Every Monday night, The Blarney Stone opens its doors to a very special group of people—the geeks. Their weekly hosted trivia night, lovingly called "Geeks Who Drink," allows eggheads and trivia buffs of all walks of life to come together and test their wits as they feast on Irish classics such as the shepherd’s pie and halibut and chips. Meanwhile, cozied up to the bar or tucked behind a table, those who hide their geekiness under a bushel basket can mutter the answers under their breath while nursing an expertly poured pint of Guinness or tearing into one of the pub’s many flavorful burgers. In addition to the trivia night, patrons can satisfy their need for competition with NFL broadcasts and an accompanying football breakfast, a big-screen hookup to a Nintendo Wii, and paired pool tables and dart boards.
For more than 22 years, the scent of freshly baking pizza has drifted out the door of Kenootz Pizza. Chefs fill their ovens with both thin-crust and deep-dish pies, sprinkling in more than a dozen toppings such as bacon, all-beef pepperoni, and spinach. To complement the flavors of their pizzas, chefs cook up classic Italian sides such as cheese-laden garlic bread, zucchini sticks, and fried mushrooms, as well as more substantial platters of meat ravioli and spaghetti. With a delivery area that covers most of the surrounding neighborhoods, the restaurant can stock groups with a tasty, sharable meal without them having to leave the house or cut a cheeseburger into eight equal parts.
Despite the name, Simply Slices parcels out pizza in nearly any form desirable—by the slice or by the pie, and for dining in, picking up inside, or driving through. Pie twirlers heap a selection of 13 ingredients on crust spread thin, fluffed to form a deep basin, or stuffed with toppings. Meanwhile, sister store Sno Biz pipes in sweet shaved ice to accompany special combos that get customers more food for their dollar or doubloon.
Since its first pizza went into the oven in 1961, Palermo's has been crafting Italian favorites from scratch with recipes passed down through the generations. The restaurant's pizza makers blanket pies in the classic flavors of homemade italian sausage and pepperoni, or glean inspiration from other dishes in Chicago-style beef or barbecue-chicken pizzas. Meanwhile, other Italian staples—all of which are also available for takeout and catering—fill out the menu with such classics as chicken parmesan and penne primavera.
Bartolini's chefs keep bellies brimming with a menu of hearty, family-friendly Italian fare. Thin-crust ($10.95+), deep-dish ($11.99+), and sicilian pan ($13.99+) pizzas bear arrays of meaty toppings, and specialty disks provide pre-arranged arrays like the alfredo-bedecked white pizza ($14.95+) and the tangy barbecue-chicken pizza ($14.94+). Chicken tetrazzini ($9.95) with white-wine cream sauce and mama's lasagna ($8.49–$9.49) wrap digestive systems in a nostalgic hug, and a fleet of sandwiches ($3.49+) provide a portable, bread-based meal for on-the-lam bank robbers.
Voted Chicagoland's best pizza by 670 The Score and awarded as the 2011 winner for best beer garden by the Southland Star, Durbin’s rewards watering mouths with a roster of gratifying pub fare, a full bar, and an idyllic outdoor beer garden at every location. Durbin's menus vary slightly between locations, united by an emphasis on meaty sandwiches, comforting fried nosh, pizza, and trademarked ribs. Prime appetites with a Durbin’s Combo—mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, potato skins, and onion rings ($8.50)—or the Kelly Special's mozzarella-topped butterflied filet mignon on toasted garlic bread ($10.95). Durbin's slow-smokes its signature Branding Iron ribs over an open pit of smoldering hickory wood, basting them with secret-recipe barbecue sauce and whispering sweet, flaming nothings to them to tenderize the meat ($11.95 for a half slab, $18.95 for a full slab). The 14-inch stuffed sausage pizza’s layers of meat and cheese are trapped between its saucy crust, forming a delicate closed ecosystem of Italian flavor ($17.95).
Isabella Café’s passionate chef crafts a menu of meatballs, pastas, and other classic Italian fare as well as culinary curveballs of his own creation. Forks can follow a trail of angel hair pasta ($13.95) past veal-meatball boulders and lakes of marinara to reach a secret stash of creamy goat cheese or unearth savory duck and cream cheese buried in stuffed portobello mushrooms ($6.25) by pirates short of suitable treasure chests. Law-abiding molars can also pat down a stuffed chicken breast ($16.95) smuggling brandy cream sauce past Prohibition-era border patrols. For dessert, the kitchen-favorite chocolate coconut torte ($5.95) negotiates a chocolate sauce-smothered resolution to meals held hostage by indecision.