As Ed n Joe's approaches its 50th birthday, the back kitchen chefs continue to toss the same classic thin-crusted creations and deep-dish delights that made the restaurant beloved in its infancy. Baked in a deck oven, the signature pizzas satiate hunger in inventive ways, such as with the taco pizza, topped in spicy salsa beef and mozzarella and then dusted heartily in crushed tortilla chips, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and cheddar and crowned with sour cream and salsa ($16.85 for a small). For a tangy twist, try the barbecue-chicken pizza, served Hawaiian style with grilled chicken, Mancuso mozzarella, red onion, and sliced pineapple ($14.35 for a small). Beyond circular chewables, Ed n Joe's menu boasts a bounty of house favorites such as garnished chicken vesuvio ($16.95), portobello strip steak ($20.95), baked mostaccioli ($14.45), and items conceived by crayons on the kids' menu.
The finest Italian dishes and delights have been consolidated onto the menu at Frankie's Ristorante. Launch a foray into feasting with an order of fresh calamari fritti ($8.50) or bruschetta alla romana ($8.50). Pasta dishes such as lasagna Bolognese, with its rich meat sauce and melty mozzarella ($16.95), inspire nights of pleasant, noodle-filled dreams. A bevy of mouth-moistening main dishes present indecisive diners with nearly impossible choices; the pollo alla nina simmers a chicken breast with sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes in a fine brandy sauce ($16.95), and the vitello al limone bastes veal medallions in a lemon-caper butter sauce ($20.95). Take a more aqueous route to satiation with the tilapia oreganata, a lightly breaded tilapia in a white wine, garlic, and oregano sauce ($21.95). Daily soup and risotto specials help to keep the menu fresh and hungry psychics guessing.
Since its first pizza went into the oven in 1961, Palermo's has been crafting Italian favorites from scratch with recipes passed down through the generations. The restaurant's pizza makers blanket pies in the classic flavors of homemade italian sausage and pepperoni, or glean inspiration from other dishes in Chicago-style beef or barbecue-chicken pizzas. Meanwhile, other Italian staples—all of which are also available for takeout and catering—fill out the menu with such classics as chicken parmesan and penne primavera.
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).
Isabella Café’s passionate chef crafts a menu of meatballs, pastas, and other classic Italian fare as well as culinary curveballs of his own creation. Forks can follow a trail of angel hair pasta ($13.95) past veal-meatball boulders and lakes of marinara to reach a secret stash of creamy goat cheese or unearth savory duck and cream cheese buried in stuffed portobello mushrooms ($6.25) by pirates short of suitable treasure chests. Law-abiding molars can also pat down a stuffed chicken breast ($16.95) smuggling brandy cream sauce past Prohibition-era border patrols. For dessert, the kitchen-favorite chocolate coconut torte ($5.95) negotiates a chocolate sauce-smothered resolution to meals held hostage by indecision.
As they struggled to make ends meet by peddling fruits and vegetables from a truck, Mr. and Mrs. Ricobene never dreamed that their family’s name would one day be renowned throughout the South Side of Chicago. The couple first opened their own food stand in 1946, where they doled out sandwiches, pizzas, and pastas inspired by their Italian homeland. With the aid of their sons, they soon perfected their signature dish—the breaded steak sandwich, a meal that would one day be lauded by reporters from Chicago magazine as one of the best in the city. Today, Ricobene’s has expanded to multiple restaurant locations across Chicagoland, and chefs continue to whip up steak sandwiches in accordance with the original Ricobene family recipe. They fold ultrathin steaks into crusty Italian rolls before showering sandwiches in peppers, cheese, and meaty marinara sauce. The chefs draw culinary inspiration from both Italy and Chicago, seasoning wieners in celery salt and topping deep-dish pizzas with mozzarella. Meanwhile, out in the casual dining rooms, guests perch at wooden tables and admire the photographs of old Chicago that speckle the walls.