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Looking for best examples of Italian pasta, pizza, innovative sandwiches and salads

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I have a culinary consulting company, and we're planning to tour some of our clients around Chicago for 2 days checking out the best examples of Pasta dishes, particularly Baked pastas, but anything interesting is good. Pizza, thin crust preferable, but anything good is appreciated, and sandwiches served on interesting bread or in new portable forms.
Thanks and feel free to email directly.

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  1. Well, it's hard to say that *anything* is the best in Chicago without starting an argument! ;) However, at least at the high end of the dining spectrum, I think most people would agree that the very best Italian restaurant in the city is Spiaggia, run by Chef Tony Mantuano, for the very best of everything. I don't know that a dressy haute cuisine fine dining restaurant would work with your itinerary. However, they also have a moderately-priced restaurant next door, Cafe Spiaggia, that is also open for lunch and which I consider as good as any mid-priced Italian restaurant in the city. www.spiaggiarestaurant.com

    For thin crust pizza, Italy has a certification process for restaurants serving the "Neopolitan" style pizza, and only about two dozen restaurants in the United States have been certified for the authenticity of the ingredients, ovens, cooking techniques, etc. One of them is Spacca Napoli here in Chicago. You can find information about the certification organization on the website of their American delegation at www.verapizzanapoletana.org We also have the more common "New York style" thin crust pizza commonly served throughout the United States.

    Of course, Chicago is the home of deep-dish pizza and prefers it over thin crust (as noted by a recent survey by the Chicago Tribune, at www.chicagotribune.com/features/chi-p... ). Our deep-dish places have two primary variations with a long history. One is the single-crust "pan" pizza which started at Uno here in 1943 and is served at Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, and Gino's East. The other is the double-crust "stuffed" pizza which started at Nancy's here in 1971 and in 1974 at Giordano's; both places developed their stuffed pizza based on recipes from their respective families in the Torino (Turin) area of Italy. Giordano's has 40 locations, and other places serving stuffed pizza include Edwardo's and Bacino's. Everyone here has his or her favorite pizza - mine is Giordano's - but it's all a matter of opinion and there is really no consensus, as a quick look at extended discussions like these will tell you:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/327474
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/319254