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 jalape?os 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.
Chefs call upon the flavors of Rome and Tuscany as they blend tomatoes, garlic, and plentiful herbs into the Italian cuisine of Francesca’s Tavola, part of a Chicago-based family of Francesca’s restaurants graced with positive media attention. Patrons steep in the trattoria ambiance while skewering filet mignon, sea bass, and monkfish on their rapiers. A gluten-free menu pampers palates with quinoa linguine and desserts whose fresh fruit plays over tongues like a salad made from Debussy's sheet music.
Working late into the evening, the doughmasters at Donny's Pizzeria flip fresh ingredients into Chicago–style deep-dish, stuffed, pan, traditional thin-crust, and double-decker pizzas. The kitchen's passion for overstuffing also shows up in baked pasta shells, ravioli, and tortellini packed with imported cheeses. The most decadent corners of the menu harbor treats including deep-fried Oreos and the much-lauded Epic pizza, a 20"x50" pie that can serve 25–35 people or serve as a small cot.
BaPi Italian Ristorante's proprietor, Cristiano Bassani, bedecks white-linen tablecloths with house-made pasta, chicken, and salmon dishes. The quaint eatery hosts private lunch and dinner parties for 10–60 patrons and all their imaginary friends, or fills households with heaping pans of pastas and entrees via catering services.
Crafted from fresh meats, fish, and vegetables, the dishes on La Zingara’s menu uphold Italian cooking at its most elemental, providing simple, hearty helpings of a few fine ingredients. In addition to crunching bread baked fresh daily, diners can dig into entrees such as risotto and lasagna.
From the moment Bob and Rose opened Wayne's Pizza in 1964, they've stood by an unwavering commitment to fresh ingredients and from-scratch recipes. "We would never think of serving you mushrooms from a can," the duo declares on their web site. They'd also never consider a jarred spaghetti sauce?the marinara here is made with a recipe that's been in Rose's family for generations. And those chowing down on the lasagna have Rose's Grandma Rose and Aunt Dolly to thank for the recipe. Even the ribs are one-of-a-kind here, dredged in a spice blend unique to Wayne's. Rose and Bob's son Tony took over the family business in 2012, and though his parents have retired to cheesier pastures, their tradition of friendliness and freshness lives on: "A Wayne's Pizza customer," they promise, "is a lifelong, forever friend."