Category Archives: Italian and Pizza
CHEF TONG OF MY PRIVATE CHEF SHARES A DELICIOUS ITALIAN MENU
AT BLOOMINGDALE’S HOME & FURNITURE STORE, MEDINAH TEMPLE
Chef Christopher Tong of the upscale Chicago-based private gourmet dining service, My Private Chef,is enthusiastic about European flavors and cuisine. He has been invited back to present anItalian-themed menu inspired by his travels.
A favorite with Bloomingdale’s shoppers, Chef Tong will prepare:
Lemon Cannellini Bean Bruschetta
Rigatoni with Tuscan-Style Cauliflower, Mint and Pecorino
People who are casual cooks or lovers of gourmet food get to ask questions, discuss preparation,and come away with fabulous recipes that you can try at home. Chef Tong will give tips on shopping, ingredients, and serving. And, everyone gets to have a taste!
The cooking demonstration will take place on Saturday, September 24, from 2-4 pm, at theBloomingdale’s Home & Furniture Store at Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago.Demo Kitchen on 1.
For more information about this Bloomingdale’s event, contact at 312-324-7678
My Private Chef is enjoying popularity as one of Chicago’s favorite private gourmet dining services. Trained in European-style fine cuisine, Chef Tong established his reputation at fine restaurants and hotels in Florida, California, and Chicago. Now he has adapted his impressive skills to the world of private entertaining. My Private Chef offers enticing cuisine for a wide range of events, from intimate dinners to weddings to corporate parties.
Chef Chris says: “Every event is different and I’ve met some wonderful people including many celebrities. Being part of very special occasions makes my work worthwhile. I also love doing cooking demonstrations where I get the feeling that audience members will go home and try some new dishes!”
Some recent appearances include cooking classes and demonstrations on local television,at Bloomingdale’s Home & Furniture Stores, Whole Foods Market, Gilda’s Club Chicago,Taste of Chicago and the Garden Chef Series at Chicago Botanic Garden
For more information about My Private Chef, call Event Services at 773-370-8131 or visit www.myprivatechef.net.
LKH Management (LKH), the group behind Andersonville’s recently opened Replay and Elixir, announced that its eighth property, Lark, will officially open to the public Thursday, June 16.
The first 50 people through the bar and restaurant’s doors that day, beginning at 5 pm, will receive a voucher for one free pizza, available for redemption by July 31, 2016. Between 5 pm and 2 am, everyone who visits the new venue will be eligible to enter to win free pizza for a year*.
Located at 3441 N. Halsted, in the former Halsted’s Bar + Grill space, Lark will offer an ideal environment for drinks seven nights a week, where guests can listen to music from the 80s and 90s until 2 am Sunday through Friday and 3 am Saturdays, as well as watch music videos from those eras playing on the 13 large screen TVs.
“We’re excited to bring this new addition to the bar scene in Lake View, which features the beautiful original wooden bar from the former Cullen’s Bar & Grill on Southport,” said Mark Liberson, LKH president. “Our weekend guests will enjoy having the chance to select albums from our collection of LPs, play retro board games and dine on our artisanal pizzas with their drinks.”
Lark will also offer authentic Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas, as well as pasta, sandwiches, entrées, salads, appetizers and weekend brunch.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE PIZZA PLACE! Lark plans to be among a handful of officially certified Neapolitan pizza establishments in Chicago. In order to obtain certification from The Associazione Verace Pizza Napolitana (VPN), Lark must adhere to strict guidelines, including what ingredients are used, how the dough is made and how long the pizzas are cooked. WOW! HOW COOL IS THAT?!
Chefs Bernardo Ibarra (Girl and the Goat) and Kaz Medhat (Magnolia Café), recently leading the culinary team at Replay and Elixir in Andersonville, will helm the Lark kitchen. Creating a menu rich in flavors, the chefs will incorporate inspirations from Italy and beyond while Lark’s beverage director, Vlad Novikov, will curate drink offerings consisting of craft cocktails, extensive wine by the glass options and 16 tap beers.
The 2,400 square foot venue will accommodate approximately 90 people, and open onto one of Lake View’s largest existing patios, doubling the venue’s capacity with nearly 100 additional seats. In addition to bar and table seating, guests can choose to sit and watch the chefs prepare and cook the pizzas around the Mugnaini pizza oven, dine and drink at the historic handcrafted wooden bar, or lounge in comfortable seating surrounding Lark’s working fireplace.
“We can’t wait for everyone to join us and enjoy a taste of something they won’t find elsewhere in the neighborhood,” said Chef Bernardo. “We’re thrilled to share all the special features of the new oven, and to create delicious dishes beyond pizza, incorporating wood-fired items throughout the menu.”
Exposed brick and handcrafted wooden details will line the walls of the new venue. DJs will play 80s and 90s records Thursday through Sunday nights from 10 pm to close.
Lark will be open Monday through Friday 5 pm – 2 am, Saturday from 10 am – 3 am, Sunday 10 am – 2 am. Dinner will be served every night from 5-10 pm. Brunch will be available 10 am – 3 pm Saturday and Sunday. Late-night pizza and limited menu options will also be available nightly until close.
Please visit http://www.larkchicago.
*One winner will receive one free pizza per week for one year (52 total pizzas) starting Monday, June 20, 2016. Limitations will apply.
As we enter fall, Chicago’s culinary scene is more exciting than ever, with new openings ranging from an old-school diner revived by a fine-dining chef to a grab-and-go home for Chicago’s most famous cheeseburger. Here are the city’s 10 trendiest eateries right now, according to ZAGAT!
A sibling to Siena Tavern, BAR SIENA is sprawling West Loop Italian from Fabio Viviani offers regional fare such as antipasti and pizza from a red-tiled oven, backed by cocktails, beer and boot-based wines.
Tucked away in Old Town, THE BLANCHARD is an upscale destination proffers modern, refined presentations of traditional French plates (expect plenty of foie gras), along with fine wines and pastry chef–conceived desserts.
THE HALAL GUYS Sprung from a New York-based Middle Eastern chain known for gyros, falafel, chicken and hummus, this small Gold Coast storefront is a casual option for lunch, dinner and late-night snacks on weekends.
The Lettuce Entertain You folks have reconcepted L20 into INTRO CHICAGO, this high-end Lincoln Park American in the Belden-Stratford building, where a rotation of primo guest chefs turn out contemporary tasting menus.
The Scofflaw crew turns their attention to seafood at SINK / SWIM, this Logan Square hang turning out a thoroughly modern menu including oysters, creative shared plates and a handful of fish-free entrees.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE
CHEF CHRISTOPHER TONG OF MY PRIVATE CHEF SHARES AN ITALIAN MENU AT BLOOMINGDALE’S HOME STORE, MEDINAH TEMPLE
Chef Christopher Tong of the upscale Chicago-based private gourmet dining service, My Private Chef, is enthusiastic about European flavors and cuisine. He has been invited back to present an Italian-themed menu inspired by his travels.
A favorite with Bloomingdale’s shoppers, Chef Tong will prepare: Saffron Farfalle;
Sicilian-Style Tuna Steaks; and Nutella-Mascarpone Mousse with Strawberries.
People who are casual cooks or lovers of gourmet food get to ask questions, discuss preparation, and come away with fabulous recipes that you can try at home. Chef Tong will give tips on shopping, ingredients, and serving. And, everyone gets to have a taste!
The cooking demonstration will take place on Saturday, June 20, from 2-4 pm, at the Bloomingdale’s Home & Furniture Store at Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago. Demo Kitchen on 1.
For more information about this Bloomingdale’s event, contact at 312-324-7678
My Private Chef is now established as one of Chicago’s favorite resources for private gourmet dining. Using his many years of experience at fine restaurants and hotels, Chef Tong offers the finest cuisine for a wide range of events, from intimate dinners to weddings to corporate parties.
For more information about My Private Chef, contact Event Services at 773.370.8131 or visit our web site: www.myprivatechef.net
Free Italian dinners in the coming weeks. Central Lakeview Merchants will be setting up at Belmont and Wilton on Thursdays May 15, 22 and 29 with free Italian food from local restaurants, including pizza, pasta, beef sandwiches and desserts. They will be out from 5-7 p.m. Each week will feature food from different restaurants.
Next Thursday May 15th, Al’s Beef, Frasca Pizzeria, Fornello Trattoria, Chicago’s Pizza, Lina’s and Giordano’s will be on deck.
On May 22, Clark Street Dog, Konak Pizza and Grill, Fiorentino’s, Dimo’s Pizza, Beggars Pizza and Art of Pizza will have Italian sausages, pastas and pizzas.
And on the final Thursday May 29th for Italian Bites, Hot Diggity Dogs, Pizza Rustica, Mia Francesa, Blaze Pizza, Jets Pizza and Pizzerio Serio will featured
Jeronimo Gaytan and Jaime Gamez have
known each other since elementary school in Highland Park. However, their friendship grew stronger when they
attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Both are first
generation college graduates, having majored in Engineering and
Education respectively. Their paths crossed again in Chicago during the
summer of 2011. Over a beer they discussed and shared hopes of one day
being self-employed and getting back into the food industry. Fast
forward to May of 2012 and their first location is established just
across the street from Wrigley Field.
Like most other pizza enthusiasts, pizza
has been an integral part of their lives, especially in Jaime’s case. He
worked 8 years at THE pizza establishment in Madison, WI, and then
gained experience in opening a restaurant from the ground up for the
same company. In fact you might even say he also graduated from Pizza
Add in the Michael Jordan of pizza cooks, Manuel Nicolas. Manuel has been a pizza
chef for 8 years and hails from the sunny beaches of Pinotepa Nacional,
Oaxaca, Mexico, an area known as Costa Chica. Growing up Manuel was
accustomed to eating many different types of seafood. If you are
familiar with Spanish coastal delicacies then you will recognize such
foods as trucha, tejones, pescados robalo, and almojo de ajo.
At Big G’s your every pizza desire is a reality. We serve everything
from classics like cheese and pepperoni to bbq steak and french fries or
kalamatta olive puree with fresh mozzarella and sweet red peppers. And
for the kids we have our very special mac ‘n’ cheese pizza. Way better
than what we had as kids. Stop in to take a look and eat the best pizza
by the slice in Chicago. We are BYOB and have free Wi-Fi!
It’s rare when a restaurant opens and everyone likes it and has everyone’s tongue wagging! And with today’s social media outlets, everyone has an opinion.
Best Hidden Gem,
Best Date Restaurant,
and Best Sidewalk Cafe!
eating in his grandfather’s tavern. They’d always talk about the
“tavern,” but Cannella never knew, until recently, that his grandfather
owned the Grand Tap Room, an upscale Italian restaurant in the 1930s and
’40s, where a steak was $1.50!
Taverna 750 is the best of old school Italian with a contemporary flair. Cannella is bringing back his Grandfather Paul J.
Loverde’s and Uncle Chuckie Abruzzini’s classic Italian tried and true
family recipes. But made current and relevant to today’s times.
impressed by attention to detail, flavor, service and presentation.
Keep in mind many items change
seasonally. The restaurant just launched a new spring menu with all kinds of awesome dishes!
Roasted baby beets, basil puree, goat cheese sorbet, pumpernickel croutons, citrus dressing, baby arugula.
Crab Cakes – $12.00
Smoked chorizo, charred spring onion gremolata, shaved asparagus salad, shaved pear.
Tuna Confit – $16.00
Olive oil poached tuna, olive marmaletta, pine nut puree, fingerling potato.
Chicken Marengo – $13.00
San marzano tomatoes, white wine, maitake mushroom, squash noodles, black olive, grated egg yolk.
Buttermilk Braised Pork Shoulder – $14.00
Fregola pasta, chickpea broth, hazelnut, apricot, bittersweet chocolate.
Is your mouth watering yet?
They don’t refer to themselves as a tapas place, and it is clear that the dishes are quite larger than typical tapas. This a “sharing” place
where people are encouraged to share their meals and the dishes are
placed in the center of the table.
All of Taverna 750’s entrees are
small plates, meant for sharing at the table. For 2 people ideally. A table of 5 can not share one plate, as one Yelper complained!
For small plates, the
portions are generous and their prices are very affordable so you can share several items at one sitting. You will be blown away by the quality and the tastes. Small plates are served European-style, coming out of the kitchen
as they’re ready.Which is how I like it.
The quality of the reasonably priced dishes really gives the food at the
much pricier downtown places like RPM Italian a run for their money.
“Understanding the history, the life cycle, the environment in which it grows, all make me proud to serve the dishes I do. It’s this understanding and appreciation for ingredients that make me feel connected to the food, which in my opinion transcends to the diner eating the food. You can just tell the difference between something that tastes good and something that has been treated with respect and care.” says Chef Christopher Coker.
AND THE DRINKS! Let me tell you, mixologist Benjamin Newby, a big name in the Chicago restaurant scene and
one of Chicago’s most celebrated and recognizable drink creators is stirring things up at Taverna. I already thought they had a perfect drink menu. The martinis that come with a bonus sidecar is brilliant! Ben is known for creating innovative
drinks enjoyed by both the connoisseur and the person looking for a
His latest recipes shine at Taverna 750. He developed a spring
cocktail menu and did some tweaking on existing cocktails, to further raise the bar. He has launched six seasonal creations available through
the end of summer and will roll out a patio beverage menu when the
weather FINALLY warms up – that could be any day now!
Brunch, dinner or late night – this place has something for everyone!
never felt more confident in the overall product that we are bringing to
the city of Chicago.” says owner Paul Cannella, “We’ve
learned a lot, and we’ve grown a lot. The food and beverage menus are
by far the best we’ve produced to date. When you combine that with the
staff we’ve worked hard to train, and they’re passion for working at
Taverna, I can’t help but smile thinking about how we are going to put a lot of smiles on people’s faces all summer long.”
Reservations are always highly suggested, as this hotspot can be very busy!
Taverna 750 750 W Cornelia Ave Chicago, IL 60657 ph. 773-904-7466
RAZON! The reason.
What a great discovery we just found, and it’s in Uptown, just blocks
from our house! A hidden gem! This restaurant is the best kept secret!
But not for long.
Located at 4250 N. Marine Dr, RAZON is located on the Northside of the
Imperial Towers high-rises. Razon opened last May and when I looked at
reviews online, nearly everybody loves this place!
(photo above -shows part of the dining room—filled with Italian marble and Ferrari-red finishes—the bar itself came from Italy).
So I talked with Nash the general manager and we made plans to come
check it out. They actually have a cafe area and a restaurant area.
“What we are trying to do here is follow biorhythm of this wonderful
neighborhood,” explained Nash. “We open our cafe at 7am to 10 pm each
day. With great artisan coffee & morning pastries selection, Razón
cafe is your one stop morning destination. Once morning craziness is
over, lunch is served & delivered through Lakeview & Uptown.”
He continues, “Finally, at 5pm we open the door of our restaurant.
People have voted and gave us 4 and 5 stars – critics and press were
wonderful too. With our great team and chefs we’ve been working for
many years back develop charming menu with delicious options, all with
an Italian influence and eclectic approach. Simple Italian architecture,
with Miami lounge type music in the background and Midwestern
hospitality. Razon means “the reason”. The reason to get together, the
reason to dine, the reason to rejoice and be grateful!”
We arrived at 6:00pm thirsty! The handsome Russian bartender, Alex suggested perhaps a specialty craft
drink. $9! How can you go wrong?
(INSIDER TIP – Razon has nightly specials during the week – so you can get some discounted prices weeknights, as opposed to weekend)We each decided on a martini named
after nearby streets. Mine was the “Montrose,’ made with Grey Goose
l’orange. fresh cut ginger, some cranberry juice and house sour mix. It
was amazing. Looked and tasted like a $15 cocktail I have had at other
Derrick had the “Razon.” Grey Goose Citron with fresh basil, house sour
and soda. Perfection. They were honestly a couple of the best drinks we
have ever had. And we like to drink!
Homemade gourmet food from local ingredients, made for what the owner
calls a “casual-to-upscale” dining room, and a coffee shop with
grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, and bistro boxes for the Lake Shore
Drive foot traffic.
For dinner, the staff suggested many great things and we tasted lots.
The menu is big, filled with salads, lots of small plates, several
burgers as well as steaks, lots of pastas which you can also have made
with their amazing creamy polenta, at least half a dozen pizzas and
some large plates. So there is something for everyone.
Nash explained he gets deliveries daily. “Fresh, fresh, fresh!” he
explains, “As a family and as a company in the food business for over 30
years, we have developed many relationships with suppliers who take of
us, with the finest selections of seafood and meats. We are constantly
getting deliveries and picking things up, so that we can deliver the
freshest quality to our customers. We print new menus about every two
days because little things are always changing based on what is coming
and going, what is fresh and what is seasonal.”
And he does not lie. The calamari was melt in your mouth, served with a
nice, not too hot, smoked jalapeno aioli. The brisket sandwich was huge
and also tasted great. “Our brisket is slow cooked in its own natural
juices. No BBQ sauce added. It is not rushed. We do it old school-slow!”
We sampled a cheese platter with 3 different cheeses, some bread and
berries. It was a beautiful presentation and only $15. “This is another
great example of how we buy. We try to support as many local businesses
as we can. Most of the cheeses come from Pastoral. We source as many
local ingredients as we can.”
The polenta was whipped and fluffy! The salmon was fresh and cooked
perfectly. We wanted a pizza, but we had no room! Next time! The 2 guys
next to us had the Prosciutto di Parma pizza, with prosciutto, 5 cheeses
and arugula. They said it was delicious–the prosciutto especially!
And they come here all the time.
We did try a few desserts however. The cafe has a wonderful selection of
gelatos. We tried a couple of those and their Tiramisu, which Nash says
is one of the best in Chicago! And I have to agree, it was pretty
It’s very easy for 2 diners to have a couple drinks, share 2-3 small
plates, split a large plate, and get out for under $75. With tip.
Another diner told us, “If you’re looking for an upscale date night in
Uptown, this is the place to go. It’s downtown chic at much more
reasonable prices. Tip included, we pay about $80 for an appetizer, two
drinks and two large entrées — we even usually have some to take
home.” And during the weeknights, they offer various specials.
Another diner we talked to said, “This restaurant is the best kept
secret! I live right around the corner from the restaurant, and walked
by it everyday. I finally decided to come in about 4 months ago, and boy
am I glad. They have an excellent menu , and great food. They have
everything you need in this restaurant from a great place to have dinner
with friends at night, to a little cafe to get your work done during
the day, and gelato!!!! The customer service is easily the best service I
have received in years. I haven’t come across
a place like this in a while. I just love it!”
You will find the staff her very passionate about the restaurant and the
food! Items are thoroughly explained, right down to where the meat,
chicken and fish are from.
It’s one of those places that makes you feel cool from knowing it, and
even more hip when you can recommend it to your friends. I just don’t
want EVERYONE to know about it. Is that selfish of me??
RAZON…giving people more than they expect!
4250 N. Marine Dr 773-880-9115
Great news for Uptown/Andersonville!
Winston’s closed, it was remodeled and rehabbed. Rumors had it that Chipotle would be going in, but that didn’t happen, and Uptown Update posted back in November that Pie Hole was a possible new tenant.
Pie Hole Pizza will be opening its SECOND delicious location and have chosen Uptown, at 5001 N Clark Street, at Argyle. Projected opening date is sometime in April. Possibly April 1, April Fools Day. “We’re shooting for April 1,” Brandt said in another post. “If we miss, we can always claim ‘April Fools!'” says Brandt.
The Uptown expansion is a dream come true for the local small
business owner, who said when he saw the vacant storefront last year he
envisioned “bright neon signs” in his mind that told him it would be a
great spot for his second location.
Brandt said Pie Hole, which offers an an eclectic variety of custom
pizzas with crazy combinations such as marshmallow and sausage, has
always had an “underground, anti-establishment and irreverent vibe.”
“The fact that it is not in the most commercial location is actually a plus for us,” he said.
The new address is in a residential area, but it sits on bustling
North Clark Street at West Argyle Avenue, at “the end of the
Andersonville retail strip that is progressively growing a little
farther and farther south,” Brandt said.
“So, it has a lot of potential in the future.”
We are very excited about Pie Hole coming to Uptown/Andersonville and can’t wait to
dig into our first custom slice.
Chicago Pizza Fest
|Date:||Sat/Sun, June 16-17|
|Time:||Saturday & Sunday: Noon to 10pm Daily|
|Location:||Wilson & Broadway | Chicago|
The Windy City’s love affair with pizza will
again be the main entrée at Chicago’s 3rd annual Pizza Fest which–after
a three-year hiatus–returns to a new location.(The first two fests, in
2007 and 2008, were held in the DePaul neighborhood.)
In addition to thin, thick and gourmet pizza sold by the slice (or whole
pies), Chicago Pizza Fest also features plenty of music including
legendary Los Angeles New Wave/synthpop band Berlin with original lead
singer Terri Nunn, North Carolina folk rockers Delta Rae, and hip hop
tribute act Too White Crew. In addition to food and music, the fest will
also feature arts & craft vendors plus an opportunity for visitors
to vote for their favorite slice.
more details online and entertainment line up
I LOVE Buca di Beppo – it is the perfect dinner spot for 2 or 10 people.
Fabulous Italian fare with share plates.
And personally, I am not into all that Thanksgiving cooking! So what better place to go on Thanksgiving?!
$40 feeds up to three people with turkey, sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and cranberry sauce. $70 will feed a group up to six people. – And if you don’t want to eat at the restaurant and don’t want to cook – they offer extra large party pans to go. $200 can feed up to 20 people, your house will smell good and you can have leftovers. WHY COOK?
Downtown Chicago521 North Rush Street
Chicago, IL 60611
- Phone: 312.396.0001
- (They are open Christmas too!)
Just a few blocks from Boystown and Andersonville, is Anna Marie Pasteria– a little hidden gem with great Italian food and consistently voted best tiramisu in the city of Chicago! Service is always great and the food is always great in this quaint little spot ran by 2 sisters.
A mix of modern and traditional Italian cuisine, the cozy ristorante has long been a local favorite. Sisters Anna and Maria, originally from the Basilicata region of southern Italy, first opened the doors of Anna Maria Pasteria in 1989.
Beginning at age seven, Anna fell in love with cooking, creating her first plate of Pasta e Fagioli, a simple peasant dish which is now an Italian specialty. Enamored with cuisine and hospitality, Maria followed the family tradition and put her heart into making the best and most heavenly Tiramisu.
After nearly two decades, Anna and Maria continue to dedicate themselves to the finest home-made Italian cuisine and service.
Each entree is prepared to order with only the finest and freshest ingredients.
I have sampled many of their dishes from Chicken with Artichokes (Pollo Carciofo), traditional Veal Picatta, to special pasta dishes made with creamy pesto sauces!
Everything has a delicious taste! And the Ceasar salad dressing was excellent. – And you must save room for the Chicago famous Tiramisu! Voted the best in the city! Perfectlt proportioned amounts of expresso, lady fingers and marscapone cheese.
Entres $10- $19
Salads $5 – $7
4400 N. Clark St. @ Montrose, Chicago Tel: (773) 506-2662
Awarded our 5 CROWNS!
Best of the Best Dining in Chicago
While the Midwest is a far cry from the Italian region widely recognized for inventing pizza, that doesn’t mean Chicagoans can’t turn out a respectable Neapolitan-style pie. To do so, a pizzeria should use only flour, yeast, salt and water for the dough and dress its classic Margherita version with only tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil. Most are cooked in superhot (and superexpensive) wood-burning ovens, but as you’ll see below, that’s not always the case. These top four would do any real pizzaiola proud.
1. Coal Fire Pizza
Why is this pizza the best? Because, after repeated visits, we were unable to find faults. The crust has that signature Neapolitan chew we were looking for, but somehow manages to pull off a touch of crispness as well. The sauce is bright, slightly seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano, then spread on in perfect proportion, making for a pizza that’s not too saucy and not too dry. And just like the bubbled peaks of the pizza’s edge, a few spots of the fresh mozz get browned in the coal-fueled oven, while the rest melts into luscious white pools under fresh basil leaves. Bottom line: This is one hell of a pizza. In fact, it gets our vote for best overall pizza in Chicago. 1321 W Grand Ave, 312-226-2625. Average medium one-topping pizza: $13.
2. Spacca Napoli
We give these guys credit for kick-starting the Neapolitan craze in Chicago (true, Pizza D.O.C. was here first, but Spacca makes a better pie) when they opened in February 2006. And we give them even more credit for consistency-the Margherita we had here a week ago was just as good as the one we devoured the first week Spacca was in business. Nicely salted dough made from Caputo “00″ flour (the finest Italian flour, which has a talcum powder-like consistency) is topped with the unseasoned, crushed San Marzano tomatoes typical of Neapolitan pizzas, huge basil leaves and a generous drizzle of a fantastic extra-virgin olive oil. Perhaps its only fault is its slightly wet center, a quality that certain pizza fiends search for but we find distracting. 1769 W Sunnyside Ave, 773-878-2420. Average pizza: $12.
3. Sapore di Napoli
Surprisingly, one of the best Neapolitan pizzas in the city comes from an electric oven. Somehow, chef-owner Alec Yannoulis is able to coax just as much power out of his oven as the wood-and-coal guys, but it’s really the sauce that does it for us. The San Marzano-style tomatoes that come from an Italian-owned family farm in California make for a slightly sweet, acidic sauce. This might seem like a small detail, but add this sauce to fresh buffalo mozz and a salty, chewy crust, and you have an unforgettable pie. 1406 W Belmont Ave, 773-935-1212. Average pizza: $12.
All the charming extras aside-the ever-present owner Bruno, the sceney crowd, the runway-ready clothes draped over dress forms-this upscale Italian spot turns out a respectable pizza. The edges are a touch thin for our taste and the shredded cheese sprinkled on top of the fresh mozz makes for a dairy overload, but the sauce (and the consistently well-cooked crust) saves the day. 953 W Fulton Ave, 312-243-2888. Average pizza: $14.5 MacelloThis newcomer has a few kinks to work out (a near-perfect Margherita one day was followed by one with burned edges the next), but it’s turning out some awfully tasty pizzas only a month out of the gate. We like the slightly salty sauce and the fat pillows of imported fresh mozz, so we’re hopeful once pizzaiola Gino Losacco masters his new oven, this pizza will only get better. 1235 W Lake St, 312-850-9870. Average pizza: $13.
•Courtesy: Time Out Chicago
A “pizza wine”
is shop talk for easy-sipping plonk of no particular distinction. It’s relatively cheap, tastes good and works well with casual foods and informal settings. It’s a wine “you wouldn’t feel guilty opening on a Tuesday night,” said Mike Baker, manager of Wine Discount Center in Chicago.Wine for pizza can be deliciously different.
Though it should be affordable enough to down a glass while sprawled on the couch, the wine also should be something to remember even after stuffing the pizza box into the garbage can. Choosing such a wine can take some thought, but that’s probably appropriate given the food you’re pairing it with is pizza.
“This is Chicago, after all; we take our pizza seriously,” said Ray Denton, wine manager at Binny’s Ivanhoe Castle in Chicago.
Pairing wine with Chicago-style deep-dish pizza can be a challenge. Consider the tomato sauce, gutsy toppings, the high collar of crust and a thick blanket of cheese.
Perhaps that is why Todd Hess, wine director for Sam’s Wines & Spirits in Chicago, said he would drink beer with pizza, specifically “an ice cold Pilsner Urquell” from the Czech Republic.
“The tomato is the difficult thing,” he said. “The tomato sauce has a lot of acidity and sugar, which is why beer works so well. A wine has to have reasonably low acidity and lots of fruit. It also has to be heard over the milky proteins of the cheese.”
When asked to name wines that go well with pizza, a number of Chicago-area wine merchants didn’t blink or cock an eyebrow in derision. Indeed, they treated the question as though weighing which wine would work best with foie gras.
A wine from Italy came to mind first for most. Perhaps the adage “Italian wine for Italian foods” was at work here. But the merchants diverged on specific recommendations.
For example, Mike Maracich, co-owner of The Twisted Vine in Orland Park, suggested a “nice light Chianti” that would help cut the tomato sauce.
Hess said a Chianti is “not bad,” but worried the Tuscan wine’s “acidity tends to be made more shrill by the tomato sauce.” For him, reds from the southern Italian region of Apulia, the “heel” of Italy’s boot, work better. They are “ripe, spicy, fruity and delicious,” he said.
Other Italians to consider include inexpensive barberas, rosso di Montalcino from southern Tuscany or a dolcetto d’Alba from Italy’s Piedmont region.
Brenda Fotopoulos, co-owner of Randolph Wine Cellars in Chicago, touts a Sicilian wine, Val Cerasa Etna Rosso, because the “earthier tones” work well with sausage, mushrooms and other toppings.
Outside of Italy, wine merchants point to hearty, assertive reds, including shiraz from Australia and California zinfandel.
“A zinfandel would be my first choice,” Denton said. “Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull is a terrific value. It’s not super big, but it’s got some fruit and some pepper and some spice.”
Non-traditional pizzas – “white” pies or those with unusual toppings – can call for more unusual choices. Champagnes work well off the salty spark of white pies, Denton said. Baker recommends an Alsatian pinot gris with a veggie pizza or an Austrian gruner veltliner with an artichoke or asparagus pizza. An Italian chardonnay “not quite as buttery or oaky” as a Californian chard works for Maracich of The Twisted Vine. Or, choose an Italian Gavi, a white wine made with the cortese grape, he said.
How much to pay for wine with pizza? Baker suggests looking for bargains in lesser-known wine regions of Italy.
“The further south you go, the more money you save,” he said.
Denton follows a simple rule: “You shouldn’t pay more than what the pizza costs. So, if you’re eating a Tombstone (brand of frozen pizza) you’re looking at $10 or under.”
The top five wines
We conducted an informal tasting of nine wines recommended by area wine merchants for drinking with pizza. Our “palate cleansers” were two deep-dish pies, one sausage and one spinach, from Bella Bacino’s in Chicago. Some of the wines seemed to pair more naturally with the pizza than others.
Ratings key: excellent, very good, good, fair
2001 Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull Zinfandel ($7). With its fruit backed up by some tannic muscle, this sassy California wine was our favorite. And the cheapest. Though robust, the fruity zin worked well with the pizza’s sauce and the cheese. Very good.
1999 Manzone Dolcetto d’Alba La Serra ($6). Bright, with almost cherry-like aroma (reminding us of cough syrup), this import from Italy’s Piedmont region offered an intensity and a fruity acidity that held up well. Very good.
2001 Falesco Vitiano ($9). Sometimes, it’s the little things that count. With this wine it was the tiniest spark of acid that seemed to work so well with the salt in the pizza. This Umbrian blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes was dry but with a nice hit of fruit. Good.
2001 Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($13). This wine from Italy’s Abruzzo region matched the pizza well, perhaps too well. One taster felt the wine “disappeared” behind the fennel of the sausage, while another complained of a bland flavor. Good.
1999 Val Cerasa Etna Rosso ($10). A smoldering Mt. Etna adorns the label of this Sicilian red, whose fiery color in the glass was more vivid than any of the others. Too bad the flavor didn’t have a personality to match. Tasters liked this wine for its balance of fruit and tannin, they just wanted more pizazz. Good.
2001 Torre Quarto Puglia Rosso ($10). Tannins are astringent elements in the wine that can, when judiciously exercised, whip a wine into shape. For some tasters, this southern Italian offered a good flavor for pairing with pizza, but others found the wine’s astringency to be distracting. Good.
2002 Fattoria Laila Rosso Piceno ($12). A blend of montepulciano and sangiovese grapes, this wine from Italy’s Marche region shows a bit too much restraint, although one taster said it was “perfect” with the spinach pizza. Another thought the fruit-forward wine held up well to the sausage. Good.
Courtesy: Arizona Republic
I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.
– – – H. L. Mencken
Although the city is as American as deep dish pizza and hotdogs, Chicago is truly a city of neighborhoods that reflect heritage and ethnic diversity. Similar to major cities such as Boston, New York and San Francisco – people of all cultures originally settled in the Windy City. As immigration continued, each culture brought their traditions and cuisine with them – from Asian to Indian, Italian to Mexican – Chicago is considered a great place to sample original, authentic food. Some of the local restaurants previewed here go back to the 1920’s – immigrating families brought the recipes, and have passed on their famous places to their children and grandchildren.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
In the late 1800s, Greeks began immigrating to this small section South of Chicago’s Loop. Today, what remains is a number of high quality restaurants that keep this area thriving. Greektown – located at Halsted Street between Van Buren and Washington is definitely a place to experience in Chicago. Sprinkled along Halsted, there’s a cluster of Greek eateries all snuggled together. Although menus and ambience are all similar, it’s fun to stop by one place, say Greek Islands, 200 S. Halsted St.., 312/782-9855 for a drink and some saganaki (followed by the traditional OM PA!)
Just move on down the block for dinner; there are more than a few places to choose: Santorini, 800 W. Adams St., 312-829-8820); Parthenon, 314 S. Halsted St., 312-726-2407 and Costas, 340 S. Halsted St., 312-263-0767, are all good bets for gyros, Greek salads, shish kabobs, and the classic moussaka.
End the evening at Nine Muses, 315 S. Halsted St. 312-902-9922 with a game of backgammon and drinks. At 10 pm., the dancing begins! An added bonus at Nine Muses is that you can pop in for kabobs or a snack until 1 am.
The heart of this neighborhood is a stretch of Taylor Street known for traditional, hearty Italian restaurants. One of the “anchor” favorites is Francesca’s on Taylor, 1400 W. Taylor St., 312-829-2828. .Although Francesca’s is part of a local chain that also includes Mia Francesca. – there is nothing “chain” about this food. Trattoria ambience and rustic cooking is the mainstay of Francesca’s. Appetizers include standards such as Bruschette and Carpaccio – served with a combination of added ingredients such as marinated mushrooms, artichokes and sweet provolone that enrich the flavors of these mainstays. There is a full offering of pastas that include Penne alla Paesana – sautéed with Italian sausage, wild mushrooms, and peas in a tomato cream sauce. A non- pasta favorite is Salmon alla Fresca – grilled with tomato, avocado, red onion and olive oil, basil and lemon over a bed of asparagus.
The second “swear by” place clinging to the tradition of filling one’s belly is Rosebud on Taylor, 1500 W. Taylor St. 312-942-1117. The old stand bys are very popular here – Fettuccine Alfredo and Lasagna. You’ll never be disappointed in the Pasta Fagioli, or any pasta dressed with their vodka sauce. Rosebud has also added a location near the Magnificent Mile at 720 N. Rush St. 312-266-6444.
Tucked away in Little Italy is Bruna’s Ristorante 2424 S. Oakley Ave. 773-254-5550, serving authentic Italian food since 1933. This cozy eatery, owned by Tuscan born Luciano Silvestri, is known for signature dishes such as eggplant parmigana and spaghetti carbanara. Bruna’s has an outstanding family house wine, and locally is considered a great place to have a romantic dinner for two.
Although not located in the City, if you are willing to travel suburban Glenview, a favorite is Café Lucci, 609 Milwaukee Ave., 847-729-2268. Owner and wine master Bobby Arnfi selections have won Café Lucci the prestigious Wine Spectator award of excellence – every year since 2002. In addition to incredible wines, Chef Augie Arnfi serves up fresh fish, chicken, veal and pasta specials daily. The sautéed mussels in wine and garlic, veal chop with fungi mushroom sauce, and Portobello mushroom soup are personal favorites. New menu items include Costolette d’Agnello Rosamaria, a half rack of roasted Silverton Ridge lamb in a Cognac rosemary sauce, and Linguini con Aragosta Fra Diavolo — two 6-oz. Brazilian lobster tails sautéed in a spicy tomato sauce served over linguini. The preparation of their Chilean Sea Bass – when available – should never be passed up.
GERMAN FARE IN LINCOLN SQUARE
The commercial heart of Lincoln Square is located at Lawrence, Western and Lincoln Avenues in Chicago. This quaint, old world neighborhood has a charm all its own. Lincoln Square is home to a number of German businesses, notably the Chicago Brauhaus and Lutz Continental Café. Lutz is a popular destination for traditional German pastries.
If you hit the season right, enjoy the annual Oktoberfest celebration held in Lincoln Square. Festivities include a colorful parade and the ability to listen to a variety of German music while watching people and their beer spill out into the street.
For a daily dose of libations, turn to Huettenbar, 4721 N. Lincoln Ave.
773-561-2507 which serves 10 varieties of German beer, and still has a “stampstich” – the traditional large booth where old Germans gather in the front of the bar.
At the Chicago Brauhaus, located at 4732 N Lincoln Ave., 773-784-4444 proprietor’s Harry and Guenter Kempf have been serving up herring, hackepeter, sauerkraut and schnitzel for over 40 years. If you love the music, they’ll sell you singer Gody’s CD to take home as a sticky memory. The Brauhaus is a great place to go with a big group – enjoy a year round celebration of Oktoberfest!
Chicago’s Chinatown is south of the Loop and concentrated along Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue. There are many sights to explore in Chinatown, and Chicago’s is certainly as authentic as San Francisco’s but on a slightly smaller scale. If you are there just to eat, sometimes ordering and language barriers still exist – so pointing to what you want on the menu for any restaurant in Chinatown can be a good idea!
A tradition since 1927, Won Kow, 2237 S. Wentworth Ave. 312-842-7500 is the oldest continually operating restaurant in Chinatown. Won Kow also has a full bar – noted because most of Chinatown’s restaurants are BYOB. The calling card for Won Kow is dim sum and very reasonable prices. The menu contains of over 100 items, which makes it difficult to make a decision. Won Kow also has a special menu section for those who love their food spicy! The customer can order up their spice in degrees. Other house specialties include Mongolian chicken and duck with seafood.
The China Café 2300 S Wentworth Ave, 312-808-0202 is not a destination for décor – it displays simple plastic tablecloths and only embraces 20 tables. However, this is considered a classic Chinese restaurant in every sense: affordable, fast service, and features a variety of fresh seafood.
BEST OF THE BEST MEXICAN
Chicago is home to Rick Bayless – the famous chef known for his love of authentic Mexican dishes. Bayless has published several successful cookbooks and has his own show on PBS. One of the chef’s unique traditions is to close down his restaurants for two weeks each year. He fly’s the staff to the nooks and crannies of Mexico to immerse everyone in the local food and cooking methods. His restaurants – Topolabamba and Frontera Grill (both are located at 445 North Clark Street 312-661-1434), are well known as a destination for many tourists and business people landing in Chicago and seeking high end Mexican cuisine.
A lesser known place that’s excellent for upscale Mexican dining is Salpicon 1252 N. Wells, 312-988-7811. Mexico City born chef/proprietor Priscilla Satkoff fills the menu with authentic flavors that were originally inspired by her grandmother. The balance of flavorful dishes with one of the best fine dining wine lists alone would make this a good choice. The decision becomes easier for any connoisseur of Tequila. Salpicon has one of the largest collections of tequila and offers tasting flights ¾ oz of 4 tequilas (Blanco’s, Reposados and Anegos, for example.)
Pancho Pistolas, 700 W 31st St 312-225-8808 is located in the heart of Chicago’s historic Bridgeport neighborhood – very close to U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox. If you are willing to venture outside of the Loop for great Mexican food, consider the short trip. Pancho Pistolas is famous for their skirt steak carne asada, vegetarian burritos, and they definitely pour a good margarita! In the summer, the Garcia brothers open the patio so you can sip the tangy concoctions outside.
ASIAN AND THAI
Arun’s 4156 N Kedzie Ave. 773-539-1909 is the city’s gourmet interpreter of Thai cuisine. For a fixed price, try their unique Chef Design Menu – which features a 12 course offering, Arun’s also allows their patrons to “dial up the heat” on any dish. The service is excellent and the wait staff takes special care to be aware of any food allergies. The portions are elegantly presented, but small. This is a fine dining establishment and the prices reflect that…
Red Light, 820 W Randolph St. 312-733-8880, is the creation of Chef Jackie Shen. The fusion offerings incorporate Asian, Chinese and French ingredients and cooking methods. Located in the trendy market district, consider their $70, 6-8 course chef tasting menu that allows patrons to sample a variety of dishes. Recommendations include the spring rolls, Black Tie Sesame Shrimp, Shogun Hanger Steak as an entrée and anything on the desert menu (as they have an outstanding pastry chef – Susana Castillo at the helm). If offered, try the coconut-banana cream pie. The heavenly accompaniment is a dollop of coconut sorbet.
If visual and avant-garde are your passion, try Moto Restaurant at 945 W. Fulton Market 312-491-0058. Famous executive chef Homaro Cantu (formerly of Charlie Trotter’s) is a master of science and a magician in designing experiments in food chemistry. Cantu’s multi-course menu changes daily. He has appeared on TV Food Network’s Iron Chef – mesmerizing viewers with a variety of invented gadgets and unusual cooking approaches. Don’t be surprised if you are presented with an edible menu when dining at Moto. Extreme science is Cantu’s culinary platform – so eating at Moto is truly experiential.
MORE TO EXPLORE
A La Turka, located at 3134 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-935-6101, is one of the best places in the city to explore Turkish fare. As an appetizer course, they offer a variety of Mediterranean delights from eggplant to hummus. Their lamb shank dinner entrée is moist and flavorful. Dinner experiences can also include a visit to their hooka bar or a belly dancing session. These are professional belly dancers, but feel free to stand up and work off dinner.
For some of the best Swedish morsels Chicago has to offer, try Ann Sather, 929 W. Belmont Ave.773-348.2378. Owner Tom Tunney bought the restaurant at age 21 from Ann Sather. In addition to managing this business, Tom is also the Alderman of the 44th Ward, where Ann Sather’s resides. The classic breakfast menu includes Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberries, Swedish waffles, and their famous cinnamon rolls. Ann Sather is only open for breakfast and lunch.
For a taste of India, consider Klay Oven, 414 N Orleans St, 312-527-3999. It’s a surprise to be able to enjoy authentic Indian cuisine in the heart of Chicago’s River North district. Owner Prem Khosla serves up vegetarian delights such as Vegetable Biryani (Basmati rice pilaf with sautéed vegetables, cloves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, fresh coriander.) Their Tandori Grill includes dishes such as Chooza Kabab, boneless chicken cubes marinated in yogurt, fresh lemon, crushed black pepper laced with saffron threads. Klay Oven is authentic and dishes are created with passion.
There are many more opportunities to explore Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods and restaurants. Each of the neighborhoods mentioned have many more little cafes, bistros, diners, and breakfast places to discover. One of the best feelings is to find a gem, that serves food with care and little fanfare – that can become one of your “favorite” places to dine in Chicago.
It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago-she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.
– – – Mark Twain “Life On The Mississippi,” 1883
Lets face it – You could write a whole blog about PIZZA!
Ask 100 people is Chicago what their favorite pizza is and you would probably get 100 different answers!
First, a brief history;
Chicago-style pizza is a very specific variety of pizza. Pizza is traditionally considered to be a type of hearth cake such as focaccia. The Chicago-style pizza shares more in common with a casserole, such as lasagna. True Chicago-style pizza, a unique deep dish variety, features a buttery crust-cheese -chunky tomato sauce construction. While stuffed, pan and thin-crust style pizzas are also served in Chicagoland, it is for the deep-dish style that Chicago pizza is most famous.
The Chicago-style “deep-dish” pizza was invented at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago in 1943, reportedly by Uno’s founder Ike Sewell. The pizza begins with a simple, thin layer of dough (made with olive oil and often dusted with cornmeal) that’s laid into a deep round pan and pulled up the sides, then pan-baked before the toppings are added to give it greater spring. The crust is lined with meats and/or vegetables such as Italian sausage (a Chicago staple), onions and peppers, either under or mixed with mozzarella cheese. On the usual pizza, about a pound of cheese is used. Then a layer of seasoned crushed tomatoes goes on top and the pizza is baked to completion.
Rocco Palese, who founded Nancy’s in 1974, generally gets the credit for Stuffed pizza. He based his creation on his mother’s recipe for scarciedda, an Italian Easter pie. Other pizzarias that make stuffed pizzas include Edwardo’s and Giordano’s. Stuffed pizzas are often even taller than deep-dish pizzas, but otherwise, it can be hard to see the difference until you cut into it. A stuffed pizza generally has much higher topping density than any other type of pizza. As with deep-dish pizza, a thin layer of dough forms a bowl in a high-sided pan and the toppings and cheese are added. Then, an additional layer of dough goes on top and is pressed to the sides of the bottom crust.
PAN PIZZA in Chicago is similar to the deep-dish style, and baked in a similar deep-sided pan, but its crust is quite thick — a cross between the buttery crisp crust and foccacia. Toppings sometimes go on top, as with thin-crust pizza, rather than under the sauce.
Now, as for who has the best? We looked at serveral polls taken over the last 2 years. These were the popular choices that the public voted on, in no particular order:
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria – 439 N Wells St, Chicago
Whether you crave deep dish or thin crust, this comfortable, casual pizza joint serves up some of the best in town.
Giordano’s – 730 N Rush St, Chicago
Local favorite serves up stuffed and thin-crust pizzas within a stone’s throw of the Mag Mile.
Gino’s East – 633 N Wells St, Chicago
Graffiti-covered walls and to-die-for deep dish draw crowds of families and tourists to this classic pizzeria.
Pizzeria Uno – 29 E Ohio St, Chicago
Traditional deep-dish pizza is worth the wait.
Bricks Chicago 1909 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago/Lincoln Park
Gourmet pizzas are the order of the day at Bricks. This pizzeria has a host of pizzas sporting interesting names. Try the “Painful.”
Edwardo’s Natural Pizza – 1321 E 57th St, Chicago/ Hyde Park
this edition of the popular pizza chain is highly regarded for its gourmet pizza pies, stuffed pizzas, and calzones.
Spacca Napoli – 1769 W. Sunnyside, Chicago / Uptown
This spacious Neapolitan-style pizzeria is just what Chicago needs: A place where you can stroll in, order up a glass of vino, and in less than 10 minutes be presented with a bubbling, slightly charred, basil-infused pizza straight out of a wood-burning oven. Ahhh, Italy.
TELL US YOUR FAVORITE!
Best Food and Wine Chicago