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.
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.
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."
Specializing in thick, Sicilian–style deep-dish pizza, Jet's has indulged palates since 1978, when the eponymous Jetts brothers opened the first joint in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Crusts buckle under the weight of mozzarella cheese and toppings such as grilled chicken and black olives, accompanied by sides such as hot wings, cinnamon sticks, or Jet's Bread topped with cheese, garlic, and butter. Stacks of meat and veggies pile onto piping-hot subs, and a variety of healthy salads helps to avoid the wrath of the Food Pyramid's ancient golems armed with giant wooden tongs.
Lou's Pizza Factory produces pies topped with bubbling cheese, hot from the oven. During lunch, stop in for a slice and a soda, or peruse the rest of the menu for classic Italian dishes such as meatball sandwiches and baked mostaccioli. Thin crust and pan pizzas are decorated with toppings that include sausage, onion, and green peppers that can be arranged to spell out "bite me."
In true Chicago form, Slice of Chicago serves a hot italian beef pizza that’s layered with spoonfuls of giardiniera. It’s one of their specialty pies, which just might be the crown jewels of Slice’s menu—other varieties include the Western with barbecue sauce, sausage, bacon, and onion, and a taco pizza with ground beef, jalapeños, and sour cream. The pizzeria goes beyond its culinary namesake to strike a tasty balance between American and Italian favorites with dishes as varied as pork ribs, eggplant parmesan, cajun chicken sandwiches, and tiramisu. Guests can also build custom pasta plates by getting a permit from their local pasta-building commissioner, and then selecting a noodle, sauce, and optional ingredients such as calamari or sun-dried tomatoes.