House-made cuisine isn't supposed to be flashy, and Mario's Mondo Cafe doesn't try to impress diners with anything beyond an unwavering dedication to Old World flavors. Inspired by generations of family recipes, Chef Mario cobbles together a menu of familiar Italian staples while incorporating local and sustainably sourced ingredients whenever possible. The Chicago Tribune praised the restaurant for its commitments to tradition and unpretentious comfort food, calling the eatery, "a casual, hidden treasure."
Even the decor aims to create a cozy ambiance. Butcher paper covers the tabletops and a single shelf lines the pale orange walls, displaying a variety of homestyle mementos, such as framed pictures and bronzed kickball trophies.
Even if Gulliver's ovens went cool and the warm-weather chatter on its back patio went silent, visitors would still be drawn through the unassuming fa?ade to witness the sights inside. Dozens of antique lamps from the 19th and early 20th centuries hang from the walls, casting a delicate light on the restaurant's cozy, wood-and-leather interior. Fortunately for hungry patrons, the kitchen continues to operate 47 years after its founding, quieting stomachs' growls with its take on Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.
After slapping a mound of their housemade dough into the pan, chefs carefully contour the crust to leave thick, chewy edges and a thin, golden bottom?a tasty compromise for lovers of thin and thick pies. Next, layers of cheese, fresh veggies, and meats such as ham and homemade sausage form a base, covered by a zesty garlic sauce that earned praise from the Chicago Reader. Thin- and stuffed-crust pizzas round out pie offerings, and a tasty cornucopia of Italian soups, sandwiches, and entrees sates pizza-averse diners.
For more than four decades, the Salerno family has been catering to peckish Chicagoans' cravings for fresh, homemade Italian cuisine. Michael Salerno's Pizzeria in Glenview continues the family tradition, specializing in Southern Italian comfort fare, as well as customizable thin- and thick-crust pizzas. The menu showcases a lip-smacking litany of authentic dishes and saucy specialties, including the seafaring linguine with mussels ($13.95) and the sautéed veal scallopini, replete with garlic, mushrooms, and onions ($16.95). Ricotta-and-mozzarella-stuffed shells with marinara or meat sauce ($10.95) provide a cheesy counterpoint to baccala, baked fillets of codfish with black olives, capers, onions, and sliced potatoes ($13.95). Meat-free diners can feast on vegetarian paninis ($7.50), and meat-loving diners can stuff maws with meatball sandwiches ($6.50). Salerno's offers dough-disk aficionados a completely personalized pizza experience, allowing diners to choose between thin and thick crust, as well as a hodgepodge of fresh toppings. Create an aromatic and amorous atmosphere with a large cheese pizza ($16.50) piled with fresh garlic, hot giardiniera, anchovies, and onions ($0.75 per topping), and conclude your meal with a sweet bite of a homemade cannoli ($2.50 each) or gelato ($3.95 for a small) before carving your initials into your significant other’s smartphone.
Since 1968, running D'Agostinos has been a family affair, like eating Thanksgiving dinner, or getting mad about Scrabble. First opened by Joe and Jan D'Agostino, the Wrigleyville corner pizzeria has grown to include three additional locations across Chicago, each of which is run by a member of the D'Agostino clan. Metromix sums up the appeal, comparing the restaurant to "an intimate Italian spot in a movie" complete with "snuggling couples, heaping servings of homemade pasta, [and] red-checked tablecloths." It’s in this setting that diners dig into specialty thin crust and deep dish pies scattered with fresh mushrooms, giardiniera, meatballs, eight types of cheese, and other toppings.