Originally located in a converted house that could only seat 20 people, Sanfratello's Pizza has grown over the years to four locations in Illinois and Indiana. At each of these, family recipes for authentic Italian cuisine yield classic creations such as shrimp alfredo and meatball sandwiches. Petite pan pizzas host deep layers of sauce and cheese, and thin crusts, like the mouths of most competitive shouting champions, can stretch up to 17 inches wide.
Al Ferreri, his sister Frances, and his brother-in-law Chris Pacelli Sr., developed their signature italian-beef sandwich out of necessity in 1938. The economic depression made meat harder to come by, so the trio of sandwich makers made their supplies last by cutting thinner slices of roast beef.
Their business started with them feeding guests at family weddings, delivering meals to local hospitals, and catering the country's first food fight, but they soon founded a more permanent curbside food stand in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood. Despite their relatively humble beginnings, Al's Beef & Nancy's Pizzeria rapidly expanded and now boasts franchises throughout the Chicago area and across the country. The family business has garnered plentiful acclaim throughout the years, having been named Adam Richman's best sandwich in the Midwest on the Travel Channel show Best Sandwich in America in June 2012, appearing on Richman's Man v. Food and earning a place on Esquire's list of The Best Sandwiches in America in 2008.
The cooks begin every morning by roasting cuts of beef for the day, kneading fresh pizza dough, and cutting french fries with an industrial-strength laser pointer. The hearty italian-beef sandwiches can emerge from the kitchen with simple, unadorned meat or with blankets of melted cheese and spicy housemade giardiniera. The pizzas range from crispy thin-crust disks to deep-dish pies with 2.5-inch-thick crusts, supporting any combination of the 24 available toppings, which include oven-roasted garlic, baby spinach, and bacon.
Every Monday night, The Blarney Stone opens its doors to a very special group of people—the geeks. Their weekly hosted trivia night, lovingly called "Geeks Who Drink," allows eggheads and trivia buffs of all walks of life to come together and test their wits as they feast on Irish classics such as the shepherd’s pie and halibut and chips. Meanwhile, cozied up to the bar or tucked behind a table, those who hide their geekiness under a bushel basket can mutter the answers under their breath while nursing an expertly poured pint of Guinness or tearing into one of the pub’s many flavorful burgers. In addition to the trivia night, patrons can satisfy their need for competition with NFL broadcasts and an accompanying football breakfast, a big-screen hookup to a Nintendo Wii, and paired pool tables and dart boards.
As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments. In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
Bartolini's chefs keep bellies brimming with a menu of hearty, family-friendly Italian fare. Thin-crust ($10.95+), deep-dish ($11.99+), and sicilian pan ($13.99+) pizzas bear arrays of meaty toppings, and specialty disks provide pre-arranged arrays like the alfredo-bedecked white pizza ($14.95+) and the tangy barbecue-chicken pizza ($14.94+). Chicken tetrazzini ($9.95) with white-wine cream sauce and mama's lasagna ($8.49–$9.49) wrap digestive systems in a nostalgic hug, and a fleet of sandwiches ($3.49+) provide a portable, bread-based meal for on-the-lam bank robbers.