Checkered tablecloths and vintage black-and-white photos from the 1940s evoke small-town Tuscany at Lauretta's Italian Bake Shop & Cafe, whose chefs have assembled authentic Sicilian-style cuisine for more than 30 years. Homemade pomodoro sauce mingles with the porcini mushrooms and caramelized onions that fleck risotto, and fresh baby clams or mussels frolic through linguine entrees. To create paninis, chefs crown toasted ciabatta bread with such accoutrement as jarlsberg swiss cheese, yellowfin tuna imported from Italy, and childhood memories of revered measuring cups. Diners complement bites with Italian beers and wines, including a crisp, fruity prosecco and a medium-bodied chianti, whose tart red-fruit and chocolate flavors pair well with spinach ravioli and still-life paintings of Hershey's bars. A family-owned Chicago bakery furnishes the eatery's fleet of traditional italian pastries, such as cannoli and more than 30 kinds of italian cookies. Lauretta's Italian Bake Shop & Cafe also proffers comprehensive catering spreads, dishing up pans of lasagna, ravioli, and chicken marsala that can feed up to 15 partygoers, or custom orders that can sate finicky flatware.
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.
In 1961, Bob Terese and Corinne Owen opened a small pet shop in downtown Chicago. Part of their mission: to employ workers with developmental disabilities so they can lead productive and fulfilling lives. That little pet shop has since relocated and expanded into a 70-acre campus called Lambs Farm, which has a variety of residential and vocational programs that continue to help those in need. Nearly 250 individuals live here today in group homes and individual apartments; they have access to employment opportunities and a number of recreational services, such as camping and hobby clubs. In addition to the expansive pet shop, the campus also has a farmyard, a bakery, and assorted shops that sell goods handcrafted by Lambs Farm residents.
Gwen Willhite founded Cookies by Design in 1983, when an unsatisfying brainstorming session about gift ideas led her to ponder one question: why should flowers and sweets remain separate? Her solution was to design the cookie bouquet, where custom, hand-decorated cookies are displayed on sticks and arranged like flowers in gift baskets. Her invention quickly became a popular gift among locals, particularly those allergic to real blooms or too bashful to look at naked cookies.
Twenty-five years later, there are more than 200 Cookies by Design locations across the country. Each shop's team of bakers creates cookie baskets with a degree of care that matches Willhite's original vision, decorating and arranging sweet shapes for birthdays, holidays, and any other special occasion.
Sixty years has seen Tastee Freez transform from a cozy two-man operation to a gargantuan national franchise, with more than 100 locations decorating the United States like sprinkles. The menu is casual but diverse, ranging from cheeseburgers and corn dogs to frothy shakes and 97% fat-free ice cream, which can be customized with candies and fresh fruit. Patrons may also request one of Tastee's signature Freezees, available in flavors such as Oreo, Butterfinger, and Reese's Pieces.
The ice-cream engineers at Cold Stone Creamery spread frosty concoctions over cold marble slabs and fold in candies, brownies, and fruit to form deftly blended ice-cream treats. Signature creations, such as the Birthday Cake Remix—cake-batter ice cream mixed with chewy brownie bits—and the Oreo Overload, which is packed with chocolate cookie crumbles, make excellent piñata filling. Custom creations allow patrons to build towers of sprinkles, pecans, and cake bits atop mounds of frozen cream in flavors including chocolate, french vanilla, and mint. Shakes slowly surge through straws carrying fudge, caramel-latte, and cherry-cheesecake flavors, and smoothies dole out healthy sips of real fruit and vitamin boosts. Ice-cream cakes packed with candy and favorite mix-ins adorn the tables of birthday parties, anniversary bashes, and 10-year preschool-class reunions.