Rosati?s Pizza's history dates back to the early 1900s, when a recent Italian immigrant named Ferdinand Rosati moved from New York to Chicago with the dream of opening a restaurant. His first attempt was modest?with Ferdinand simultaneously fulfilling the duties of chef, server, dishwasher, and host?but quickly gained popularity for its crispy-thin-crust pizzas, originally served as complimentary appetizers. Encouraged by the public's response to the pies, Ferdinand and his son, Sam, decided to focus their efforts on opening a true pizzeria.
Today, at Rosati's Pizza locations across the country, plumes of heat swirl above piping-hot pies concocted from handmade sauce and dough. A smattering of toppings cling to five crust options?crispy thin, double dough, Chicago-style, pan, and superstuffed?as well as hide from their hungry predators inside hand-rolled calzones. Homemade lasagna and fettuccine alfredo battle for the top pasta spot, and fried chicken, baby back ribs, and fried-shrimp dinners work together to distract diners from hard-to-resist buffalo wings.
An Italian native, Tonino's owner has shown the casual eatery’s chefs the ins and outs of Italian cuisine for more than 30 years. Panzerotto—the house specialty—is a baked or deep-fried pizza turnover headlining the menu, which also includes thin- and thick-crust pizzas that cradle sauce forged from fresh garlic, olive oil, and basil. Noodles such as orecchiette and ravioli anchor pasta dinners, and fillings such as Italian sausage and chicken parmigiana nestle inside sandwiches. A flurry of seasonings crash-land onto grilled calamari, which diners can wash down with beer and cocktails from the full bar.
Luigi Davino founded the original Pompei bakery more than a century ago, and its reins have passed down through successive generations ever since. Today, Pompei’s Orland Park incarnation still draws upon age-old family recipes to transform fresh ingredients into hearty pastas, Napolian-style square pizzas, and hot subs. Beneath the restaurant's signature striped awnings and yellow walls lies a dining room filled with wood-paneled walls and black-and-white family photos and a kitchen filled with daily-made sauces and the chefs who conjure them from hand-pressed olive oil and space dust.
Since its first pizza went into the oven in 1961, Palermo's has been crafting Italian favorites from scratch with recipes passed down through the generations. The restaurant's pizza makers blanket pies in the classic flavors of homemade italian sausage and pepperoni, or glean inspiration from other dishes in Chicago-style beef or barbecue-chicken pizzas. Meanwhile, other Italian staples—all of which are also available for takeout and catering—fill out the menu with such classics as chicken parmesan and penne primavera.
Extreme Pita's efficient sandwich technicians furnish globally inspired pocket meals focused on healthy, made-to-order fare and fresh produce. A hearty menu greets customers with a selection of custom pita sandwiches ($5.99 small; $6.89 large) that boast bases of falafel, vegetables, beef and lamb gyro, and philly cheesesteak with fresh vegetables and sauces. The chef-inspired menu section includes dressed-up selections such as the bourbon chipotle pita that graces tongues with delicious curtsies from grilled chicken, bacon, and cheddar, and the chicken shawarma, whose pita blanket arrives padded with seasoned chicken, tabouleh, and lemon garlic sauce. Diners may also chomp flat-baked creations deserving of a spot in the open-faced sandwich history books, such as the Hawaiian Luau, which supports a nest of ham, bacon, pineapple, and mozzarella ($6.29).
Tossing pizzas and slinging Italian fare in Evergreen Park since 1980, the Barraco family has since extended its cheese-drenched reach across south and west Chicagoland with the help of a winsome menu. Deep-dish pizza ($12.30–$18.55) floods a dough basin with Olympic size pools of cheese and other mix-'em-ins. Diners embark on transatlantic journeys with each bite of the Around the World pizza ($10.95–$22.30), with a gustatory Baedeker of sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. Because it takes 25–30 minutes for pizzas to bake and compose adequate love sonnets to ovens, parties can quell impatient bellies with a roster of appetizers, such as fried and stuffed artichoke hearts ($8) or breaded mushrooms ($7.25). Alternatively, diners can dip into noncylindrical fare, such as the chicken linguine pesto ($18.50) on the pasta menu, the grilled tilapia dinner ($16.75) on the specialties menu, or a savory selection of rhombuses on the complimentary geometry tests.