Chicago's Pizza's menu boasts thin- and stuffed-crust pizzas alongside classic Chicago–style sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Specialty pizzas boast toppings such as ham, pepperoni, bacon, and sausage or tomato, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms. Chicago–style hot dogs are piled with toppings, and calzones reveal delectable fillings.
Phil Gilardi, Jr. carries on his family’s legacy as the fourth generation to embrace the classic flavors and culinary techniques of the Old World. Joined by his uncle, Dan Sullivan, Phil packs his menu with the timeless recipes honed by his great-grandmother, Sophie, and his grandmother, Angie, as well as a few ideas of his own. Executive Chef Fabrizio Patano balances this blend of traditional and contemporary influences, crafting a lineup of Italian comfort foods with elevated touches.
Chef Patano and his team demonstrate their commitment to the menu’s Old World roots by importing prosciutto and parmigiano cheese for their entrees. At the same time, they highlight the inherent simplicity of Italian home cooking by hand-rolling their pastas and making fresh sauces in-house. This fusion of imported ingredients and homespun touches is readily apparent throughout the kitchen’s refined dishes, such as breaded veal cutlets with asparagus, lobster, and rich hollandaise sauce.
The casually elevated charm of the menu also influences the décor of Philly G’s, which sprawls across the floor plan and covered porch of a stately home. Textured walls lit by glowing sconces surround the tables draped with seafoam-green and white linens and flanked by high-backed chairs. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, the lounge area hosts live entertainment for diners, regaling them with musical performances as opposed to staged readings of last week’s winning lottery numbers.
Checkered tablecloths and vintage black-and-white photos from the 1940s evoke small-town Tuscany at Lauretta's Italian Bake Shop & Cafe, whose chefs have assembled authentic Sicilian-style cuisine for more than 30 years. Homemade pomodoro sauce mingles with the porcini mushrooms and caramelized onions that fleck risotto, and fresh baby clams or mussels frolic through linguine entrees. To create paninis, chefs crown toasted ciabatta bread with such accoutrement as jarlsberg swiss cheese, yellowfin tuna imported from Italy, and childhood memories of revered measuring cups. Diners complement bites with Italian beers and wines, including a crisp, fruity prosecco and a medium-bodied chianti, whose tart red-fruit and chocolate flavors pair well with spinach ravioli and still-life paintings of Hershey's bars.A family-owned Chicago bakery furnishes the eatery's fleet of traditional italian pastries, such as cannoli and more than 30 kinds of italian cookies. Lauretta's Italian Bake Shop & Cafe also proffers comprehensive catering spreads, dishing up pans of lasagna, ravioli, and chicken marsala that can feed 15 partygoers or more, or custom orders that can sate finicky flatware.
Stuffed deer antlers, a large canoe suspended from the ceiling, and carvings of bears surround diners at Bill's Pizza & Pub. The northwoods seeps indoors at the venerable pizza place, which exhibits the idiosyncratic decor of a lodge. The wood-grained eatery first established its novel dining room more than 50 years ago, when its founder and namesake converted a garage into a roadside pizza joint. There, Bill and his wife, Pat, devised the double-decker pizza that still emerges piping hot from the kitchens at two locations. Both locales exhibit the same relaxed setting, in which families can scarf double-decker slices and freely toss peanut shells to the floor or out windows at mounted policemen.
The warm fragrances of homemade pasta and gleaming candlelight herald selections from Enzo & Lucia Ristorante's mouthwatering dinner menu. Maneuver into Italian gastronomy as handily as Chef Boyardee's moped with a succulent duet of prosciutto and melon ($8.95), whose delectable duality scintillates in the charming dining room or sun-dappled outdoor seating. The vitello Enzo ($22.95) arms veal endearingly with asparagus spears and a warm cloak of fontina cheese, while tender arborio rice, a light tomato sauce, and a Neptunian who's-who of succulence populate the risotto pescatore ($21.95).
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
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 jalapeños 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.