For more than 30 years, Pop's Italian Beef & Sausage has served up a Chicago-centric menu of beef sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs. Silence empty-belly rumblings with one of Pop's delectable beef sandwiches ($4.19–$6.35), such as the italian beef, heaped with mounds of succulent, thin-sliced beef soaked in special spices and natural gravy. Windy-city visitors can delight in the classic Chicago hot dog and the savory polish sausage (each around $2.29–$2.99, depending on location), each nestled underneath mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles, and the looming shadow of oscillating skyscrapers. Other handheld fare includes the meatball and corned-beef sandwiches, which can be upgraded with a variety of extras, including red sauce, sweet peppers, hot mix (all free on sandwiches, extra as a side), feta cheese, and bacon. A fleet of made-from-scratch soups and salads is also available, and includes such options as the hearty cream-of-chicken rice soup and the large garden salad ($2.09–$3.99).
Chef Faustino Giron, a longtime Brookfield resident and owner of eight restaurants in the Chicagoland area, decided to open Giron's to supply his hometown with signature stuffed-crust pizzas and crispy thin-crust pies. Specialty toppings such as italian beef and hot giardiniera can ornament pizzas split between families of diners or families of accountants. The kitchen also creates towers of house-made lasagna and full slabs of ribs brushed with thick barbecue sauce. Inside the dining area, yellow walls display paintings of bustling chefs and red accent walls offset the full bar.
Paisans supplies fresh pies with sauces concocted fresh daily, hearty pastas, and steaming sandwiches in a casual, familiar atmosphere. Start off with a six-piece ensemble of hot wings ($5.25) before infusing a disk with your own thin-crust symphony ($10.99 for 14") from a euphonious selection of more than 20 fresh embellishments such as ricotta, canadian bacon, and cream of bassoon ($1.95 a piece), or arrange ingredients on a stuffed or deep-dish dough canvas ($12.50 for 12", plus $1.90 per topping).
As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
Bella Bacinos owner Linda Bacin has served on the Taste of Chicago committee, but her culinary force isn't just local; she's been a National Restaurant Association board member for decades and made television appearances with Oprah Winfrey, Rachael Ray, and Guy Fieri. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of her most lasting impressions has been creating the first-ever "heart healthy" pizza to be featured in the Chicago Heart Association's Eat Well Guide.
These pizzas, deep-dish or thin-crust creations topped with anything from broccoli to italian sausage and peppers, can be enjoyed at Bella Bacinos. Like the other dishes on the menu, they are made from organic ingredients that are free of trans fats and preservatives whenever possible. Though known for its pizza, Bella Bacinos also serves breakfast, including three-egg omelets and french toast, as well as classic Italian entrees such as shrimp linguini and veal saltimbocca.
Vasco Marconi immigrated to Chicago from a small town in Tuscany in 1959, bringing his wife, his son, and a slew of authentic recipes with him. He opened an Italian restaurant on the west side of Chicago, where it prospered until his retirement in 1997, when John Marconi took on his father's torch and moved the eatery to La Grange. Since then, the Marconi family has kept the family recipes alive in their bustling, family-style restaurant through frequent practice and routine cookbook séances. John still oversees the menu, paying homage to his father’s original recipes with homemade meat ravioli, chicken vesuvio, and a bounty of seasonal specialties.