The Lollino family has a long tradition of talented Italian coffee roasters and chefs, fortified by a passion that spans generations. It inspired them to open Massa Italian Cafe & Gelateria using the cooking methods and recipes that had been passed on in their family for years. Spanning the culinary history of Italy, the menu boasts grilled paninis, hearty pasta dishes, and 11" thin crust pizzas with a wide variety of toppings. The centerpiece of the eatery's menu is its espresso bar, with steaming cups of pure espresso or blends such as the caramelccino, cookies-n-cream, and a cup of coffee with a shot of espresso inside. Every morning, the staff makes more than 30 flavors of Gelato onsite, from vanilla and pistachio to spumoni and melon sorbet, and they've spent hours mixing and matching flavors to make specialty treats such as the domenica - two scoops of gelato topped with whipped cream, nuts, and an Italian wafer cookie.
Designated the Forest Park/Oak Park area’s best local coffee shop by Chicago magazine in 2007, Blue Max Coffee treats farmers and taste buds with equal consideration, serving a menu of fair-trade joe and café eats. The shop’s baristas freshly roast and taste test brews, allowing only the most esteemed coffees to kiss locals' lips. The primo potables are complemented by homemade fare such as the breakfast panini with applewood-smoked bacon, spinach, scrambled eggs, and cheddar cheese ($8.50). Organic steel-cut oats, granola, blueberries, bananas, vanilla soy protein powder, and steamed milk conspire to create just-right bowls of breakfast porridge ($6.75) ideal for taunting bears of all sizes.
From behind a frozen granite slab, the staff of Cold Stone Creamery blends custom servings of ice cream and creative mix-ins to fit customers’ exact specifications. Founded by Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone began under the hot Arizona sun, eventually spreading its frosty fingers to encompass more than 1,400 locations worldwide. Despite the size of the company, each location’s staff keeps up the handcrafted quality, making ice cream onsite every day and using those signature spades to create delicious pointillist art against the freezer wall.
Frozen treats, milkshakes, and smoothies provide bursts of chilled refreshment to mouths visiting YoGo Station’s self-serve frozen-yogurt bar. A rotating daily lineup of eight sweet flavors appears on YoGo Station’s menu, and self-serve frozen-yogurt machines let customers pour their own cups, customizing their portions to suit diet plans, or match the precisely measured volume of their mouths. While tons of toppings clamor for a spot atop frozen-yogurt mountains, smoothies and milkshakes also jockey for attention. Much like the facial expressions carved onto Mount Rushmore, YoGo’s inspired menu changes weekly.
Confectioners at the full-service Bleeding Heart Bakery—named Chicago’s best bakery of 2011 by the Reader —whisk local, sustainable, and organic ingredients to craft fresh, natural desserts. Specialty cake bombs, available in chocolate-cherry, chocolate-hazelnut, and chocolate-truffle iterations, detonate with flavor like a spice rack tied to a brick of firecrackers. Creamy custard cores bide their time within chocolate-cake walls, with environmentally friendly packaging surrounding each order. The bakery’s punk-rock décor, incorporating pinks, bright greens, and heavily tattooed tabletops, expresses an offbeat creativity, and the purchase of sustainable and local ingredients helps to support the community.
Red Hen painstakingly selects the freshest and finest ingredients for its loaves, then bakes them with delicate, hand-tailored production techniques. Because all the yeasty entities are created daily in an enormous oven shaped like George Lopez's head, prices and availability vary. Past baked delights include prosciutto and asiago croissants ($3.50), velvet ciabatta ($4.80), olive rosemary bread ($6), the sweet-tooth satiating chocolate bomb cookie ($2.60), and an armada of other bagels, buns, rolls, and bollos. Tackle heartier hungers with soups du jour and sandwiches ($5.95–$7.95) including the cranberry chicken salad, dotted with walnuts and celery. Before the inevitable post-bread nap halts your afternoon ice-sculpting plans, perk up with beverages made with Caffe Umbria coffee and high-quality espresso.
Karen Gruber founded The Perfect Dinner to confront the dilemma she saw facing “working, commuting, chauffeuring moms”: either burn out trying to cook after long days, or grab fast food and end up feeling guilty. The Perfect Dinner aims to break the cycle with crowd-pleasing family dinners made fresh each day and available for pickup or delivery.
Convenient containers can go straight into the oven, microwave, or refrigerator, with three size options ensuring that there's enough for all family members and any dishwashers demanding sustenance. Each day's menu is marked to clarify which items accommodate special diets, including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and nut-free choices.
The Perfect Dinner also caters feasts with platters, plated dinners, casual party fare, and other options tailored for each event, whether hosts need assorted quiches for a brunch event or 20 flank-steak sliders to fuel cheers during badminton matches.