, such as the Chicago Monster pizza, load up with canadian bacon, ground beef, fresh basil, and barbecue sauce, creating disks that work equally well as hearty meals or frisbees. As chefs prepare Italian eats, they ensure the juiciness of the beef sandwiches, the crispness of calzones, and the tang in the sauce-slathered pastas.
At Rosati's, specialty pizzas cavort with traditional pastas across a sprawling smorgasbords of Italian cuisine on the Northbrook menu, Carol Stream menu, and Gilberts menu. Equipped with a family recipe more than a century old, the pie personnel spin Chicago-style deep-dish disks ($13.20–$15.50 for 14", depending on location) with chunky tomato sauce and deliciously gooey cheese slathered upon a buttery, pan-cooked thick crust. Unlike horror films starring frozen vegetables, the Rosati's Monster pizza ($13.50–$14.75 for 10") terrifies hunger pangs thanks to its hearty ensemble cast of nine toppings. Engage grub receptacles with the baked mostaccioli ($5.50–$5.99), a mozzarella-infused Old World pasta dish, or feed 4–6 geologists with the complex layers of the family-style baked lasagna ($20.95–$24.99).
At RoccoVIno's, a dish can never be too Italian. That's why you can order a pizza—already an Italian staple—in Italiano style, crowned in spinach, tomato, and three types of cheese. Customers add their own personal touch to the pizzas, too, choosing from thin crust, classic pan, and stuffed-crust deep dish styles, or select a specialty pizza such as the Margherita, Veggie Delight, or il Paisano. The pasta dishes are similarly customizable, filled with noodles from farfalle to rigatoni and drizzled in a choice of 10 sauces. These include a spicy tomato sauce made from only tomatoes that look like winking faces. Other gourmet Italian dishes include seafood risotto mixed with scallops, calamari, and shrimp, filet mignon, topped with a chunk of gorgonzola cheese, chicken or eggplant parmigiana, lasagna, and baked mostaccioli.
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 jalape?os 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.