Chefs at Dick's Pizza and Pleasure work a coal-fired oven to forge a menu of pies that fills the futuristic lounge with enticing aromas. Burning at temperatures in excess of 700 degrees, the oven yields crisp, light crusts, which serve as ideal canvasses for guest-designed pizzas crowned with local produce and toppings such as roasted mushrooms, gorgonzola, and white anchovies ($9+). The house-cured-sausage pizza flaunts red onion, mozzarella, pecorino cheese, and organic tomatoes crushed by hand ($13). Shavings of black-truffle mushrooms embellish the top of the White and Black pizza ($15), along with house-made white sauce and fontina, mozzarella, parmesan, and burrata cheese. Dick's kitchen dispenses cold alcoholic or virgin milkshakes such as the Acapulco Gold, a blend of vanilla ice cream, Kahlua, Nutella, house-made caramel, and chocolate-covered espresso beans ($8), while the seasonal cocktail menu makes use of fresh fruits and top-shelf liquors to fuel revelry without saving up yard clippings to bribe a satyr.
A fourth generation restaurateur, Ferrante’s owner Amy Ferrante-Gollwitzer mines her rich ancestry to feed the North Shore irresistible Italian cuisine made from enduring family recipes. Pie guys go for specialty pizzas such as the olive oil and garlic-coated tomato basil ($22.15 for a large) or the Amy’s, a meaty mix of sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and ham (22.15 for a large).
In 1963, Sal Barbiere founded his eponymous Italian Inn on the principles of “Family, Superb Food, and Quality Ingredients,” according to the restaurant's website. So it was no surprise that he decided to keep the eatery in the family, passing Barbiere's to his son Steve when he retired. And when, 34 years later, Steve was ready to retire in his turn, he also passed the mantle to someone trustworthy: employee Mark Dempsey, who is himself nearly family—he has been working at the restaurant since he was 16 years old.
Today, Dempsey has expanded the restaurant to two locations, both still serving Sal's signature garlic bread and other tried-and-true Italian dishes. Chefs in his kitchens prepare pans of lasagna and spaghetti with meat or meatless sauce. Baked-to-order pizzas feature an array of topping choices including italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes. Grand Marnier from the full bar fortifies pitchers of housemade red sangria, which enhance the food's bold, Italian flavors as well as boring white napkins that definitely look better in tie-dye.
Pino Piroso dedicated himself to founding a distinctive, Roman-style pizzeria, saying that "after years of hard work, we knew we had built something very special." His lauded chain eventually grew to include franchises in six states and two countries outside of the United States. Despite their geographic separation, each location has the same stringent standards for their ingredients and their Exit-sign locations. No kitchen stores pizza fixings in a freezer—instead, the cooks begin every morning by stirring sauces, kneading dough, and dicing fresh seasonal toppings from local farms. The circular or rectangular pies can support as many as 33 of these familiar and nontraditional toppings, such as goat cheese, sweet corn, and roasted chicken.
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.
In 1978, brothers Eugene and John Jetts lent their name to the sign above their pizza shop in Sterling Heights, Michigan. In the more than 30 years that followed, they’ve lost one of the Ts but gained more than 200 franchises across the country. Jet’s Pizza churns out thin-crust rounds and signature square-shaped pies in hearty deep-dish form. The eight-corner deep-dish style lets each member of a dining octet enjoy a slice of corner crust without fearing the paper cuts inherent in triangle slices. After loading pizzas with heaps of meats and veggies, guests have the liberty of flavorizing their crust for free, choosing from eight options such as garlic, sesame seed, Cajun, or poppy seed. To augment pies, Jet's chefs whip up triple-cheese turbo sticks filled with mozzarella, cheddar, and romano as well as regular and boneless wings draped in hot or sweet sauces.