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 jalape?os 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.
Since serving its first slice in Chicago in 1970, Nancy's has been winning over pizza enthusiasts with an expansive menu of thick- and thin-crusted dough disks along with hearty sandwiches. Slip into Italian elation with an appetizer-piquing Garbage salad, whose crusty bread-bowl confines contain fresh greens, pepperoni, canadian bacon, and mozzarella ($8.70). Nancy's dough, which is made from scratch each day, serves as an immaculate foundation for redolent herb-laden sauce prepared with sweet sun-soaked plum tomatoes. The sausage thin-crust pizza nurtures the hunger pains of cartoon steamroller victims ($16.85 for large) and inspired culinary alchemists can construct a pie from 27 available toppings, which include feta, bacon, shrimp, and roast beef. The herculean selection of sandwiches includes The Godfather, a mozzarella-bedecked mountain of italian beef as surprisingly tender as Mr. T's poetry ($6.30).
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.
The slice-savvy staff at Wa-Pa-Ghetti’s Pizza slather sauce made with vine ripened tomatoes atop the handcrafted crusts of thin, thick, and stuffed pies. More than 20 toppings mingle on pizzas, which are always made to order and emerge from ovens about half an hour after diners send orders via carrier kites into the kitchen. Chefs also assemble 15 kinds of sandwiches and a host of American fare to round out the menu. Barbecued ribs and chicken are slathered with the house sauce, and baked potatoes come adorned with edible topping toupees in combinations inspired by Italian and Mexican cuisines or loaded with a custom combination.
Jimano's Pizzeria's deft dough-tossers craft homemade crusts, succulent sauces, and pies layered with fresh ingredients for an oven-fresh menu of Chicago-style pizzas. Top a thin-crust cheese pizza ($15.80 for a 16") or piñata-pack a pan-baked deep-dish cheese pizza ($17.95 for a 16") with a panoply of ingredients, such as pepperoni, mushrooms, bacon, or pineapple ($2.10 per ingredient for a 16" pizza), ensuring that modest pizzas don't have to arrive at the table undressed. Cooks also create stacked delights such as the italian beef ($5.85) or the crispy buffalo chicken sandwich ($5.99); baby back ribs ($16.99 for a full slab, $14.99 for a half slab) offer carnivorous sustenance coated in a homemade St. Louis–style barbecue sauce. The pizzeria's famed bread sticks ($3.99) satisfy carb cravings alongside a slew of pasta dishes, which arrive with sides of saucy banter and cheesy dialogue.