Carried out by pie fans or delivered to their doors, fresh toppings and sauces parade out of Donati's Pizza on discs of the kitchen's signature dough, alongside a menu's worth of casual Italian fare. Spinach-cheese bread primes palates as a melty, crusty starter ($4.99), and the artichoke salad's hearts recite sonnets to the cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers from their romaine-lettuce nest ($6.99). Diners may blueprint their own pizzas, choosing from six sizes and more than 20 toppings to fashion a bespoke feast. Scatter canadian bacon and hot giardiniera across a large pizza ($15.50) or personalize a pie by inviting italian beef, enviously green olives, and mushrooms home for dinner ($7.99). Specialty pizzas leave the design to the professionals, such as the Southside ($14+), whose bacon slices splay across a grid of sausage and onion. A choice of italian, farm-fresh ranch, or metaphysical dressing paints sandwiches ($5.99), such as the provolone-graced barbecue chicken, which arrives hot or cold on focaccia or french bread.
Family owned since 1932, Alex's Washington Gardens serves a varied menu of sophisticated cuisine, starring fresh seafood and Italian specialties. Amphibious feasters can start with an appetizer of frog legs ($11) before diving into deep-sea delicacies such as salmon stimpinada, which is bathed in citrus, white wine, and red-wine vinegar and sautéed with celery and onion ($25). Hop aboard the from-scratch gravy train with saucy specialties such as pasta primavera, which tempts veggie lovers with a seasonal spread tossed in alfredo or marinara ($18.50), and ravioli al forno, which dresses spinach- and cheese-filled pasta in a demurely delicious ensemble of butter, garlic, and parmesan ($15.50/$10.25). Other offerings include pork chops served Sicilian style with a family of sweet peppers, garlic, and roasted potatoes ($23) and a variety of popular pizzas ($15+).
For Mark Greenbaum and his father, Lewis, sharing a pizza meant spending quality time as a family. When his father passed away, Mark decided that the best way to honor his memory was to give Chicagoans a taste of the New York–style pie he had loved so much.
Mark’s venture proved wildly successful—Time Out Chicago columnist and Brooklyn transplant Judy Sutton Taylor swears the eatery “could hold its own alongside any Brooklyn pizzeria.” Aside from the traditional thin-crust pies, the menu at New York Slices also features a specialty Grandma’s pizza with a thicker crust and hand-embroidered pepperonis.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
At Moccio's Pizzeria, chefs tuck toppings into the tall, chewy ring of a Chicago-style deep-dish crust. The names of house specialties honor local streets and neighborhoods, such as the Northside pizza and the Taylor Street pie, topped with italian beef and giardiniera, a relish of pickled vegetables. Dough whisperers in the kitchen toss pies to a thin, crispy crunch or stuff a layer of molten mozzarella into the crust. Delivery drivers ferry pies to doorsteps faster than a clown car spinning off a banana peel, and chefs also satiate group pizza cravings with catering services.
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.
Phil Gilardi, Jr. carries on his family’s legacy as the fourth generation to embrace the classic flavors and culinary techniques of the Old World. Joined by his uncle, Dan Sullivan, Phil packs his menu with the timeless recipes honed by his great-grandmother, Sophie, and his grandmother, Angie, as well as a few ideas of his own. Executive Chef Fabrizio Patano balances this blend of traditional and contemporary influences, crafting a lineup of Italian comfort foods with elevated touches.
Chef Patano and his team demonstrate their commitment to the menu’s Old World roots by importing prosciutto and parmigiano cheese for their entrees. At the same time, they highlight the inherent simplicity of Italian home cooking by hand-rolling their pastas and making fresh sauces in-house. This fusion of imported ingredients and homespun touches is readily apparent throughout the kitchen’s refined dishes, such as breaded veal cutlets with asparagus, lobster, and rich hollandaise sauce.
The casually elevated charm of the menu also influences the décor of Philly G’s, which sprawls across the floor plan and covered porch of a stately home. Textured walls lit by glowing sconces surround the tables draped with seafoam-green and white linens and flanked by high-backed chairs. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, the lounge area hosts live entertainment for diners, regaling them with musical performances as opposed to staged readings of last week’s winning lottery numbers.