Continuing Adventures of Pizza

Standing on the shoulders of Ravenswood’s Spacca Napoli and countless others—oh, and 119 years of history—Andersonville’s new Antica Pizzeria (5663 N. Clark St.; 773-944-1492) has joined the Neapolitan pizza uprising. Mario Rapisarda, the chef-partner (his partner is Faris Faycurry who also has a stake in Dylan’s Tavern and Grill), is a Sicily native and a veteran of Spiaggia, so we’re guessing he knows from Italian food. “It’s a very small, simple menu, because Mario is all about quality control,” said a manager. “Everything is made fresh daily, and they shop for ingredients every day.” The no-nonsense double storefront offeres fresh salads, pastas, gelati, and, of course, Neapolitan-style pizza from a wood-burning oven. A trusted FOD visited the place with her family and declared the Margherita pizza “every bit as good as the ones I had while honeymooning on the Amalfi Coast years ago.” And the kids went wild: several tykes stood on chairs, elbows on the high counter, to watch the pizzas being made.

Two More Sips

Tanya Hart, owner of A Taste of Vino Wine Shop and Wine Bar in Hinsdale, recently opened a second A Taste of Vino (821 W. Burlington Rd., Western Springs; 708-246-8668), and will unveil her third wine bar next week in Clarendon Hills. The one in Western Springs, which features a bar made of 12-foot French oak barrels, doubles as a bistro, “but instead of coq au vin and escargots,” Hart says, “we do stuff our way.” Monica Riley (Marigold, Hopleaf) crafts dishes such as a 24-hour brined wood-burning rotisserie chicken; a seafood stew brimming with shrimp, calamari, mussels, and monkfish in a tomato-and-fennel broth; and “a burger that beats all others.” It’s ground beef mixed with shallots, parsley, salt, and pepper, char-grilled and topped with either blue cheese or Cheddar, caramelized onions, and oven-roasted tomatoes, and served on a pretzel roll. All wine is sold at retail—plus $12 corkage if you want to drink it in the restaurant, which is still a good deal.


“The man for me is the cherry on the pie. But I’m the pie and my pie is good all by itself. Even if I don’t have a cherry.” –Halle Berry (b. 1966), American actress

As You Were

Hema’s Kitchen (2439 W. Devon Ave.; 773-338-1627), after a month at its new address, has settled nicely into the larger space. “On weekends, we have lines waiting outside,” says Hema Potla, the motherly chef/owner of the popular Indian spot.  “The city made us close the old one [a few blocks away at 6406 N. Oakley St.], but now I’ve got two tandoors and a fryer and I’m doing all kinds of different naan, and kebabs and shrimp on the sizzler. This restaurant is like my own child. I made it from scratch exactly the way I wanted it. But for some reason, everyone is talking about the bathrooms. They love the bathrooms.”

Grumpiest Restaurateur of the Week

When we called Taami Restaurant (2931 W. Touhy Ave.; 773-465-6600), West Rogers Park’s newest kosher restaurant, a woman named Connie, who may or may not be the owner, ripped our heads off. Who hangs up on our sweet intern? Yo, Connie: That ain’t kosher.

Now, Do Something About That Name

We’ve always had high hopes for the 85-seat restaurant in the Conrad Hotel (521 N. Rush St.; 312-377-0979), seeing as how the space once housed Cerise, an eternally underrated spot. Now that the hotel’s renovations are finally done, the restaurant, for the past two years mysteriously called The Restaurant at Conrad, just unveiled a completely new menu this past week. “It will focus on American cuisine and its diversity, including some Midwestern influences,” says Christine Smith, the Conrad’s publicist. Baasim Zafar, the Cordon Bleu–trained chef, promises dishes such as duck risotto with truffle essence and dried Michigan cherries, and butter-poached Maine lobster with pan-seared sea scallop in curry broth. Sounds like it’s got potential.

Crazy College Kids

A new place in Champaign, Fat Sandwich Co. (502 E. John St.; 217-328-5035) offers a $25, four-and-a-half-pound beast called the “Big Fat Ugly.” That’s two rolls, four cheeseburgers, a double cheesesteak, chicken cheesesteak, gyro meat, grilled chicken, bacon, sausage, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, chicken nuggets, mac ‘n cheese bites, fried mushrooms, jalapeño poppers, pizza bites, onion rings, french fries, hash browns, American cheese, mayo, and ketchup. Eat it in 15 minutes and it’s free, and so is a t-shirt. Hell, eat it in 15 days and we’re impressed.

Things to Do

  1. If you’ve always wanted to try the famous stone crab at Joe’s (60 E. Grand Ave.; 312-379-5637) but never wanted to lay out the steep money, go for “Joe’s Classic Lunch,” which includes five medium stone crab claws, cole slaw, hash browns, and a slice of Key lime pie for $22. (All this would normally cost $36).
  2. Peruse’s latest Great Neighborhood Restaurants list: a painstakingly amassed roster that carries ever more gravitas each year. “We always hoped it would become a great resource for adventurous eaters in Chicago,” says David Dickson of LTH. “And now it has.”
  3. Learn how to make a surreal dream-omelet that “goes great with a glass of Tide, which reminds you to do your laundry."

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Rohini Dey, the owner of River North’s Vermilion (10 W. Hubbard St.; 312-527-4060) plans to open At Vermilion, a similar Indian-Latino restaurant, in midtown Manhattan later this month. . . . The Chew Chew Cafe, a contemporary American favorite in west suburban Riverside that closed last year, plans to reopen in December as The Chew Chew in a 100-seat space two blocks away at 33 East Burlington Avenue. . . . A second RockStar Dogs (350 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-975-1364) location has opened; this one is strategically placed within a beer’s toss of a bunch of Lincoln Park watering holes, and has a Fender amp into which guests can plug their guitars and play. Sounds delightful. . . . Restaurant Sarajevo (2701 W. Lawrence Ave.; 773-275-5310), a ten-year-old BYO near Albany Park, makes its own bread and sausages. “We try to make it as close as the food in Southeastern Europe as possible,” says Enes Hubjer, the owner. . . . A new Ruth’s Chris Steak House is slotted to open November 10th in The Arboretum of South Barrington (100 W. Higgins Rd.; 847-551-3730). . . . According to a press release from Alhambra Palace (1240 W. Randolph St.; 312-666-9555), Kher Albourini, the latest executive chef, “is sitting idly by in his kitchen waiting to be reviewed.” Keep up the hard work, Kher.