Behind a red-brick storefront and striped awning, Viva Le Vine's vintners curate a collection of vintages both affordable and high end, pairing them with cheeses and other finger foods. Wooden racks hoist obsidian bottles of reds and whites, and the wine bar dispenses pours and sampling flights alongside microbrews, seasonal cocktails, and martinis. Cushy, black leather furniture and high-top tables dot the brightly lit interior and an upright piano stands against the wall for impromptu instrumental renditions of Gangsta's Paradise. A painting of colorful donkeys stares down enviously from rich burgundy walls at rich plates of succulent chocolates and naan covered in hearty toppings. The shop hosts live entertainment, numerous tastings, and trivia events throughout the year.
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.
At The Original K-9 Cafe, chefs mold fresh, natural ingredients into dishes fit for humans, but specifically crafted for their canine friends. With an eye on nutrition, they whip up tasty Muttloaf, stuffed manicotti, and even “Yappy Hour” drinks such as the Muttini, which boosts digestive health. The menu also includes fresh marrow bones and other deli eats, desserts such as mini peanut-butter bars, and Bowser Beer, a brew concocted from beef broth. Pups can chow down on healthful meals every day thanks to weekly meal plans, or unwind after frustrating weeks of building oubliettes for mailmen with brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
At the spa, relaxation comes in the form of paw massages, nail clipping, and conditioning fur butter treatments that undo damage done to pooches’ coats. The boutique also helps owners dote on doggies with gifts including college jerseys, toys, and treats.
Chef John des Rosiers wants visitors to his restaurant-shop Wisma—which means home in Indonesian—to enjoy eating meals in their own homes as much as they do in a restaurant. Using organic and sustainable ingredients, many sourced from local producers such as Q7 Ranch and Anson Mills, he and his staff assemble and cook each dish before sealing it in a recyclable container for customers. They draw inspiration from the culinary styles of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and craft every dish from scratch. On a normal day in their kitchen, the chefs may top handmade pizzas with housemade sausage and pesto, cook vegetarian incan quinoa and madras curry, and sear beef barbacoa for fajitas.
Desserts at Wisma are also a focal point, not an afterthought. Tres leches and double-chocolate cakes cleanse the palate after main dishes, as do six sorbet and ice-cream flavors such as lemon-basil sorbet and mint-strawberry ice cream. The staff also stocks small-batch wines and seasonally changing craft beers by the bottle, which customers can taste before they take home to plant and grow more bottles of wine or beer. Though many see it only briefly, the shop is filled with eclectic decor such as exposed brick offset by a yellow bike hung on one wall, cow-print and plaid chairs, and floral lampshades.
Every neighborhood needs a good hot dog spot, and in this neck of the woods, Slott's Hots is a classic. Since 1980, they have quelled cravings for hot dogs, polishes, italian beef sandwiches, gyros, and burgers trimmed with tomatoes, onions, and relish. To speed up the process, the staff takes phone or sky-writing orders and promises food will be ready by the time customers pull into the drive-thru.
La Rosa Pizzeria & Restaurant first opened in Skokie in 1958, and more than 55 years later, they're still loyal to timeless dishes such as hand-cut fries and italian beef sandwiches. Other sandwiches include their eponymous signature creation, which is a meaty layering of capicola and mortadella topped with provolone and veggies. Of course, pizza is a large part of the menu, with specialty pies such as chicken alfredo and margherita. Equal weight is given to homestyle Italian entrees, including asiago-stuffed gnocchi and homemade lasagna.