Enjoy Valentine’s Day at local eateries and specialty shops
February 4, 2017

By Marie Balice-Ward

Going out for a nice meal or giving a gift of edible delicacies is an integral part of Valentine’s Day. With great restaurants, bakeries, and other food shops in our community ready to meet your needs, your Valentine’s Day here will be one to remember.

Bake for Me! features special treats for Valentine’s Day including heart-shaped cookies and chocolate-dipped strawberries.

BAKED GOODS

Bake for Me! 4305 S. Halsted St., (773) 624-9900; 321 N. Clark St., (312) 644-7750; and 303 E. Wacker Dr., (312) 228-9676, www.bakeforme.com. Bake for Me! is one of downtown Chicago’s and south Halsted Street’s best bakeries for cakes as well as your source for convenient catering for breakfast, lunch, receptions, and holiday parties. The family-owned bakery has three locations, plus the affiliated Racine Bakery at 6216 S. Archer Ave. Whatever the occasion, the bakery’s custom cakes offer many different options, including your choice of layers, fillings, frosting, icing and sizes. In addition, Bake for Me! can personalize signature cakes and cookies with messages and photo images. Bake for Me! is proud to offer monthly Featured Cakes, providing new cake ideas on a regular basis. The bakery’s pastries, cookies and cupcakes are hand-made, using only the finest ingredients. All Bake for Me! products can be viewed and ordered online. Hours: Halsted St. location–Mon. through Fri., 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sat. 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Clark St. and East Wacker Dr. locations–Mon. through Fri. 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ferrara Bakery, 2210 W. Taylor St., (312) 666-2200, Facebook, www.ferrarabakery.com. Since 1908, family-owned Ferrara Bakery has used fresh and pure ingredients in making its popular cakes, pastries, cookies, and specialty cannoli. The bakery is known for its signature fresh strawberry, custard, and cannoli filled cakes. Ferrara also offers a variety of other cakes, in addition to authentic Italian cookies including both butter and traditional varieties. Biscotti, miniature pastries, and cookie trays also are available. Place your orders for Valentine’s Day cookie trays now. Ferrara has an extensive selection of hot and cold luncheon
items for dining-in or takeout Monday through Friday. Let Ferrara cater your holiday event with deli sandwiches, chili, soups, pan pizza, and focaccia. Half and full pan sizes of entrees, pasta and fresh salads are available. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Sun.

DINING

Café Bionda, 1924 S. State St., (312) 326-9800, www.cafebionda.com, follow on Facebook. Café Bionda has been delighting patrons with classic Italian cuisine, seasonal cocktails and desserts, and an extensive international wine list since 2006. Family-owned, Café Bionda (which means “blond” in Italian) is a charming destination for Valentine’s Day and every day. At this Italian ristorante, there are a number of rooms for private parties including one called Little Italy. These rooms create a private atmosphere where groups of family, friends or co-workers can share a fine-dining culinary extravaganza.

Café Bionda also offers gift certificates and provides catering from a specialized menu that includes many of the selections from the restaurant menu. Parking in the rear of the restaurant is available, as well as valet parking. Outdoor dining is also offered in appropriate weather. Hours are: Mon. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sun. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Connie’s Pizza, located in Bridgeport at 2373 S. Archer Ave., (312) CONNIES, www.conniespizza.com, Facebook: facebook.com/ConniesPizza, Twitter and Instagram: @ConniesPizza. Connie’s Pizza is synonymous with quality pizza and Italian specialties. It has been serving the Chicago area since 1963. Connie’s features a full-service restaurant located in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Also at its Bridgeport location are private dining, a full bar, seating for over 300 guests, and more. Pickup, delivery, online ordering as well as dine-in accommodations are available seven days a week. During the summer months, Chicago White Sox fans can park in Connie’s lot, dine on the outdoor deck, and catch a free shuttle to U.S. Cellular Field. In honor of Valentine’s Day, Connie’s Pizza will have a special prix fixe menu that starts Mon., Feb. 13, through Sun., Feb. 19. Connie’s Pizza will also feature heart-shaped pizzas to celebrate those you love. Hours: Tues. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sun. and Mon. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Damenzo’s Banquets, 741 S. Western Ave., (312) 421-5065, www.damenzosbanquet.com. A great destination for a festive Valentine’s Day or other celebrations with friends, co-workers, and family is Damenzo’s Banquets. Specializing in Southern Italian cuisine for more than 25 years, it has hosted innumerable personal and corporate events. Up to 175 people can be accommodated in a beautifully-appointed restaurant for lunch, dinner, or receptions. Damenzo’s customizes menus to fit every occasion and budget. Table service or a buffet are available. Choices include nine different appetizers, including fried ravioli and antipasto, three different soups, and four salads. Nine types of pasta range from mostaccioli to lasagna. Nine main courses include specialties such as chicken parmesan, Italian beef, and veal Marsala. There is a choice of five desserts including tiramisu. Specialty, individually plated main courses such as filet mignon and surf/turf also are offered.

Packages include fresh bread, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, soft drinks, coffee, and hot tea. Cocktail offerings include a bar with beers, wines, and well drinks or a premium-brands and bottle beer package, and passed hors d’oeuvres.

Damenzo’s Pizza & Restaurant, three locations: 2324 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-1142; 11226 S. Halsted St., (773) 660-8851; 7300 W. Roosevelt Rd, Forest Park, IL (708) 771-5705, www.damenzospizzaandrestaurant.com. Damiano Mannino has been living his dream since 1985, running his family-owned pizzeria and restaurant. Damenzo’s made-toorder regular, pan, and stuffed pizzas are made from only the best ingredients and toppings on the restaurant’s signature crusts. Damenzo’s is known for its huge slices of pizza, pizza puffs (calzones), and Italian beef sandwiches. The menu includes sandwiches with a choice of panini, focaccia, and ciabatta breads. The family prides itself in offering the freshest and best tasting food at modest prices. Damenzo’s extensive lunch and dinner menus not only feature Southern Italian cuisine but equally impressive Mexican dishes including breakfast items, appetizers, flautas, gorditas, burritos, tacos, and dinner entrees. Hours: Sun. through Thurs. 10 a.m. to midnight, Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Café Bionda delights patrons with classic Italian cuisine, seasonal cocktails and deserts, and an extensive international wine list.

Eppel’s Restaurant, 554 W. Roosevelt Rd., (312) 922-2206 or (312) 922-6118, fax (312) 596-1202, www.eppelsrestaurant.com. Originally located in the old Maxwell Street Market, Eppel’s Restaurant remains for many of its breakfast and lunch patrons a wonderful recollection of the old Maxwell Street Market days. Currently, Eppel’s is located between Canal and Desplaines Streets in the Roosevelt Road shopping district. The restaurant is highly recommended for its banana and apple foster pancake as well as its bacon stuffed waffle. These items were featured on the WGN-TV Channel 9 Chicago’s Best television show featuring Brittney Payton, making Eppel’s even more popular for breakfast. Eppel’s extensive menu offers new items, as well as comforting favorites such as ham off the bone, catfish, seafood, steaks, and chops. All ntrees at Eppel’s are accompanied by a bowl of the restaurant’s signature soup or mixed salad. Carryout orders are available. Hours: Mon. through Sun. 4:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; open all holidays.

Fontano’s Subs, 1058 W. Polk St., (312) 421-4474, fax (312) 421-1224, www.fontanossubs.com. Fontano’s Subs has been a fixture in the Taylor Street-Little Italy area since 1932—85 years ago. Home of what Fontano’s likes to call Chicago’s “number one” sub sandwich. Their claim has been confirmed; Fontano’s Subs has been voted “The Best Sandwich Shop in the Nation” by Zagat in 2012 and its ranking was raised by two points in 2014. Fontano’s Subs features an extensive variety of Italian and American submarine sandwich choices, including turkey breast, homemade meatballs, and their Blockbuster—a scrumptious combination of ham, salami, capicolo, and Swiss and provolone cheeses. Fontano’s Subs makes its Italian sausage on site for its Italian sausage sub sandwich.

The deli/store seats about 20 people in a cozy and friendly atmosphere. On Fridays and Saturdays, live music enriches the atmosphere at Fontano’s Subs. For the musically inclined, there is a guitar that patrons can play while dining or picking up their orders, which is ideal for serenading a Valentine’s Day companion Delivery service, is offered throughout the day. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sat. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Franco’s Ristorante, 300 W. 31st St., (312) 225-9566, www.francoschicago.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Celebrate Valentine’s Day and every day in the cozy and intimate Franco’s Ristorante. Since Franco’s first opened its doors in 1989, the restaurant has remained a favorite destination for residents of Bridgeport and the entire Chicagoland area. Its classic Italian cuisine stands the test of time. Among its most popular dishes are the homemade gnocchi and thick-cut pork chop vesuvio. Franco’s also proudly offers an extensive wine list with affordable selections from around the world. So why not celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Chicago Reader’s winner of “Best Place for a Cheap Date” and “Best Bang for Your Buck?” Call now to make your reservation as seating is limited. Franco’s Ristorante is open for lunch and dinner, and carry-outs are available. Hours are: Mon. through Thur. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri 11 a.m., to 10 p.m., Sat. 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sun. 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Pompei on Taylor, 1531 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-5179, www.Pompeiusa.com. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Founded by Luigi Davino in 1909 and expanded by Ralph Davino in the 1980s, Pompei on Taylor St. now is a third-generation family business offering a comprehensive selection of hot, gourmet-quality Italian dishes made from three generations of Napolitano family recipes. Only the freshest ingredients are used to prepare Pompei’s made-to-order salads, soups, hand-rolled pizzas, classic handcut pastas and desserts. Pompei’s signature pizza strudel comes in 11 different varieties including heart-healthy, Pompei Italiano and chicken parmesan. Homemade desserts include tiramisu, cannoli, and gelato as well as time-honored holiday treats.

Enjoy classic Italian cuisine in the intimate Franco’s Ristorante in Bridgeport. Make your Valentine’s Day reservation today.

Pompei offers dine-in, delivery and catering for delivery or pickup. The 225-seat eatery accommodates private groups of up to 90 people in its La Stanza di Pompei party room, 60 in the Jut’s party area reserved for private events, and 40 in the Café. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sweet Maple Café, 1339 W. Taylor St., (312) 243-8908, www.sweetmaplecafe.com, Facebook. With a 1940s-era ambience, Sweet Maple Café serves breakfast during all open hours. Patrons know their dining experience is more than breakfast—it is an authentic “taste of home.” All selections are made the old-fashioned way—from scratch with fresh ingredients. Try Sweet Maple’s must have “Not-So-Plain” buttermilk pancakes with succulent slices of ham off the bone. Look for a range of egg specialties including the Taylor Street omelet with Italian sausage or country scrambles such as the 18th Street with spicy chorizo sausage and queso fresco. Sweet Maple’s expanded lunch menu offers popular items such as the smoked turkey club, as well as its selection of signature grilled cheese sandwiches. Try the Etruscan grilled cheese sandwich with fontina and mozzarella cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and black olive tapenade on buttery slices of D’Amato’s bread. The café offers take-out and catering for any daytime event. Gift cards are available. Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Open daily except for major holidays.

SPECIAL TREATS

Superior Nut & Candy Co., Inc., 1111 W. 40th St., (773) 254-7900, ext. 815; 6620 W. Irving Park Rd., (773) 282-3930, www.superiornutandcandy.com, rmastrangelo@snc.com. Superior Nut & Candy is a leading provider of private brands manufacturing and co-packing services. Superior is a premier manufacturer, processor and distributor in the nut, confection and snack food industry. Superior features a wide variety of nuts, seeds, trail mixes, dried fruits, chocolate and yogurt coated products, and wrapped and unwrapped candy. Stop by one of the company’s convenient locations to finish off your Valentine’s Day shopping. Call for store hours.