Celebrate Valentine’s Day with these local eateries
February 1, 2019

Connie’s Pizza offers pizza and Italian specialties in a restaurant that can seat more than 300 and featuring a full bar, open seven days per week.

By Marie Balice Ward

Put together a special someone and some nice food, and a great Valentine’s Day will result. With superb restaurants and other food shops in this area, your Valentine’s Day will be one to remember.

BAKED GOODS

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

Aurelio’s Pizza South Loop, 1212 S. Michigan Ave. (312) 374-4459, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

This year, Aurelio’s celebrates its 60th anniversary. It was founded by Joseph A. Aurelio, Jr. and now his son, Joe, operates this national franchise enterprise. In addition to the South Loop location, Aurelio’s Pizza restaurants can be found throughout Illinois as well as locations in Nevada, Florida, South Carolina and Indiana.

Throughout the decades, Aurelio’s mode of operation has been: “We’ve believed in quality products, community involvement, and family tradition.” Among the selections at the South Loop location are appetizers including cheese and zucchini sticks, hot and boneless wings, poppers, onion rings and toasted ravioli. Its salad menu includes Caesar, Chicken Caesar, Aurelio’s Cobb salad, spinach, and dinner salad. Its pizza selections are extensive with myriad topping choices. Entree selections include spaghetti, mostaccioli, ravioli, tortellini as well as Chicken Parmesan and Chicken Alfredo. A full-bar and seasonal outdoor seating will also be featured at its South Loop location. This restaurant is ideal for sports events as well as its proximity to Northerly Island. For the home, bottled tomato basil, marinara, and vodka sauces are offered. Catering and delivery are also available. Hours: Mon. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sun. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Aurelio’s Pizza South Loop features great pizza selections, but also has a variety of other selections. Take-home sauces also are offered.

Connie’s Pizza, 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. Connie’s 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. 11, through Sun., Feb. 17. 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.

Culver’s, 3355 S. Martin Luther King Dr., (312) 808-1100. That location is the first in Chicago, with multiple locations throughout the suburbs, Indiana, and throughout the U.S. Franchiser Baron Waller, who owns Culver’s locations in New Lenox, Lockport, and Joliet as well as the Martin Luther King Dr. restaurant, began his Culver’s franchise chain in 2011.

Culver’s motto is “Everyone leaves happy.” Among Culver’s offerings are its signature ButterBurger, which is cooked to order, and fresh frozen custard. Family-friendly, Culver’s a wide variety of sandwiches. Meals include premium chicken, hand-battered North Atlantic cod, fresh salads, and kids’ meals. Culver’s also features Mindful Meals, all of which are less than 600 calories. Among the choices are salads, soups, the beef pot roast value basket, grilled chicken, and a single ButterBurger patty.

Culver’s created a Foundation Scholarship Program in 1993. Since then, $4.5 million in scholarship money has been given to more than 300 of its team members in 19 states.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Sweeten your Valentine’s Day with a delicious assortment of cookies, cakes, and pastries at Ferrara Bakery on West Taylor Street.

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 or buffet services are offered. 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.

Damenzo’s Pizza & Restaurant now has four locations: 901 W. 35th St., 2324 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-1142; 11226 S. Halsted St., (773) 660-8851; and 7300 W. Roosevelt Rd, Forest Park, IL (708) 771-5705, www.damenzospizzaandrestaurant.com.

Damenzo’s new location on 35th St. is a full-service dining restaurant with waitress service and a full bar. Table and bar seating is available. In addition to the menu offered at its other locations, Damenzo’s on 35th has additional entrees including a selection of risotto, seafood, pasta, pork chops and steaks prepared by its chef. The renovated site includes features such marble from the Marshall Field’s building. The nostalgic atmosphere is further enhanced with a plethora of vintage decor from yesteryear. Damenzo’s on 35th St. offers delivery and catering. Its hours are different from the other restaurants: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mon. through Sun.

Damenzo’s offers made-to order regular, pan, and stuffed pizzas all made from 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 for the Taylor St., Halsted and Roosevelt Rd. locations are: Sun. through Thurs. 10 a.m. to midnight, 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. Originally located in the 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 WGN-TV Channel 9’s Chicago’s Best, making Eppel’s even more popular for breakfast. Eppel’s extensive menu offers comfort favorites such as ham off the bone, catfish, seafood, steaks, and chops. All entrees at Eppel’s are accompanied by a bowl or 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.

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 is now 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 hand-cut 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.

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. Pompei on Taylor also offers carry-out and delivery. 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 its entire 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 extensive lunch menu offers popular items such as the Etruscan grilled cheese sandwich with fontina and mozzarella cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and olive tapenade on buttery slices of D’Amato bread, as well as the smoked turkey club, and a selection of signature grilled cheese sandwiches. Catering and take-out are available for any daytime event. Gift cards are also popular. Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Open daily, except major holidays.