Since he came to the U.S. three decades ago, chef-owner Vittorio DiBenedetto has opened a few restaurants, but the Trattoria remains dear to him. Intimate even though it stretches across three dining rooms, the restaurant’s layout mirrors the chefs' commitment to friendly togetherness. That feeling of camaraderie extends to the circular cherrywood-and-granite bar, where pours of 40 different wines loosen up tongues in need of free-wheeling conversation or a reminder of what grapes taste like. Crisply contrasting black accents stripe the light yellow interior, where guests await house favorites including giant scallops and gorgonzola-topped steak.
It all started in 1946 when a Navy cook finished his tour of duty after World War II. He left his destroyer in the South Pacific and set sail for Chicago's South Side. There, he opened a carry-out fried-seafood joint and dubbed it Ship Shape Shrimp Shack, a name that was hard to say but easy to love, thanks to his signature fried-shrimp recipe. For 30 years, he continued delighting customers and living his dream, minus the part where he could fly, until 1976, when health issues forced him to close the restaurant. A few years later, a local truck driver and food-service veteran by the name of Frank took over, renaming the place Frank's Chicago Shrimp House. Under the Navy cook's tutelage, he learned everything there was to know about the shrimp and seafood business, and enjoyed the same success through the golden-fried shrimp and seafood of his predecessor. Today, his daughters are at the helm, keeping tradition alive and well at four locations throughout the Chicagoland area. At those restaurants, they fry up the classics and mix it up with frog legs and New Orleans–style fried shrimp, pairing the crispy morsels with classic sides such as hush puppies, cole slaw, and french fries.
Happenstance restaurateurs Rakesh and Sarina Chopra opened Sansaveria after a whirlwind excursion to the city of lights left them longing to bring the sights, sounds, and tastes of Paris back home with them. Meals commence with classic appetizers such as the baked onion soup ($5) or a French charcuterie plate, boasting a collection of cured meats, artisan cheeses, and multilingual croustades ($12). Pair plats principaux such as the garlic and herb sautéed steak Mediterranean ($27), or the wine-basted, caper-kissed sautéed tilapia carciofi ($19), with one of more than 40 wines, or choose any three by-the-glass options to sample a flight of fermented fancy. Suppers saunter toward their sugary conclusions with decadent delights including homemade bananas foster and Grand Marnier–filled crêpes ($7), or with sweet cocktails such as the creamy and indulgent choco-tini or a Sambuca Romana cordial—known for its impeccable manners.
After leaving behind their hometown in Greece, brothers Angelo and John Sellis put their entrepreneurial minds together to build a new life in the United States, with their restaurant Palm Court at the heart of their new venture. More than 30 years since greeting their first diners, John and other members of the Sellis family continue watching over the eatery's three dining rooms, learning the names of regular customers and giving them courtesy calls when their favorite specials are back on the menu. The brothers' team of chefs?overseen by Angelo in the kitchen?constructs its long-perfected dishes from foundations of duck, oysters, beef, and seafood as tinkling piano tunes fill the adjacent cocktail lounge, where customers sip signature martinis, wines, or domestic and imported brews.
Before convertibles, or highways, or paved streets in Chicago's suburbs, a little field house fronted by two gas pumps sat on a two-lane dirt road that some people called North Avenue. The house's residents pumped gas for thirsty cars and whipped up meals for hungry travelers, and their little business became an oasis for those on their way in or out of the city. Times changed, and as the town grew the little business kept pace, transforming over 75 years from a gas station and tavern into Ki's Steak and Seafood.
Today, Executive Chef Daniel has a few more tools at his disposal than the original proprietor's stove top and frying pan. He works in a professionally outfitted kitchen, churning out hand-cut black angus steaks, bacon-wrapped scallops, and roast duck. Meanwhile, his saucier whips up endless batches of bernaise and bourdelaise sauce to drizzle over steaks or play a gourmet version of bobbing for apples.
The little dirt road that ran past the house became a busy, concrete vein of commerce, pumping car-fulls of customers into the establishment's parking lot. However, despite this urban sprawl, the owners have done their best to ensure that the view from the windows remains nostalgically delightful. Their restaurant sits on six acres of farmland, and its grand picture windows overlook a rustic barn occupied by peacocks, sheep, and rabbits, and framed by flower beds and ponds.
Featured on one of Gayot’s Top 10 of 2012 lists, the seafood at Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House "could not be fresher or better cooked." In addition to steaks and chops from its sister restaurant, Gibson’s, Hugo’s menu showcases a spread of classically prepared familiars including oysters on the half shell, pan-seared scallops, and giant lobster tails joined by drawn butter. But the eatery’s signature dish is a different kind of aquatic creature: frog legs arrive at tables sautéed and soaked in garlic butter. Maritime decor complements the nautical morsels, from nostalgic photographs of lighthouses to miniature models of ships to barnacles on the eyebrows of every server.