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

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

Del Rio: The Best Kept Secret of Chicago-land Restaurants

Del Rio's Entrance Accompanied by Antique Signs

Mike Phillips

There are so many restaurants that people say are “the best.” In my opinion, Del Rio Restaurant really is the best. It is a well-kept secret that has yet to reach a mass audience. There aren’t too many restaurants that have stayed up in business for more than 80 years, and done so without using advertisements. Del Rio Restaurant, however, has made such accomplishment and that is why many patrons consider it to be the best Italian restaurant there is. No need for flashy advertising. Del Rio Restaurant relies on one important aspect that many restaurants have forgotten, just serve great food and the rest will take care of itself. This has been the proven business model for Del Rio Restaurant, and with nearly a century in business, it seems to be working. Well, this is my gift to the world because I have an interview with the owner, the visionary behind all that is Del Rio, Bill Pigati.

How does Del Rio Restaurant fit into the community?

Del Rio has always been in the same location. It is a staple in the area. Different generations of families have been coming here for all those years. The older generations have passed it on to the following generations. I’ve lived in the area a good deal of my life, so I understand what people around here appreciate, which is good food and a family atmosphere. The diners aren’t so much our customers, but friends who come by every now and then for some food.

So where are your recipes from? Are they family recipes?

Yes they are, I used to sit with my Grandmother when I was around 3 or 4 years old, and just cook with her. Luckily I have a good memory and I was able to remember the recipes and how to prepare the foods.

Has Del Rio Restaurant always been in your family?

No, the first owner had it for three months, and around three months into owning the restaurant they sold it to my grandmother. Del Rio was originally a Tango-themed restaurant when it opened in the 1920’s. The man who originally opened the restaurant was enamored with Deloris Del-Rio, who was a Mexican movie star. So when it first opened there used to be an area in the back of the restaurant for a band to play tango music. The reason the restaurant was sold was because of the married couple that owned the restaurant. The wife was worried that all the young ladies would try and steal her husband. So the wife sold it to my grandmother in 1923 or 1924, in essence to keep her husband.

Is Del Rio Restaurant more Northern Italian cuisine or a Southern Italian cuisine?

It is more of a Northern Italian cuisine, but to be exact it is more modenase (a style of cooking that comes from the Italian town of Modena). It uses more crème sauces, and the rice is always with saffron. There is also a lot of veal and a lot of fresh fish used in this style of cuisine. There are very little desserts, those come more from the Southern part of Italy, like Sicily.

A Humble Entrance to Del Rio

A Humble Entrance to Del Rio

Everyone loves the performance of opera singers that Del Rio Restaurant has during the Holiday season. Where did the idea of having the opera singers come from?

I used to work with the symphony orchestra in college, and used to take singing classes. I always really enjoyed singing and the opera. When I first took over the restaurant from my parents, I would bring in singers on Friday nights…unbeknownst to the diners. We would take the stage at 9 and it was our job to entice the audience and get them interested in the singing. I eventually had to stop because the restaurant would start to fill up at 6 o’clock and people were just waiting for the singers at 9. So I had to stop because people would just wait around for hours.

How long have the opera singers been coming to Del Rio Restaurant?

Since 1970, I wanted to continue the singers, so I figured for two weeks out of the year, I would have four opera singers come in around the Holidays and sing. It gave me the ability to enjoy the singers while also allowing a special experience to happen for all the people at the restaurant.

Del Rio Restaurant is pretty much known by word of mouth which for years has been passed on from one generation to another. Why so little advertisement?

Because we are so well known through word of mouth, and we have a fairly long list of returning friends who come to eat regularly, we figure we don’t need to advertise. The advertising is just a hassle. The review magazines have a tendency to play up big name chefs, or owners or size of the restaurant, we feel the Del Rio can stand up on its own, and it has for the last 80 some years.

Where did the décor of the restaurant come from? Has it changed much in the last 10 or so years?

We’ve had the same type of white-checkered tablecloths since the 20’s, and the wood on the walls is from 1948. A friend who used to come in and eat put the walls in. His grandkids still come in to this day, so we leave all the wood in as homage to him. The bar is a family heirloom; it was my grandfather’s bar.

What would you consider to be Del Rio Restaurant’s specialty?

It’s hard for me to say, it’s like asking someone which child is their favorite. I’m always changing things because I want them to be perfect. An aspect that I really like about our restaurant are the almonds. The idea of the almonds come from back in the old days, people use to throw almonds at weddings, as a form of celebration. The almonds we have are the same color as confetti that’s used. So we have that almond dish as a symbol of celebration, anything people want to celebrate, the almonds are there for them to do so. Back to your original question, people really love our gnocchi entre. (type of pasta)

The People's Favorite - Gnocchi Dish

Any thoughts about expanding Del Rio Restaurant? Or possibly opening up another restaurant?

Not opening up another restaurant if that’s what you mean by expanding. We plan on expanding the first floor of the restaurant so more people will be able to come in.

In your opinion, what makes Del Rio so special to so many people?

We have a great staff, extremely nice and they treat you as a friend not a servant. I also have been everywhere we get our food. I’ve been to New Zealand for the shrimp…we’ve been getting our meat from the same guy for 40 years and the chocolate [we carry] comes from a small place in Brazil. I have inspected everything. I think that’s why it’s so special. People know they’re not getting cheap ingredients. I take pride in making sure the ingredients we use are the best. As my grandmother used to say, “In this world nothing stays the same, everything changes and you better get better.” I think that’s a good motto to live by, I’m always trying to keep Del Rio the best it can be.

Check It Out:

228 Green Bay Road

Highwood, IL


BYOB Suggestions From Gentile’s Wine Shop

Lindsey Arquilla

Ever wonder which wine would best pair with your dinner? Or which Chicago restaurants host BYOB (bring your own beverage) nights? Well, look no further, Foodies: you’ve come to the right place. Step right up and take a seat while I serve you a dish of Vino Delish.

Decades ago, on the corner of Taylor and Racine, you could find an Italian family owned pharmacy.  In 2007, the medicine man’s son, Flavio, turned the vacant spot into Gentile’s Wine Shop. I had the chance to speak with Don Cross, the shop’s first employee.

I have been coming here for a couple of years now. Who are your most frequent patrons, demographically?

There’s a mix, generally. We see a lot of UIC students, but at the same time there are many middle, to upper middle class people around here that come in.

Do you mainly get “middle class-ers” in here for the weekly wine tastings?

No, we still see plenty of UIC kids. There’s a misconception that our wine tastings cost something, but they are actually free every Friday evening.

Oh, really? Walk me through a typical wine tasting at your shop.

Well, sometimes we set them up and other times the wine reps set them up for us. It really just depends on the week, and the wine.

Are they generally very educational, in respect to the wine itself and which wines go with which types of foods?

They can be. But they’re also just a chance for the tasters to try different wines and learn which is their new favorite. We used to have cheese and chocolate and crackers for sale all the time, but now the vendors will usually set them out at their tastings. We’re probably going to start selling munchies again soon.

Gentile’s is part of Printers Row Wine Shop, correct?

Yes, when Flavio’s father owned the pharmacies, Dearborn was one of them. Then, when the spaces opened up, Flavio saw the opportunity to make them into wine shops. Printers Row opened in 2004; Gentiles in 2007.

Flavio—that sounds Italian—are most of your wines from Europe?

No, we definitely have a variety from all over the world. We just got this Savon Blanc in from South Africa today!

Wow! So, the majority of your products are obviously wine. But what else do you sell?

We have different liquors and liqueurs, but the biggest seller is beer. We have a very popular line of craft beer from independent brews. Stone is a huge seller right now, along with Great Lakes and Two Brothers from Warrenville. But, you know, the UIC guys like their PBR. It’s refreshing. Gotta give it that.

Yeah, PBR seems to be a cheap Chicago favorite. So, since our site is about Chicago restaurants, I have to ask: how often do you get customers asking about different wines to bring to BYOB spots?

It happens all the time. Seriously, just tell them to come in here and ask and we’ll hook them up with whatever they need! There’s a wine for every meal.

What would you pair with a spicy dish?

For something like Thai, I would go with a white Rhiesling. That’ll cut right through the spice with its sweetness. Sushi would go great with it, too.

Ah, I see. So for foods with a kick, go with a white.

Yes, they tend to offer a nice balance and contrast. So Mexican, Indian—well, actually, Indian foods are great with beer!

Is that right? I love Indian!

Yes! Me, too! When I first moved here I lived on Devon, and there are tons of Indian restaurants around there. Sometimes, you just gotta have a good beer with a meal. Like, when I have Mexican food—I just want a crisp, light beer to cut through it. Or a margarita!

Haha, yeah, who doesn’t always want a margarita?! Really, though, for a more obvious question, what would be the best pairing with French or Italian food?

French or Italian wine! It’s a no brainer there. There are just so many!

That makes sense. So Don, what is your favorite wine in the shop?

That’s a tough one…there’s so many. I would have to say…Sweet Bru…or Belle Glos…or Gotim Bru…hell, any of my picks.

Your picks?

Yeah, we have tags below wines that we here at the shop choose as our favorites.

I can’t believe I never noticed that about this place—that is really cool! What would you say are the major differences between this shop and Printers Row?

Printers Row has more of the higher end wines, mostly because of their area. We here at Gentile’s sell great products but certainly not as high up on the tier as downtown where people are looking for a higher end bottle.

No matter the area of Chicago, running a wine shop has to be different from working at a liquor store or other beverage retail spot.

No doubt. The major difference is the clientele. Our customers come here for a purpose: to learn. That’s what we’re here for.

There you have it, fellow wine enthusiasts. Gentile’s Wine Shop on Taylor and Printers Row Wine Shop on Dearborn are there for the taking. Stop by either one on your way to your favorite BYOB restaurants (we have taken the liberty of listing several of our favorites below) for your appetizing pleasures. Salute!

Sushi: “Shiso” – North Ave

Thai: “Thai Classic”: – Clark

Mexican: “Cosina Grill”- W Foster

Chinese: “Tao Ran Ju” – Wentworth

Turkish: “Café Orchid” – Addison

Morocan: “Tagine” – Rockwell …Rhiesling (all above)

American BBQ: “Smoque” – Pulaski … Savon Blanc

Vegan: “Earwax” – Milwaukee …Pinot Grigio

Italian: “Trattoria Caterina” – Dearborn…Italian Vino

French: “Crepe Town” – Sheridan…French  Vin

Greek: “Greek Corner” – Damen…Greek Krasi

*Footnote: the meatier the meat, the heartier the red