When he lived on the South Side of Chicago, James “Jimbo” Mandra had his pick of pizza joints––until tragedy struck. His family relocated to the burbs, suddenly leaving James deprived of the quality thin-crust slices he’d enjoyed all his life. Never one to turn down a challenge, he rolled up his sleeves and began baking his own pies. From that endeavor came a line of pizzas that fit his passionate standards as well as his original creation, the Lemontster: a 19-inch pizza that claims to be the biggest available in Lemont. Today, Jimbo’s cartoon likeness stands as a proud emblem on the tomato-hued walls of his own pizzeria, which recently added a full dining room. Natural light pours through large front windows as thin- and thick-crust pizzas arrive laden with pepperoni, spinach, and spicy hot giardiniera. After finishing off one of Jimbo’s beef pockets, diners may also surprise a date with a Chicago-style hot dog or impress the kitchen staff by getting the pizza oven to play fetch.
Alliteration isn’t all that Papa’s Pizza Place does well. The pizzeria’s chefs also have a penchant for sprinkling just the right amount of cheese, sausage, bacon, and green peppers on pies before popping them into the oven to bake to a golden crisp. If their ratios seem absurdly perfect, consider that they have had more than 35 years to get them right. When they aren’t making pizzas, they pile meatballs onto sandwich rolls and dress Vienna beef hot dogs with chili, cheese, and miniature turtleneck sweaters.
As they struggled to make ends meet by peddling fruits and vegetables from a truck, Mr. and Mrs. Ricobene never dreamed that their family’s name would one day be renowned throughout the South Side of Chicago. The couple first opened their own food stand in 1946, where they doled out sandwiches, pizzas, and pastas inspired by their Italian homeland. With the aid of their sons, they soon perfected their signature dish—the breaded steak sandwich, a meal that would one day be lauded by reporters from Chicago magazine as one of the best in the city. Today, Ricobene’s has expanded to multiple restaurant locations across Chicagoland, and chefs continue to whip up steak sandwiches in accordance with the original Ricobene family recipe. They fold ultrathin steaks into crusty Italian rolls before showering sandwiches in peppers, cheese, and meaty marinara sauce. The chefs draw culinary inspiration from both Italy and Chicago, seasoning wieners in celery salt and topping deep-dish pizzas with mozzarella. Meanwhile, out in the casual dining rooms, guests perch at wooden tables and admire the photographs of old Chicago that speckle the walls.
Mrs. T's Pizza has been family owned and operated for 30 years. Cooks slide thin, pan, and stuffed pizza crusts into ovens, each crowned with a custom-built combination of toppings ranging from green peppers to fresh garlic and bacon. Along with the pies, cooks also load italian beef on crusty rolls and bake pans of mostaccioli under a bubbling layer of cheese. The freshly homemade dishes cover high-top tables filled with diners watching sports on flat-screen televisions and sipping draft beer. Customers may place carryout or delivery orders to enjoy their meal at home or in a neighbor’s mansion. There is no additonal fee for delivery.