5 Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza Pies To Try Before You Die

The word pizza doesn’t always mean the same thing. Ask someone in Naples, New Haven, or New York City, and you’ll get three different answers. If you pose the question to a Chicagoan, they’ll invariably say deep dish. But what is deep dish? As the name implies, it’s a super thick pizza baked in a high-walled pan. Usually, the formidable crust is on the slightly crumbly side, but it’s still not okay to eat a slice with a fork and knife. This is pizza, people – use your hands [Ed. note: That means you, Mr. Kasich]! On top of the crust goes a gooey lagoon of mozzarella, followed by toppings, and a finishing layer of chunky style tomato sauce. Though there are plenty of pizza parlors around Chitown (and beyond), there aren’t many where you can make a reservation to ensure you get your dose of deep dish when you want it. In celebration of National Deep Dish Pizza Day, here are five Chicago-style deep dish pizza pies you need to try before you die.

Pizzeria Ora
A relative newcomer to the deep dish scene, this standout ‘za joint opened in 1996 in the River North neighborhood. Their monstrous pies are three-inches deep and packed to the brim with mozz, chunky sauce, and toppings. The aptly named Supreme is a standout, boasting pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. No matter where you order a deep dish pizza, it can take up to 45 minutes to bake, so bide your time by digging into appetite-suppressing apps, such as mozzarella sticks, aromatic garlic bread, and wings. Make a reservation at Pizzeria Ora.

Deep Dish Pizza

Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta
Owner Rudy Malnati Jr. has deep dish in his blood. His father, Rudy Malnati Sr., is considered in some circles as the creator of the original deep dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno (others claim it was the restaurant’s founder, Ike Sewell, who devised the recipe). No matter what, his son has raised the deep-dish tradition to new heights with his version of the crust, which tastes like a buttery pastry with well-caramelized edging. Mark’s Special is a deceptively simple creation featuring sweet slices of tomato, vibrant basil, and lots and lots of garlic, but it’s a memorable taste of the Windy City that will linger long after you’ve blown out of town. Make a reservation at Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta.

Deep Dish Pizza

Gino’s East
Not much has changed since this iconic pizzeria opened its doors in 1966. You can still scrawl your name or some graffiti on the walls while their hefty deep dish ‘zas are still baked in well-seasoned cast iron pans. They don’t do half measures here, so check your low-carb, gluten-free, paleo diet at the door. Classics include the Chicago Fire (spicy sausage, fire roasted red peppers, and red onions), Meaty Legend (bacon, Canadian bacon, sausage, and pepperoni), and the Jalapeño Blue (bacon, blue cheese, and sausage, plus jalapeños stuffed with bacon and blue cheese). Make a reservation at Gino’s East.

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April 2016 Restaurant Weeks: Celebrate Your City’s Dining Scene

Spring is the perfect time to get out and dine, and, bonus, there are restaurant weeks cropping up around the nation! Find out where you can save on your next meal.

April 2016 Restaurant Weeks

Dine out for Autism NYC is your chance to help change the face of autism all month long. A percentage of your bill will be donated to Autism Speaks when you dine at a participating restaurant in New York City through April 30. Make a reservation.

Newport Restaurant Week started April 1st, but it’s no joke! Dig into delightful $16 lunches + $35 dinners through April 10. Make a reservation.

Hamptons Restaurant Week heats up LI’s East End with $27.95 lunches + dinners, April 3-10. Make a reservation.

Talbot Restaurant Week rolls into Maryland’s Eastern Shore with two-course $20.16 lunches + three-course $33.16 dinners, April 3-9. Make a reservation.

Seattle Restaurant Week is sure to please Jet City foodies. Don’t miss two-course $15 lunches + three-course $30 dinners, April 10-21. Make a reservation.

Western New Yorks Local Restaurant Week is your opportunity support your favorite local spots in the WNY with $20.16, $30.16, and $40.16 lunches + dinners, April 11-17. Make a reservation.Continue Reading

Chef Sarah Grueneberg: The ‘Monteverde’ Behind Chicago’s Hottest Pasta Spot

Just when you think Chicago has enough Italian restaurants, along comes soulful Italian Monteverde, slinging some of the best handmade pastas the city’s seen in years, and you’re suddenly asking yourself how many portions per week of ragu alla napoletana is too many (answer: as many as your bank account will permit).

The creative force behind this four-month-old temple to pasta in Chicago’s West Loop is Spiaggia vet and Top Chef season nine runner-up chef Sarah Grueneberg. She caught up with OpenTable on transitioning from executive chef to her first solo venture, the beauty of pasta made to order, and the importance of creating a strong culture at work.

Chef Sarah Grueneberg

A native of Houston, Texas, Grueneberg has a fascination with food that started early. Because her mom traveled a lot for work, she’d spend her free time cooking chicken fried steak and making pickles with her grandmother or out fishing with her uncle before frying up the day’s catch for dinner. She was about 13 when she decided she wanted to be a chef. “For me, it was always about my family and bringing people together around the table over food, and also realizing that I could actually be a chef,” Grueneberg says. “I realized around that time that not everyone else liked to cook.”

She finished culinary school in 2001, landing her first job as garde manger at the Houston outpost of beloved New Orleans restaurant Brennan’s. There she cut her teeth on French-Creole classics like oyster stew and shrimp remoulade under then-chef Chris Shepherd (who now owns Houston contemporary American hotspot Underbelly). “Chris really took me under his wing; he had a huge impact on me,” she says. Within four years, she’d worked her way up to becoming the restaurant’s youngest (and first) female sous chef at age 22 before deciding it was time for a change.

Taking flight…

She took a job in Chicago as a line cook at Tony Mantuano’s fine-dining Italian institution Spiaggia. But the move from the intensely rich sauces of Texas Creole to the minimalist handling of seasonal and regional Italian ingredients, coupled with her own preconceived notions of Italian cuisine as the red sauce- and mozzarella-laden dishes of her childhood, proved challenging. “I thought I knew what Italian food was, but I really had no idea,” she admits. “It was a real struggle for me at first — the notion of finishing a simple dish with a bit of olive oil and lemon.”

After briefly considering leaving it all to become a flight attendant, Grueneberg let herself fall in love with Italian cuisine — the peppery, fruity flavor of great olive oil, the beauty of al dente pasta made to order, an affair cultivated by annual trips to Italy with the Spiaggia team. It was also during that time that she met longtime friend and future business partner, Meg Sahs.

Chef Sarah Grueneberg

By 2010, she was named Spiaggia’s executive chef. But the confidence she gained competing on Top Chef, on which she reached the finals, and increased conversations with Sahs about opening a restaurant together fueled a growing desire to strike out on her own, which she did in 2013. “Meg and I were having dinner together in California,” she recalls. “It was like a movie moment. I looked at her, she looked at me, and we both said, ‘Let’s do this!’ She started a writing business plan right away for a little pasta-centric concept.”

Asking Grueneberg how she and Sahs came up with the name Monteverde elicits a long, nostalgic laugh followed by an admission that some ask if it’s a Costa Rican restaurant (it shares the name of a mountainous town there). The name is the Italian translation of Grueneberg, or “green mountain”, in German. “The first time I went to Italy, I was in the kitchen with my friend (balsamic vinegar producer) Andrea Bezzecchi. He said, ‘Now in Italy you will be known as Sarah Monteverde,’” she says. “We thought of so many names, but in the end, it had to be Monteverde. Plus, you can take monte or verde lots of other places.”

Pasta as theater

Monteverde’s menu is a tantalizing amalgamation of soulful Italian dishes anchored by handmade fresh and dried pastas, plus a handful of dishes that showcase early influences on Grueneberg’s culinary identity. The sleek, 95-seat space is anchored by a raised workstation behind the bar that quite literally elevates pasta making to theater. Perched at the L-shaped butcher-block bar, you can watch as a veritable army of pasta makers hand-roll ribbons of pappardelle, thumb oricchiette, and sheet, fill, and cut yards of ravioli.

These pastas shine in classic (tipica) dishes, such as pappardelle with meaty beef and lamb ragu and pecorino and nontraditional (atipica) dishes like cannelloni saltimbocca — pasta roulades filled with lamb, prosciutto and sage garnished with fried sage leaves and cauliflower — or cacio whey pepe, with tangy, cheesy ricotta whey standing in for pasta water.

Chef Sarah Grueneberg

In simple tortellini in brodo, mortadella-stuffed pasta swims in rich, long-simmered housemade chicken stock. A refined yet invitingly shareable small plate of Broadbent country ham and mozzarella with local hydroponic tomatoes oozes with Emilia Romagna influence. In an ode to Grueneberg’s grandma, comforting stuffed cabbage — filled with softened cabbage hearts, thyme, Parmesan, egg and Saltines — rests atop earthy porcini bolognese and creamy polenta.

In another homage, this time to the Italian Sunday supper, five-day ragu alla napoletana features fusilli tossed in a pork bone and roasted tomato sauce topped with a hulking red wine-brined, tomato-braised pork shank, housemade sausage, and fat pork and soppressata meatballs. “I wanted to showcase food the way it is classically, but also push the boundaries of an American who studied pasta for years with worldly ingredients and techniques,” Grueneberg says.Continue Reading

Lively Up Yourself: 9 Legend-ary Jamaican + Ethiopian Dishes for Bob Marley Day 2016

February 6th marks what would have been Bob Marley’s 71st birthday. Born in Jamaica, the reggae icon considered Ethiopia his spiritual home. To celebrate the two rich veins of his heritage, we are highlighting nine outstanding dishes from the Caribbean island and the eastern African nation. These history-rich foods embody and showcase the culinary traditions of each region. Guaranteed to satisfy your soul on Bob Marley Day 2016 – and guaranteed to be one of your #29ReasonstoLoveFebruary!

Mr. Brown’s Lounge, Chicago, Illinois
Skewered shrimp are marinated in a ‘catch a fire’ jerk sauce made with plenty of Scotch Bonnet peppers that ain’t for the faint of heart. Luckily, the sweet, soothing mango salsa keeps things cool. If that’s not enough, we recommend a tart Ting grapefruit soda or a guava milkshake to quench the flames dancing across your tongue. A side of fried plantains or coconut milk-enriched rice ‘n’ peas will also help. Make a reservation at Mr. Brown’s Lounge.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Das Ethiopian Cuisine, Washington, D.C.
Can’t make up your mind on what to order? The vegetarian entrée sampler is a good way to go. Featuring eggplant and carrot wat stew, miser wat (red lentil stew with traditional Ethiopian Berbere pepper spice), and tikil gomen (ginger and garlic amped cabbage, potatoes, and carrots) and more, its served on a bed of spongy injera bread that’s meant to be used as a utensil — and then promptly eaten. Make a reservation at Das Ethiopian Cuisine.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Taste of the Caribbean, Seattle, Washington
Meet your new favorite appetizer. Salted codfish, onions, peppers, and West Indian spices are balled up, battered, and deep-fried. Zigzagged with hot sauce and speckled with scallions, we bet you can’t eat just one of these tasteful takes on the Caribbean classic. Make a reservation at Taste of the Caribbean.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Ethiopian Diamond, Chicago, Illinois
Think of tibs as an Ethiopian stir-fry. To create tibs quosta, spinach is sautéed with garlic and onions, and then mixed with juicy chicken chunks and green peppers. Of course, it’s served with plenty of injera bread, so you can fold up the components together fajita-style. Make a reservation at Ethiopian Diamond.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Ja’ Grill, Chicago, Illinois
Chef Errol Gallimore, a Jamaican transplant, cooks his home-style oxtail in an aromatic brown sauce until the meat is falling off the bone. The rich stew is fortified with butter beans, carrots, potatoes, onions, and several varieties of pepper and is complemented with spicy rice and fried plantains. Goes well with an ice-cold Red Stripe beer. Or three. Make a reservation at Ja’ Grill.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge, Houston
If Ethiopia has a national chicken dish, it just might be doro wat. In this rendition, a bone-in drumstick and thigh are slow-simmered in a spicy slurry, not unlike a thick barbecue sauce, and accompanied by a hard-boiled egg. We’re fond of mashing all the components together to create a barbecued chicken ‘n’ egg salad, which we roll up in torn off pieces of injera. Make a reservation at Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge.

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