Santullo’s Eatery

Alison Holmes Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza and craft beer. But in the heart of Wicker Park, on the city’s Near Northside, Santullo’s Eatery offers some of the finest New York-style pizza and Brooklyn-brewed beer this side of the Mississippi. The restaurant’s slogan says it all “A slice of New York in Wicker Park.” The deep dish style and thin crust staples of the Chicago pizza scene are out and the big, foldable slices of the East coast are in. Santullo’s Eatery is a definite representation of Wicker Park. It is a fusion of fabulous food and hip rocker music—a reflection of the personal style of the restaurant’s owners Andy Barrett and Sean Mulroney, who not surprisingly own Double Door Liquors on Milwaukee Avenue (entrance on Damen)—a live music venue—a short walk from Santullo’s on North Avenue.

“The owners wanted to do something different from all the ‘trendy’ new spots popping up all over Wicker Park,” said Santullo’s manager Jeremy Kniola. “The rock-n-roll atmosphere represents ‘Old Wicker Park,’” Kniola said. The interior walls are lined with local artwork, posters of local bands, flyers for upcoming Double Door shows as well as a variety of classic Italian-style family photographs. Oversized leather booths create a comfortable space for groups or an intimate environment for two. While the long street-side tables are the perfect spot for people watching.

The casual and relaxed atmosphere is perpetuated by counter ordering, table delivery and a fun eclectic blend of staff. “The employees are a mix of creative people… musicians, artists and writers,” Kniola said. Considering Barrett and Mulroney also own the Double Door , it’s no wonder Santullo’s draws in a creative, loyal staff. “All [our] employees have been here for a long time, we don’t have much turnover,” said Kinola.

“I have been here for three years and it just works for me. I can wear what I want, listen to what I want and have a flexible schedule to rehearse, because I’m in three bands. It’s pretty good,” said Chef Joshua Shader. But despite all of the enticing aspects of Santullo’s Eatery, the food is the real draw.

A classic New York-Slice of Santullo's Mama's Meatballs

Handcrafted pizzas are offered in 20-inch “Classics” or by-the-slice. Every morning starts off with homemade dough, fresh mozzarella cheese and homemade pizza sauce. Then freshly chopped produce from local growers, high quality meats or vegan alternatives top off the mouthwatering pie. Santullo’s Eatery prides itself in offering a wide variety of gourmet toppings including sausage, pepperoni, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh garlic, artichoke hearts, Portobello mushrooms, spinach, and roasted red peppers. Though fresh mozzarella is always used, additional cheeses include Asiago, gorgonzola, feta and bleu cheese. Pizza by-the-slice is offered daily in cheese, pepperoni or sausage varieties with a rotating menu of daily specials such as Flat Iron BBQ, Margherita, Brickhouse, Great White and Mama’s Meatballs. Also offered is an array of Upton’s Naturals Seitan products (a protein-rich meat substitute) including Italian sausage-, chorizo-, bacon-, pastrami- and chicken-style Seitan.

Santullo’s Eatery also offers a variety of homemade soups, salads and toasted sandwiches. Sandwiches are served on a choice of potato or wheat bread or an Italian baguette. Choices include Spicy Chicken Sando, Roast Beef with Cheddar, Tuna Melt, The Santullo, Chicken Vesuvio, The BLT Classic and a “create your own sandwich” option. Salad selections feature chopped chicken, spinach, tuna, Caprese, and Santullo’s House salad.

In addition to New York-style pizza, Santullo’s Eatery also offers a selection of “Brooklyn Beers” (lagers straight from a brewery in Brooklyn) and other draft and bottled beer. Draft beer is served in frosted mugs or pitchers and ranges from crafts like Belgian Pale Ale and 312 to domestic classics such as Bud Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

While dining in at Santullo’s Eatery means an opportunity to experience the relaxed vibe of Wicker Park, takeout, delivery and catering options are offered as well. Santullo’s also offers daily specials that feature $4 special slices, $2 happy hour slices, and Lunch specials Monday through Friday from 3pm to 5pm. What a bargain.

So, Chicagoans, you don’t have to travel over 300 miles to enjoy an New York style slice of pizza. Check out Santullo’s on North Ave in Chicago’s own Wicker Park!

Check It Out:

Santullo’s Eatery
1943 West North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
773-227-7960
http://www.santullos.com


Published in: on 05/01/2010 at 6:58 PM  Leave a Comment  

Kuma’s Corner – “Best Burgers in Chicago”

A Distinguished Entrance to Kuma's Corner

Kelly Aarstad

Even after waiting a full hour for a table in a loud, congested pub, I’m excited when the hostess brings me to my table. I’ve been here before so I expect to stand at the bar and drink a couple more, but never have a problem welcoming the “quick” service. Because one thing is certain about Kuma’s Corner, and the food it offers, is well worth the wait.

Patrons of Kuma's Corner

Kuma’s Corner, is a heavy metal pub/restaurant that lives up to its reputation. Of all the burgers I’ve ever eaten, I’ve never had a burger quite like a Kuma-style burger. It’s a 10 oz. patty topped with quality ingredients that are carefully prepared, which has been chosen time and time again as the ‘Best Burger in Chicago’.

It’s not just the sizeable portions of meat that sets it apart. Every ingredient used is carefully chosen and of the highest quality, no shortcuts here. It’s the superiority of the products as well as the creative mixes of ingredients that put Kuma’s at the top of the list.

With over 22 variations of burgers to choose from, there’s no doubt that everyone’s going to have at least one favorite. This menu tends to change up regularly to keep its regulars on their toes. “We’ll be changing our menus in the summer; we’ll be dropping some burgers and adding some new ones.” said the waitress Jessica Deans about Kuma’s upcoming summer plans. There is no doubt that some of Kuma’s Corner burgers will be greatly missed by its regulars, on the other hand, however, the development of the new menu only suggests the creation of some new favorites.

The Slayer - Can You Find the Burger?

The burger I’ve come to love is the Slayer. As the menu describes it, it’s a “Pile of fries topped with a ½ lb. Burger, Chili, Cherry Peppers, Andouille, Onions, Jack Cheese, and Anger.” Anger is exactly what comes to mind when I see this monstrosity. It’s so awesomely overwhelming; you have no idea what angle to attack it from. “There’s so much going on with this burger, the whole meal is on the patty…I love it,” said regular customer Ryan Graham. But I should mention that if you wanted to personalize this beast or any of the other burgers, forget it. The way it’s described on the menu is the way it comes, so tough it out.

A lot of burgers on Kuma’s menu are a bit intimidating, both in name and size, but there is no need to be worried. There are plenty of other items on the menu that’ll fill you up. Take their BBQ Pork Fries for instance, a delicious heap of fries, piled with Monterey Jack and loaded with BBQ Pork. Even their soups  like their chicken noodle will put Mom to shame. They change their soups frequently but you can be assured they’ll be stocked with the finest ingredients.

Now, let’s talk beer. What other beverage could go better with a mean burger like the one you get at Kuma’s Corner than a cold one? They have a whole array of beers, ranging from all sorts of lagers and ales that call all sorts of places home, starting with Bavaria and ending with hometown Chicago. This time around, I’m having the Bavarian beer Schneider Weisse, which has a strikingly similar taste to bubble gum with an 8% ABV (Alcohol By Volume). Most of the beers available here have a high ABV. They even have the Colorado beer, Decadent Imperial that has an astounding 10% ABV. You can be sure that all of these beers have astounding tastes. And for those of you who like your good ol’ PBR(Pabst Blue Ribbon), it’s available as their macrobrew.

Along with all the great beer they have to offer, they have a fully stocked bar. For all the whiskey drinkers out there, they even have Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve on tap!

Glimpse From Behind the Bar

While you’re letting your food digest and knocking back a couple brews, you can take in the atmosphere. While listening to rock bands like Black Label Society, Meshuggah, and My Dying Bride, you can check out all the paraphernalia that decorates the heavy metal pub. You’ll find Kuma’s mascot, The Bear, everywhere throughout the bar. There are paintings of bears, statues of bears, and even heads of bears (no, not real bear heads). Accompanying the bear are guitars, skateboards, and even paintings of vampire bondage chicks. The pub itself is surrounded by pale yellow walls and has wooden hardware and tables. Giving it that old school feel with a heavy metal edge.

The wait may be long, but the good booze should be enough to hold you over until you’re able to sink your teeth into a juicy burger. If ground beef isn’t your choice of meat they also offer boneless chicken breasts, garden burgers, and chicken tenders as a substitute. Unfortunately, vegans are out of luck. Food starts at $7 and beer begins at $5 (with the exception of PBR at $3). For both quality and quantity in food paired with a great beer or spirit, check out Kuma’s Corner.

Check It Out:

Kuma’s Corner

2900 West Belmont

773.604.8769

www.kumascorner.com

Caffé Gelato: A Few Scoops of Sicily in Chicago

Jessica Geiger

Caffe Gelato exterior look

Even though it may not feel like summer, believe it or not Chicagoans, it is just around the corner. And what better way to spend a hot day in the city than with a cool Italian treat like gelato? This creamy delight is like American ice cream, but churned slower, allowing for less ice and air which really brings out the flavor of the refreshing treat. On top of that, it’s also healthier: lower in both calories and fat, helping everyone keep their beach bods in check. I’ve been hearing a lot about Caffé Gelato, a gelato shop (AKA a gelateria) in the heart of Wicker Park, just off Division and Damen.  I stopped in for a chat with part-owner and manager of the family owned spot, Vince Geraci, about bringing Sicilian-style gelato to Chicago.

Can you give me a rundown of the history of Caffé Gelato?

We started about seven years ago when we went on vacation for the first time to Sicily with my parents to see their hometown of Gaccamo. When we were on our way there, my dad told me, “We have to try this gelato. I haven’t had it since the last time I was here.” I said, “Alright, let’s try it.” So, my family and I went to have this gelato and ever since then we were having it morning, lunch and dinner!

I remember that’s exactly how it was when I was in Italy! I felt like I had to stop in at every corner gelateria I saw!

Welcoming interior and product selections

[Laughs] That’s right! It was on every corner! …So, it was three days since we had gotten back to the States and I couldn’t stop thinking about the gelato! Like, “Come on, Pop! We gotta open something here, in Chicago!” And ya know, I was just thinking about gelato, I wasn’t thinking about business, and he thought it was a good idea. We went back to Sicily and through family friends we started making our contacts. And that’s how it got started.

So why did you pick Wicker Park to open up your shop?

Well, we saw the big sidewalks and the area was destined to change a lot.

You were so right. Wicker Park has changed so much in the past seven years. How has your business changed within that time?

Actually, we’ve still got a lot of people that have been coming since day one and we’re getting a lot of new people. With being around for this long, we keep getting busier and busier each season because we’re only open March 1 through October 31.

So you’ve got a lot of regulars that come in?

There are those guys that are always like, “Oh, I just want pistachio” or “Coconut and mango” or there’s this lady that always comes in for her 2% latte. There’s always the teacher, the cop, the lawyer, the local realtor.

Sounds like you’ve really established yourself as a neighborhood favorite. What do you feel Caffé Gelato brings to the Wicker Park?

Caffé Gelato provides a family feel. It’s a place you can go on a date and not spend a lot of money, or just go to after dinner. It’s truly an authentic place that we brought to Chicago. We didn’t wanna open up another Baskin-Robbins. We wanted to open something authentic that brought us back to Italy without paying the thousand dollar airfare. [laughs]

What can you tell me about your gelato?

Gelato, we like to say, is half of the fat but more of the flavor, and essentially that’s what it is. We don’t use false flavoring; we don’t do anything like that. [If] the flavor is hazelnut, we buy the best hazelnut. We go to Sicily and get the wild-grown hazelnuts or pistachios, they make it into a paste, and that’s what we use to make our gelato. For the fruit flavors, we use actual fruits. It’s all natural. It’s all wholesome food. We make it every morning.

Do you always have the same flavors available or does it vary day to day?

Rich flavors of gelato

We change our flavors through seasons. Like, for October (our last month) we do pumpkin. So I make it into a pumpkin pie kind of gelato. In the summer we focus a lot on fruits…but, we  keep a lot of the staple items, like pistachio. If we took that away, we’d have a lot of angry customers—and hazelnut! Every gelateria, in order to be able to say they’re a gelateria, has to have hazelnut. That’s what they judge gelato shops by in Italy: their hazelnut.

You serve coffee too, right? Can you tell me about that?

We buy our coffee beans directly from the small farmers, like from Sumantra or El Salvador, all depending on what climate is going on there. For instance, we were buying from Mexico for a little bit, but then they had some big thunderstorms so we couldn’t buy from there anymore, so we had to find another farm.

I know that it’s more than about gelato and coffee here. What else do you sell?

We do gelato, coffee, and paninis. Those are our three. Well, and then our pastries. [Laughs] So, those are our four main things. We don’t really wanna go any bigger than that, because we want to keep it small but keep the quality, ya know?

Do you offer your paninis during all business hours or are they only available at certain times?

After five o’clock we don’t make the paninis because we get a long line [for gelato after dinner].

Before I grab a scoop of my own, my final question has to be, what is your favorite flavor?

Nociola is my favorite, hazelnut. It was my first.

So this summer, stop by to cool off at Caffé Gelato and grab a scoop of this creamy Italian treat.  Who knows, maybe your first will be your favorite.

Check It Out!

Caffé Gelato
http://www.caffegelatochicago.com
2034 W Division
Chicago, IL 60622
773.227.7333