Aside from the beauty that is Chicago the other reason I love it so is definitely connected to their food. Eating in Chicago should count as an event in the Olympics. The categories would be pizza, hot dogs, snacks, and of course an assortment of fine dining. There is literally something for everyone. For me there are usually not enough days for all of the foods I want to consume, thus I will be visiting Chicago the rest of my life.
In my previous Chicago post about the foods I love in this city (http://bit.ly/2liwcNI) I dived deep into the details of what I ate and what I feel any visitor should at least try.
As I mentioned in the prior post (http://bit.ly/2m5prTT) of this series the primary reason for my return to Chicago was to visit Ms. Sue but there was one important food related reason as well as. That would be the restaurant owned by celebrities Bill and Giuliana Rancic, RPM Italian, their very first eatery. Dinner here MUST include an order of Mama DePandi’s handmade Bucatini Pomodoro. She is Giuliana’s mother and inspiration behind the restaurant. For us it also included the zucchini fritti and prime beef meatballs as an appetizer followed by handmade cavatelli in Sunday gravy, chicken Parmesan, to go along with the bucatini. The meal was certainly memorable but so was the restaurant. It has this great vibe that’s a combination of a cool crowd with an amazing staff. I still remember the interesting conversations with our waitress who had just moved to town. In that moment and many since then, I was jealous of her new hometown, as living in Chicago, at least for a summer is a goal/dream of mine.
As for the food the bucatini is amazeballs, as Giuliana would say, but so was everything else. There is no shortage of Italian restaurants, especially in Chicago, but RPM Italian stands out for its contemporary feel and food that has an ancestral flavor cooked into every meal. What stood out for me oddly enough was those zucchini fritti. Boy I had have a ton of zucchini fries and the like but these were addictive!! The shape, light batter, and herb dip made it a one of a kind appetizer ruining me for all other imitations. We ate every single bite of each dish and barley could walk back to the hotel. It was the meal and experience I had hoped it would be. I plan on visiting RPM Steak next time which now also has outposts in Washington D.C. near Giuliana DePandi Rancic’s childhood home.
I have never been to an Eataly before or after the one I visited in Chicago. It was right across the street from Pizzeria Uno where we had our first lunch. It seemed just a natural transition. Eataly is like hitting up a department store that has imported all foods and cooking related items to make you and your home feel Italy adjacent. I am sure the products are delicious but they are also expensive and I feel for me totally unnecessary. But there was one thing I felt compelled to have, the coconut sorbet. It was abundant in richness and pure coconut goodness. As I walked down Michigan Avenue I had to ditch it before it was empty. I was way too full of pizza and sorbet for one day.
A visit to Chicago without a stop to Garrett’s Popcorn is like visiting without seeing Lake Michigan. There is no point. In a dream world you would get a bag and eat it on a lake tour. The best of both worlds. I don’t have a favorite flavor rather each flavor has its own uniquely delicious quality. I especially like their seasonal flavors such as the gingerbread, eggnog, or white chocolate mixes. But on an average day the best to try is the appropriately named Chicago Mix, which is a blend of the cheese and caramel variations. It should be a stop on your first day for you to enjoy and on your last day so you can bring the wealth home.
My last meal on this trip was much like my first.
Since we were staying around the corner from the original Pizzeria Uno I just had to take my brother there. We were starving and excited not to have to wait for a table. We began with an order of mozzarella sticks which were good, rarely I have I had any I couldn’t bare to bite. Then we had the pepperoni pizza. As soon as I took a bite I remember why I don’t care for it. The first time I was in Chicago in 2007 I was impressed with it but since then I have had it from other restaurants that I prefer. Here, at Uno’s, the crust has a dry, sweet-ish flavor and the pizza is heavy but flavorless. It is not my favorite but I always want it to be. I suppose that’s because I get swept up in the history of the place.
The one pizza place I had hoped to get to was Gino’s East but it was out of the way so sadly it remains on my to do list. You know what that means.
The last activity before going to the airport was our visit to the Navy Pier and lake tour so naturally we went in for a snack at Giordano's Pizza.
This Giordano’s Pizza is an outpost of the main restaurant. This pizza isn’t so different from Pizzeria Uno but I do think it is an improvement. This version has more flavor and is not so dry. I always want Pizzeria Uno to be the best Chicago pizza I have ever tasted but such is not the case. This last visit only confirmed my opinion.
This second pizza meal of my weekend created something I like to think of as deep-dish pizza bookends.
Needless to say pizza related meals are some of the happiest times I have. Having them in Chicago with my brother elevated those times and made this foodie’s weekend all the more complete.
Next time we discuss my most current to do list for The Second City.
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