Romantic Valentine’s Day can be yours right in the neighborhood
February 4, 2011
Connie’s Pizza serves Italian cuisine, offering a wide selection of entrees including pasta dishes.

By Marie Balice Ward

Valentine’s Day is about getting away from the kids and spending a great time with that special someone. Local restaurants, bars, and food emporia will cater to your every need on this most romantic of days.

DELICIOUS BAKED GOODS

Bake for Me! 608 W. Roosevelt Rd. (312) 957-1994, 4305 S. Halsted St. (773) 624-9900, and 321 N Clark St., (312)-644-7750. All of the Bake for Me! shops feature festive cakes, wedding cakes, fancy tortes, pastries, and assorted cookie trays. Cakes for children are very popular items on Saturdays at Bake for Me! Other specialties include logo and photo cookies, fresh strawberry chocolate mousses, and carrot and German chocolate cakes. A special cake is featured every month for office birthdays and other occasions. Visit a newly recently expanded website at www.bakeforme.com for details about the monthly specials. Eight- and ten-inch cakes are always available (for up to 16 people). Custom or larger cakes (for 50 or more people) are available by calling 24 hours in advance. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Shops are closed on Sunday.

DINING

Bruna’s Ristorante, 2424 S. Oakley Ave. (773) 254-5550. Since 1933, Bruna’s has served fine Italian cuisine including a variety of pasta dishes, meat, and fish entrees. Some of the most popular dishes are veal scaloppini, mussels marinara and penne a la puttanesca. Specials are offered daily. Bruna’s also has an extensive wine list and imports a personally selected Chianti and vino nobile di Montepulciano. The most popular dessert is Bruna’s own tiramisu. Other popular dessert specials include chocolate mousse cake and wild berry tart. Gelato is also available, with pistachio being a favorite. Reservations are accepted. Carryout is available. Valet parking is offered everyday except on Mon. Hours: Mon. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sun. 1 to 10 p.m.

Chicago Curry House, 899 S. Plymouth Ct., (312) 362-9999, fax (312) 362-0799, www.curryhouseonline.com. Zagat-rated Chicago Curry House offers Indian and Nepalese selections. Chicago Curry House’s recipes are simple, natural, low fat, and authentic. Selections include chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetables. The delectable tandoori dishes are low in cholesterol. The tandoori is a barrel-shaped clay oven that is used for baking bread (naan) and vegetables, and for roasting lamb, chicken, and seafood with charcoal at about 600 degrees. Among favorite appetizers are Momo (a Nepali item), a vegetable platter, tandoori peskush (a platter of samplings of tandoori specialties) and samosa (cone-shaped pastry stuffed with meat). Favorite entrees include Indian and Napalese style special dinners under $18 such as chicken tikka masala, tandoori lamb, and tandoori prawns. Chicago Curry House also offers a variety of breads including cheese naan. Popular desserts include gullab jammune (fried milk pastry dumplings in saffron syrup-served hot) and rassmalai (flat round cottage cheese poached in milk and garnished with pistachios). The atmosphere is romantic, with soft music and attentive service. Chicago Curry House offers a private party room, a full bar, carry out, and delivery service, as well as catering. Hours: Open every day including holidays. Luncheon buffet, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner from 3 to 10 p.m.

Connie’s Pizza, 2373 S. Archer Ave., (312) CONNIES, fax (312) 842-5274, www.conniespizza.com. Follow Connie’s on Facebook and Twitter for coupons, specials, events and more, proving the restaurant’s slogan that “Pizza is just the beginning.” Since 1963, Connie’s has served the entire Chicago land area with wide selection of pizzas, entrees, salads, and sandwiches, specializing in Italian cuisine. Connie’s also specializes in catering for social gatherings including weddings, as well as corporate luncheons or dinners of any size, provided by its off-site full staff of catering experts. Connie’s is a sponsor of the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Fire, Brookfield Zoo, University of Illinois at Chicago Flames, the Allstate Arena, and the Sears Center. Pickup, delivery, and dine-in accommodations are available with private dining area. Free parking available and Connie’s offers shuttle service to sporting events and conventions. Hours: Tues. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to midnight; Sun. and Mon. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Damenzo’s Pizza & Restaurant, 2324 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-1142, and a new location in Forest Park at 7300 W. Roosevelt Rd. (708) 771-5705. Pizzas of all shapes and sizes–thin, thick and stuffed—starting with single servings to oversized pies for families and parties, are available at Damenzo’s. Each pizza can be individualized with an extensive array of toppings, ranging from spinach to anchovies. In addition, Damenzo’s serves Italian entrees ranging from pasta choices such as manicotti, pasta primavera, and linguini with clam sauce to sandwiches including vegetarian selections. Ciabatta bread sandwiches also are featured at Damenzo’s, as well as daily specials that include all-you-can-eat pizza. There is a wide selection of side dishes. Catering and carryout are available. Hours: Sun. through Thurs. 10 a.m. tomidnight, Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Step back into yesterday at the Eleven City Diner and enjoy a bounty of Jewish delicatessen selections and a variety of drinks.
Eleven City Diner, 1112 S. Wabash St., (312) 212-1112, www.elevencitydiner.com. Step off Wabash and take a nostalgic journey to yesterday. Fashioned as a replica of an “old school diner” Eleven City Diner is authentic not only in its décor but also its menu. Breakfast is served all day as well as a bounty of Jewish delicatessen selections. Eleven City Diner features a full bar serving “serious” bloody marys, beautiful mimosas, hot toddies, and night caps, as well as local Chicago beers on tap. Hours: Mon. through Thurs. 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri. 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sat. 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sun. 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Eppel’s Restaurant, 554 W. Roosevelt Rd., (312) 922-2206, fax (312) 596-1202. This 45-year-old breakfast and lunch eatery—operating since the days when the Maxwell Street Market was still on Maxwell Street–is now under new management. Eppel’s offers its warm hospitality for breakfast and lunch. The restaurant seats 100 people and is located between Jefferson and Clinton Streets, in the strip mall across from Best Buy in the heart of the revitalized Roosevelt Road shopping district. Eppel’s is well known for its down-home atmosphere and hearty breakfast specials with choices of eggs; meats, including ham off the bone; pancakes; grits; waffles and wings; homemade biscuits with gravy, and more. Lunch specials range from braised short ribs, oxtails, hearty meatloaf, and homemade fried chicken and fried catfish, among a host of other choices. Eppel’s also offers a large selection of sandwiches including panini. All sandwiches are served with French fries and homemade soup. Full service carryout is available. Hours: daily from 4:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., except major holidays.

Ferrara Bakery, 2210 W. Taylor St., (312) 666-2200, www.ferrarabakery.com. Ferrara’s signature cannoli cake, along with a wide variety of party cakes, cookies, as well as its candies, biscotti, and pastries, have been a family tradition for more than 100 years. Wedding cakes and sweet tables are among Ferrara’s many specialties. On weekdays, Ferrara serves a full menu, dining in or to go. Among its wide selections are a variety of pasta dishes such as shells with vegetables and rigatoni in béchamel sauce. Other entrees include chicken marsala. Ferrara also serves soups, pizza, and salads, as well as hot and cold sandwiches. Ferrara features an espresso bar daily. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Gio’s Café & Deli, 2724 S. Lowe Ave., (312) 225-6368, www.gioscafe.com. Gio’s was created in April 2001 by Giovanni Liuzzo (Gio), Ignacio Bautista (Nacho), and Víctor Quezada. The partnership has given Gio’s Café a very unique touch. A little jewel in the heart of Bridgeport, Gio’s features homemade Italian foods with a Sicilian touch. An informal place, Gio’s creates an atmosphere of being transported to Grandma’s kitchen. Every dish is made to order and customers can add any ingredient, creating a dish to their own touch. Gio’s Café & Deli’s goal is to use quality ingredients, even with the simplest dish. The team’s vast experience–acquired by being part of other successful Italian restaurants—contributes greatly to Gio’s Café & Deli’s success. Gio, Nacho, and Victor have been working together since 1992, having very loyal customers throughout the years which always enjoy dining at Gio’s because they can create their own dish. Gio’s Café & Deli also offers a great variety of unique Italian products like imported cheeses, oils, meats, fresh pasta, fresh sausage, sauces, and a variety of different goods. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sun., only open for private parties and catering.

Holiday Neighborhood Grill & Bar, 740 W. Randolph St., at Halsted St., (312) 207-0924, web site with downloadable menu and featured daily specials: www.holidaygrillandbar.com. Holiday Neighborhood Grill & Bar has been a neighborhood eatery for more than 30 years. Near the United Center for convenient dining before/after events, Holiday Grill is known for its great portions at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, at affordable prices. They also have a full stocked bar, TVs for Bulls and Blackhawks games, a jukebox, and free wi-fi. Carryout is available. Hours: Mon. through Fri., 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat. 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Enjoy the Brazilian fare at Sabor Express and bring along your favorite wine or beer to add to the experience.
Palace Grill, 1408 W. Madison St., (312) 226-9529, fax (312) 226-0633. Palace Grill is a favorite of famous Chicagoans of all walks of life including the Chicago Blackhawks, Mayor Richard M. Daley, and reporters. “You just don’t know who will walk in,” said George Lemperis, owner. A West Loop fixture since 1938, Palace Grill now has a new executive chef—Chef Hans – and a new dinner menu. Named “best breakfast restaurant in Chicago” by restaurant critic Pat Bruno, Palace Grill continues to be open for breakfast starting at 5 a.m. everyday except Sun., when breakfast starts at 7 a.m. Like his father before him, Lemperis serves fresh, homemade selections–everything from bacon and eggs to pancakes, great omelets, and hash browns for breakfast. At lunch, Palace Grill offers hearty, homemade soups such as split pea, minestrone, and Boston clam chowder. Lunch fare includes fresh spring mix salad, or Cobb or Greek salads. Sandwich selections include the popular skirt steak sandwich, the Palace Grill burger–a half-pound of freshly-ground beef served on Greek bread–as well as roast beef, turkey clubs, and hot meatloaf served with real mashed potatoes, among other choices including daily specials. The new Palace Grill evening menu includes new salads and appetizers such as bruschetta and fresh, fried calamari and entrees including braised short ribs, a salmon platter, and penne pasta Bolognese. Beer and wine also are served. Catering is offered by Palace Grill. In addition to being open every night before all Blackhawk home games, hours are Mon. through Fri. 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat. 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sun. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pompei, 1531 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-5179, www.pompeipizza.com. This bustling 225-seat eatery also accommodates groups of up to 100 people in its La Stanza di Pompei party room. Pompei also has several other locations including in the Loop. Among popular items are pizzas with various toppings. Quite popular is Pompei’s “pizza strudel”—an original creation. Other favorites include pastas, salads, daily specials, and fresh breads. Homemade desserts, cappuccino and espresso also are served. There are holiday specials that are prepared only once a year. Pompei specializes in express catering for delivery or pick up. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sabor Express, 1230 W. Taylor St., (312) 733-4800, saborexpress@att.net, www.saborexpress.net. Open only a few months, Sabor Express already has earned a loyal, growing customer base. Described as a fast-casual style Brazilian restaurant serving “street fare,” Sabor Express features Picanha sandwiches featuring Brazilian prepared meats and seafood, Pastéis (pockets that are stuffed with a selection of meat, seafood, and hearts of palm), mini-skewers of meats, and seafood. All are served with sides from fries to rice, beans, and pineapple. During the weekend there is a special item: Feijoada, a black bean stew made with various types of pork products served with mandarin orange slices, farofa (a Brazilian specialty made with raw manioc flour — similar to tapioca flour– that is toasted with butter, salt and bacon until golden brown), and white rice. Sabor Express dessert selections include ice cream, passion fruit mousse cake, other types of cakes, Brazilian flan, and tiramisu. A BYOB restaurant, Sabor Express features specialty coffee drinks including coffee served Brazilian style, Brazilian Guarana soda (made from a bean found in Brazil’s Amazon), and Coca-Cola and Sprite sodas. Sabor Express has a seating capacity of 50 persons. Phone orders and carryouts welcome. On-line ordering and delivery will be coming soon. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Salerno’s Restaurant, 1201 W. Grand Ave., (312) 666-3444. This restaurant with five locations, including Michael Salerno’s in Glenview, offers a near limitless menu of southern Italian specialties. Among its offerings are pizza, a wide selection of pasta dishes, veal, chicken, ribs, and sandwiches. Salerno’s also provides take-out including homemade pasta sauce. Its homemade desserts feature, but are not limited to, homemade gelato, tiramisu and cannoli. Salerno’s is available for private parties and has free parking. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sun. noon to 10 p.m.

Sweet Maple Café, 1339 W. Taylor St., (312) 243-8908, www.sweetmaplecafe.com. A 1940s style eatery, Sweet Maple Café offers breakfast and lunch during the week, and brunch specials on the weekends. Sweet Maple uses deliciously creative recipes for pancakes and French toast, homemade biscuits, muffins, and egg dishes, among other selections. Lunch fare includes homemade soups and sandwiches such as turkey with homemade potato chips. Weekend brunch items include salmon cakes and fried pork chops. Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

Tapas Valencia, 1530 S. State St., (312) 842-4444, info@mesonsabika.com, www.tapasvalencia.com. Tapas Valencia is the sister restaurant of the popular Meson Sabika in suburban Naperville, IL. Tapas Valencia moved to the South Loop in 2009, bringing the “No.1 Spanish Restaurant” ranking in the 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 Zagat surveys. Guests are greeted by a high-energy atmosphere with walls adorned in multi-colored mosaic artwork reminiscent of the art of the great Spanish artists Joan Miro and Antoni Gaudí. While dining, guests will find that each item on the menu offers a taste of Spain. Whether enjoying hot or cold tapas, an entrée or vintage wine, there is always a pleasant combination of exceptional food, friendly service, and unique atmosphere. Tapas Valencia is a place where family and friends can live life in celebration. Hours: Mon. through Thurs. 4 to 10 p.m., Fri. 4 to 11 p.m., Sat. 5 to 11 p.m. and Sun. 4:30 to 9 p.m.

Vintage Lounge, 1449 W. Taylor St., (312) 526-3647, www.vintageontaylor.com. Featuring an eclectic, gourmet menu, Vintage Lounge offers rustico flatbread, Acapulco flatbread, arancini, Asian chicken skewers, vintage wings, and a variety of sliders: beef, tuna, filet, and chicken. On its party menu, Vintage Lounge features such specialties as arancini with red pepper fondue, Thai calamari with chili garlic sauce, chilled vegetable crudités with creamy herb dip, a choice of eight salads, portobello, char chicken, Kobe beef, and desserts. Each day of the week there are menu and drink specials for dine-in only. Apple pie shots for $4 and $5 cheese pizza are available daily. On Thurs., Fri., and Sat. evenings a DJ plays tunes from 11 p.m. to closing. Hours: Sun. through Fri. 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

SPECIALTY

Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating, (312) 697-1042, www.seattlesutton.com. Seattle Sutton was founded by Seattle Sutton, RN, BSN, in 1985 to help with weight loss and other health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, among others. A national program, Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating (SSHE) prepares thousands of healthy, tasty meals weekly for people wishing to lose weight or maintain their weight loss without the need to plan, shop, or cook. Unlike other weight-loss meal programs, SSHE provides freshly prepared meals with fresh fruits, salads, and vegetables. Each meal is portion and calorie controlled, including attention to fat, cholesterol, and sodium content. There are no trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, food dyes, or monosodium glutamate (MSG). There is a choice of a 1,200 or 2,000 calorie plan and the menu is rotated every five weeks, ensuring no repeat of meals. The meals can be picked up or delivered twice each week with delivery available for home or office. There are nearly 200 distributor locations, so there is a choice of ordering from a local distributor or through SSHE national home delivery program.