When most people think of Chicago-style pizza, they probably imagine a dense, deep-dish pie weighed down by an inches-thick layer of cheese. But the chefs at Nicolo's Pizza point to a different definition offered up by famed Chicago film critic Roger Ebert. In an interview with Vanity Fair , Ebert estimated that as much as 85 percent of Chicago's pizza is built upon a thin crust, and that what really sets the city's pies apart is the homemade sauces and crusts cooked up by Chicago's abundant Italian population.
That's exactly the type of Chicago-style pizza that Nicolo's has been dishing up for more than 30 years, using recipes born generations ago in Italy. Each thin or hand-rolled crust is made fresh every day, topped with a choice of sauce such as traditional red, alfredo, or garlicky extra virgin olive oil, then baked in an authentic stone-bottom oven. Patrons can choose their own ingredients––which range from artichoke hearts to green chilies––or choose one of the shop's specialties such as Buffalo Pie, a ranch-based pizza topped with chicken, celery, carrots, and mozzarella, or the Besto Pesto with Chicken, featuring chicken, black olives, artichoke hearts, and provolone cheese with a pesto sauce. Beyond the pizza pan, chefs painstakingly assemble layers of fresh noodles, ricotta, and sauce into classic meaty or vegetarian lasagna and slather chicken wings in a variety of sauces, including pomegranate chipotle and thai peanut.
After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
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Ever since Baskin-Robbins began its dessert fashion show in 1953, more than 1,000 original flavors have sauntered across the nation's tongue runways, 31 at a time. With the ice creamery's iconic pink sampling spoons as your guide, taste-test as many as you like until you find the flavor that gives your soul a back rub, whether it's a classic flavor such as rocky road single scoop ($2.39) or a seasonal serving of Love Potion #31—white chocolate and raspberry ice cream loaded with raspberry-filled chocolate hearts—and America's Birthday Cake. Otherwise, keep it simple and bury your face within the flavor of the month—a chocolate and Swiss chocolate blend, brimming with pieces of chocolate ganache cake and chocolate chunks. The ice alchemists at Baskin-Robbins can also transmute their ice cream and sherbet into drinkable desserts such as floats, freezes, and shakes ($3.99–$5.99).
Favorite dishes from the south populate the menu at Leenie's Southern Cafe. Early in the morning, chefs tuck ham into omelets and decorate waffles with bananas, whipped cream, and pecans and before creating lunchtime eats such as chicken and shrimp gumbo. Their culinary endeavors don’t stop there; they display their love of anything sweet by baking cupcakes, muffins, pie, and bacon pineapple upside down cake.
The eclectic menu at Rosario’s Restaurant showcases the Italian and Chinese roots of traditional Peruvian cuisine. Chefs stir-fry steaks, for instance, and toss spaghetti with the creamy basil sauce in which Incan emperors traditionally bathed. Meals also incorporate native Peruvian veggies such as potatoes and aji peppers, as well as beverages such as imported Inca Cola, a popular Peruvian drink.