More than 50 years go, Mike Ilitch was poised for major-league glory. An up-and-coming shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, his baseball finesse was blossoming when an injury derailed his sports career. But although the wound stunted his athletic aspirations, it steered him toward a new path, and on May 8, 1959, he and his wife opened the first Little Caesars location, a then-unheard-of carry-out-only joint. The career shift and novel technique eventually proved triumphant. Today, the pizzeria's iconic, toga-clad mascot adorns storefronts on five continents. In each shop, staffers forge the signature Hot-N-Ready pizza, a freshly baked pizza designed for instant pickup, and warm, garlicky Crazy bread. With a storied half-century under their belt, Mike Ilitch and his family strive to give back, supporting local organizations and creating their own charitable programs.
From its humble origins as a soda fountain in 1930s Saint Paul, Green Mill Restaurant and Bar has grown into a franchise with more than 28 locations all over Minnesota and the Midwest. As TV screens blast sports news in the background, patrons at each eatery dine on a menu of classic American and pizzeria fare. Thick, hand-pressed burgers form bunned towers with hefty toppings such as smoked bacon, haystack onions, and chipotle mayo. Families looking to bond can practice fractions on regular, deep-dish, or thin and crispy pizzas or group juggling acts with samplers of 27 juicy wings. In addition to pastas and salads, each location's bar carries a varied drink menu that includes draft beers such as Blue Moon and Samuel Adams alongside wine, martinis, and margaritas.
Ristorante Luci creates Italian fare with a classica flair and serves it within a warm, intimate atmosphere. Like the color of a slovenly roommate's sweatpants, the menu changes with the seasons, as the ristorante works with as many Minnesota-based farmers as possible to stock its larder with fresh, flavorful ingredients. Prepare for piquant pasta with a curtain-raiser such as the sautéed green beans ($10), partnered with an organic chopped egg and a dabbling of truffle oil. The fusilli alla Luci ($11) mingles its corkscrew pasta with grilled chicken, broccoli, and a garnish of red-pepper flakes. For something meatier, try the dish that's synonymous with Italy—slow-braised New Zealand lamb shank ($16)—which melts in mouths before unleashing stores of tomato and rosemary flavor. Schemes to get one's Iowan cousin crowned King of Malaysia are best concocted over a capper of homemade desserts, coffees, and cappuccinos.
Paisano’s Pizza's sauce slingers create the menu's specialty thin-crust pizzas, Stromboli, and hoagies. Breadsticks escort 16-inch signature pizzas ($19.99) such as the mediterranean pie, whose artichoke hearts sidle up to olives and feta, and whose sun-dried tomatoes resolve to avoid the sun during their next trip to the beach. The tuscan disk unites canadian bacon and fresh basil, and the taco specialty brims with tortilla chips and seasoned beef under a layer of cheddar. Bright yellow and green walls wrap around group tables, where diners can bite into hoagies ($7.29) and look out wide windows. A high red counter with individual seating supports original, vegetarian, or pepperoni Stromboli ($6.99), and allows guests to bring along their laptops, books, or imaginations.