Head chef and Chicagoland native Jason Korinek dedicates his kitchen to crafting contemporary versions of familiar Italian dishes with seasonal ingredients. A wood-fired oven bakes sandwiches and Neapolitan pizzas to a golden crisp, and the chefs add homestyle flavors to the menu by making italian sausage, pesto, and ricotta gnocchi in-house. Aside from these traditional approaches to Italian cuisine, the chefs also adopt a more modern stance by grilling salmon on cedar planks and creating fiber-optic strands of linguini.
The rustic and contemporary influences extend to the bold decor, which echoes the ambience of a faux cottage. A wrought-iron chandelier dangles from the vaulted ceiling and eclectic patches of exposed brickwork poke through the walls.
Chef Faustino Giron, a longtime Brookfield resident and owner of eight restaurants in the Chicagoland area, decided to open Giron's to supply his hometown with signature stuffed-crust pizzas and crispy thin-crust pies. Specialty toppings such as italian beef and hot giardiniera can ornament pizzas split between families of diners or families of accountants. The kitchen also creates towers of house-made lasagna and full slabs of ribs brushed with thick barbecue sauce. Inside the dining area, yellow walls display paintings of bustling chefs and red accent walls offset the full bar.
The golden-yellow walls of Ravioli Oli display sepia-tone photographs of the owners' grandmother, Mary, who brought her recipes for homemade ravioli and sauces to the U.S. from Italy. Following Mary's instructions to roll out dough till it's paper-thin, the kitchen crew crafts ravioli fresh every day by hand, rather than knitting them from spaghetti, like most restaurants. Six different fillings, from plain cheese to ground beef to veggies, puff up each piece of pasta before it's smothered in one of six fresh-made sauces. Side dishes such as grilled asparagus, sausage, or hearty meatballs support ravioli plates.
Pappanino's 50-year legacy spans the globe. The first Pappanino baked his first pizza in Sicily, but he always nurtured a desire to bring his fresh pizzas to America, so he and his family relocated to Chicago. Decades later, the same love of pizza still fuels the family business, but their menu has expanded to sandwiches, appetizers, and hearty Italian-style dishes and entrees. However, pizza is still the hallmark of the eatery, with varieties ranging from thin to stuffed crust, and more than 27 toppings—from artichoke and giardiniera to barbecue chicken—provide hundreds of combinations to make each pizza unique. The chefs and staff also go on location with a catering menu of their favorite dishes.
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.
Hungry Chicagoans have long been forced to pain a painful choice at dinner time: pizza or Italian beef? But once they visit Paul’s Pizza, they can finally put those terrible days of indecision behind them. Along with the thin crust and pan pizzas that the business has been serving for more than 20 years, the ovens are now churning out Italian beef pizzas, piled high with spicy giardinera and the same savory slices of roast beef that chefs stuff into generous portions of French bread. But the pizzas aren’t the only culinary hybrid sating diners’ dual cravings: Vienna beef hot dogs taste twice or thrice as nice when laddled with chili or chili and cheese, while Italian sausage and Italian beef can be served solo or packed side-by-side into the same bun. Of course, there are also handmade pastas for those with more traditional tastes, which Paul’s Pizza’s chefs happily top with sides of meatballs or Italian sausage and a choice of homemade sauce or hot fudge.