Great food and fun available locally for Valentine’s Day
February 2, 2018

By Dolly Duplantier

That special someone and great food is a combination that will assure a Valentine’s Day to remember. With superb restaurants, bakeries, and other food shops in this area, your Valentine’s Day is sure to be a great one.

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

DELICIOUS 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, www.ferrarabakery.com, Facebook.

Looking for a special treat for your Valentine? Make sure to visit Ferrara Bakery. Family-owned since 1908, Ferrara Bakery uses only the freshest and purest ingredients in making its delicious 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 pastry, 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 special events 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., and Sun. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Surprise your special Valentine with Ferrara’s signature cannoli filled cakes, pastries and cookies. Place your orders for Valentine’s cakes and cookies today.

DINING

Aurelio’s 1212 S. Michigan Ave., 312-374-4459, https://www.aureliospizza.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

Known as the “Family Pizzeria,” Aurelio’s has been serving great pizza since 1959. The Aurelio’s tradition of family, quality products, and commitment to the community began in Homewood, and has remained the key ingredients to the restaurant’s successful growth. 

Whether you prefer thin, stuffed, or thick crust, Aurelio’s has them all and you will not be disappointed with the freshest of ingredients or their special sauce and crust. Gluten free crust is available for 6” and 10” pizzas.

Aurelio’s extensive menu has something for everyone starting with a delicious variety of appetizers and salads. Sandwiches include Italian beef, meatball, and the original Aurelio’s Italian submarine. Aurelio’s also offers a selection of fresh cooked pasta dishes with their very own homemade sauces. On Sundays, kids eat free with paying adults (dine-in only).

Planning a special event? Visit the website for the restaurant’s catering menu. Download Aurelio’s mobile app to get the latest news and view daily specials, as well as earn rewards. Online ordering and carryout available. Hours: Mon. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Connie’s Pizza, 2373 S. Archer Ave., (312) CONNIES, www.conniespizza.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Synonymous with quality pizza and Italian specialties, Connie’s Pizza has been serving Chicago since 1963, offering a wide selection of pizzas, entrees, salads, and sandwiches.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day and family, Connie’s will offer heart-shaped pizzas and a special menu available to those who dine in. The special Valentine’s Day menu and heart-shaped pizzas are available Mon., Feb. 8, through Sun., Feb. 14.

Those planning on attending the auto show can park for free in Connie’s lot, dine in the newly renovated brewpub, and catch a free shuttle to McCormick Place. Connie’s also offers various catering packages for events of any size. You can create your own menu or let Connie’s catering managers create one for you. The restaurant features private dining, full bars, seating for over 450 guests, and more.

Pickup, delivery, online ordering, and dine-in accommodations are available seven days a week. Make your reservation now.

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.

Connie’s will offer heart-shaped pizzas and a special menu from Feb. 8 through 14 for those who dine-in at the Bridgeport restaurant.

Damenzo’s Banquets, 741 S. Western Ave., (312) 421-5065, www.damenzosbanquet.com, Facebook.

Looking for a great place to celebrate Valentine’s Day or any other special day with family, friends, or co-workers? For more than 25 years, Damenzo’s Banquets has been known for its Southern Italian specialties. An ideal destination for personal and corporate events, the beautifully decorated restaurant accommodates up to 175 people for lunch, dinner, and receptions.

Damenzo’s customizes your menu with an affordable budget. Its family-style menu offers table service or buffet. Banquet offerings comprise a choice of nine different appetizers, including fried ravioli and antipasto, three different soups, and four salads. Damenzo’s offers nine types of pasta, ranging from mostaccioli to lasagna. Nine main courses include specialties such as chicken parmesan, Italian beef, and veal marsala.

Choose one of five desserts, including tiramisu. Specialty, individually plated main courses such as filet mignon and surf and turf also are available. Packages include fresh bread, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, soft drinks, coffee, and hot tea.

Cocktails include a bar with beers, wines, and well drinks, or a premium-brands and bottle-beer bar package, in addition to 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, (708) 771-5705, www.damenzospizzaandrestaurant.com, Facebook.

Since 1985, Damiano Mannino has been living his dream — running his family owned pizzeria and restaurant. Damenzo’s fresh, made to order regular, pan, and stuffed pizzas include only the best ingredients and toppings on its signature crusts. The restaurant is known for its huge slices of pizza, pizza puffs (calzones), and Italian beef sandwiches. The menu also includes sandwiches made with a choice of panini, focaccia, and ciabatta breads, as well as an assortment of salads and made to order fresh pasta dishes.

The family takes pride in offering the freshest and best tasting foods at reasonable prices. Their extensive lunch and dinner menu not only features delicious Southern Italian cuisine, but an equally impressive variety of Mexican dishes including breakfast items, appetizers, flautas, gorditas, burritos, tacos, and dinner entrees.

Look for festivities at Damenzo’s patio, a space with a retractable roof. Hours: Sun. through Thurs. 10 a.m. to midnight, and Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Eppel’s Restaurant, 554 W. Roosevelt Rd., (312) 922-2206 or (312) 922-6118, fax (312) 596-1202, www.eppelsrestaurant.com, Facebook.

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 and has been completely remodeled.

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 it 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 entrees 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, except Christmas Day.

La Fontanella  2414 S Oakley Ave, (773) 927-5249, info@lafontanellarestaurant.com, http://lafontanellarestaurant.com, Facebook, Google+.

Keeping with the true Italian traditions, guests at La Fontanella always receive a warm welcome from the team and Chef Gianfranco Gamberale. Since 1971, this delightful neighborhood Italian restaurant offers a classical menu from the Northern Italian Traditions, including handmade pastas and entrees in cozy digs with an old-school vibe.

Born in the Veneto region and trained in Chicago’s finest restaurants, Chef Gamberale emphasizes fresh ingredients and authentic Italian cooking methods. He and his wife and fellow chef, Maria, prepare everything from scratch, made to order, serving up a truly delicious vero Italiano culinary experience every time. Choose from 30 menu items. Enjoy specialties such as osso buco, cioppino, gnocchi alla grappa, veal chop Valdostana, lobster fra diavolo, and more.

Call or book online for reservations. Delivery available with Uber Eats. Hours: Sun through Tues. 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thurs. through Sat. 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., closed Wed.

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 pizza, classic hand cut Italian pastas, and desserts.

Pompei’s signature pizza strudels come in 11 different varieties, including heart healthy, Pompei Italiano, and chicken parmesan. Heart shaped ravioli and heart shaped pizzas are featured for Valentine’s Day! Homemade desserts include tiramisu, cannoli, and gelato, as well as time-honored holiday treats.

Pompei offers dine-in, delivery, and catering for delivery or pickup. Now featuring on-line ordering and large group reservations. 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, and 40 in the café. Handicapped accessible, and plenty of parking is available. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

RoSal’s 1154 W. Taylor St., 312-243-2357, http://www.rosals.com, Twitter, Facebook.

This February, transport your Valentine to another place and time. Since 1990, RoSal’s has treated its guests to the essence of old-world authenticity and charm. Begin your special dinner with the delicious antipasti, including the famous fried ravioli. Family favorites on the menu include meat or spinach Lasagna Al Forno, Sicilian fried spaghetti, and Rigatoni Diablo.

RoSal’s extensive menu also includes USDA Prime steaks, chops, chicken, and seafood dishes. A fabulous wine list compliments the amazing Italian food. This month, check out the Sweetheart Special (Tues., Feb. 13, through Sun., Feb. 18). Choose from a selection of bottled wine, appetizers, entrees and a special Valentine’s Day dessert – all for $95 per couple. See details on RoSal’s Facebook page.

Looking to host a special event? Visit the website to learn more about their catering and family style dinners. RoSal’s upstairs dining room can seat 55 guests. Reservations can be made via phone, email (rosals@rosals.com), or online through OpenTable. Hours: Tues. through Thurs. 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Sweet Maple Café, 1339 W. Taylor St., (312) 243-8908, www.sweetmaplecafe.com, Facebook. With a 1940s-era ambience, the Michelin Guide-recommended Sweet Maple Café serves breakfast during all open hours. Patrons know their dining experience is more than breakfast–it’s 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. Check out Sweet Maple’s new catering menu on its website. Gift cards are available. Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., open daily except for major holidays.

Olive You’s recipe for sea bass spetsiota with green olives

Ingredients: Two sea bass; two ripe tomatoes, finely chopped; one cup olive oil; two tbsps. parsley, finely chopped; four cloves garlic, minced; two tbsps. sliced green olives; salt; and pepper.

Clean and scale the fish. Using a sharp knife, slit fish on both sides and place in a baking dish. Season fish with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with garlic and parsley – see that both seasoning and herbs get into the slits as well as the belly. Add tomato, sliced olives, and olive oil. Bake in very hot preheated oven for eight-to-ten minutes. Tip: Sea bass is often used in this dish but you can also use other fish: e.g. bream, dentex, grouper.

FESTIVE TREATS

Olive You – Europe’s Finest Table Olives http://www.oliveyou-eu.eu, info@pemete.gr. Twitter, Facebook.

Planning a special evening with your Valentine? Make sure to include some delicious and good for you olives. Table olives have been an integral part of the Mediterranean diet since antiquity; a centuries-old snack.

“Olive You” is the three-year promotional program of PEMETE, co-financed by the European Union aimed at informing consumers and professionals about the quality, variety, taste characteristics, and benefits of European table olives; increasing demand and developing awareness in the non-olive producing countries of the European Zone and in the United States. PEMETE is a professional association, founded in 1970, promoting the table olives Greek processing, packaging, and exporting companies.

Olives are one of the few natural foods that can be a healthy snack for every hour and every occasion. Make sure to include Olives in diet! For a recipe for sea bass spetsiota with green olives.