Stuffed deer antlers, a large canoe suspended from the ceiling, and carvings of bears surround diners at Bill's Pizza & Pub. The northwoods seeps indoors at the venerable pizza place, which exhibits the idiosyncratic decor of a lodge. The wood-grained eatery first established its novel dining room more than 50 years ago, when its founder and namesake converted a garage into a roadside pizza joint. There, Bill and his wife, Pat, devised the double-decker pizza that still emerges piping hot from the kitchens at two locations. Both locales exhibit the same relaxed setting, in which families can scarf double-decker slices and freely toss peanut shells to the floor or out windows at mounted policemen.
Park Street's candlelit, brick-walled interior plays host to a menu of artfully presented, upscale pasta dishes, steaks, and daily fish specials, and an extensive wine list and specialty cocktail menu. A half-dozen charbroiled oysters can be dipped in parmesan garlic butter ($12.95), and juicy tomatoes and cool cucumbers complement crunchy bruschetta ($8.95) for pre-meal noshes. Signature dishes, such as the 8oz. cracked black pepper crusted filet, basking comfortably in a portabella veal sauce ($29.95), and pretzel crusted chicken in a dijon butter sauce ($18.95), occupy the majority of stomach city. Complete a meal with a lavish, homemade dessert, such as death by chocolate, a rich fudge-cake dingy perched atop a lake of raspberry sauce.
In the mind's eye, pizza is always round, but Eugene and John Jetts imagined a different kind of pie. Thinking outside the box led them to square pans, which could be easily lined with dough to create crispy, deep-dish pizzas. They started churning out their hearty creations under the moniker Jett's Pizza, and while they have lost a 't' throughout the years, they haven't sacrificed their original passion for great pie. According to Eugene, “"There are a lot of ways out there to make cheaper pizza. Jet's is about better pizza. That's why we have never skimped on the product or the ingredients, and never will." They also still use their now codified original crust recipe in more than 200 different kitchens across the United States, a feat rivaled by only a handful of other pizza companies and the Earth, whose crust recipe is displayed in every kitchen on the planet.
Checkered tablecloths and vintage black-and-white photos from the 1940s evoke small-town Tuscany at Lauretta's Italian Bake Shop & Cafe, whose chefs have assembled authentic Sicilian-style cuisine for more than 30 years. Homemade pomodoro sauce mingles with the porcini mushrooms and caramelized onions that fleck risotto, and fresh baby clams or mussels frolic through linguine entrees. To create paninis, chefs crown toasted ciabatta bread with such accoutrement as jarlsberg swiss cheese, yellowfin tuna imported from Italy, and childhood memories of revered measuring cups. Diners complement bites with Italian beers and wines, including a crisp, fruity prosecco and a medium-bodied chianti, whose tart red-fruit and chocolate flavors pair well with spinach ravioli and still-life paintings of Hershey's bars.A family-owned Chicago bakery furnishes the eatery's fleet of traditional italian pastries, such as cannoli and more than 30 kinds of italian cookies. Lauretta's Italian Bake Shop & Cafe also proffers comprehensive catering spreads, dishing up pans of lasagna, ravioli, and chicken marsala that can feed 15 partygoers or more, or custom orders that can sate finicky flatware.
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 jalapeños 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.
Carmen's Pizza first began kneading its dough in 1979, establishing itself as a destination for authentic, Chicago-style pizza. Although the chefs still bake deep-dish pies with thick, golden crusts, they also hand-toss thinner pizzas and layer ingredients between the twin crusts of their stuffed pies. The 16-topping-strong selection includes perennial pizzeria favorites, including sausage and mushrooms, along with slightly more eclectic options such as giardiniera and pine nuts. Hearty pizzas dominate the menu, but the chefs also blanket orders of pasta with housemade tomato or cream sauces and smuggle sweetened ricotta into cannoli shells.