Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chicago’s Paterno’s Pizza: Great Pizza, Pasta and an Incredible place to de-vegginize

Thank you to JoAnne Pavin for today’s post. She is a Chicago area holistic health practicioner, educator and writer. Her mission os to inform people that who we eat with and how we eat is just as important as what we eat. Check out her company Solutions to Health and her food blog A Table To Eat At.

After the last ten years of struggling with my vegetarian lifestyle, I found nothing more worthy of de-veggi-nizing myself than an Incredible Beef sandwich from Paterno’s Pizza in Chicago! Now, let me set the record straight, I am a true herbivore; but it was love at first bite when I sunk into this juicy meat delight. I stopped eating red meat over 20 years ago, but the Incredible Beef is a reason to start again.

You might think, what’s the big deal about beef and bread? It starts with the choice of ingredients and the people behind the recipe. John Paterno, a long time family friend and owner, says it comes from knowing how to choose quality beef, and what cuts are tender and tastiest. He explains “it starts with the shoulder or chuck and moves into the rib... you want the part (of the cattle) that provides the most flavor.” I don’t know if it is the flavor of the beef, the juice, or the soft buttery garlic bread it comes on that I love the most, or the fine melted mozzarella cheese, sweet roasted green peppers, and Giardiniera that grace the top! All the fine ingredients in the world can make a sandwich, but I personally believe it is the energy of the people behind it that make it so good.

Paterno’s is a family owned business since 1954. Josephine and Santo Paterno came to the United States from Sicily in 1938 with their two sons, John and Paul. They originally opened a liquor store, one of the largest in Chicago, but food was in their Italian roots and so the evolution began. They made a small carry out area in their store for pizza and sandwiches which eventually grew into a full size kitchen and restaurant. Today a full menu includes Santo and Josephine’s homemade recipes consisting of pizza, pasta, beef, sausage, meatballs, soups and much more. Since Santo’s passing in 2000, John and Paul and their daughters run the business, with Josephine, in her 90’s, still there every day making the soups and sauces.

My dad and John are grade school classmates, and long time friends. Dad and I recently went to pay John a visit and of course to eat some great food. It may be the retro 60’s P A T E R N O sign or the 70’s style bar that makes you feel like you’re in a time warp, but when food speaks for itself, who needs fancy ambience?! It certainly is a place where they’re not judging you on looks and you better not be judging them. After all it’s good food and good prices that keep you in business for over 50 years!

I am there for the Incredible Beef again, but decide I can’t pass up the pizza. With homemade dough and sauces, you are certain to welcome something new to your taste buds. In other words, it’s not just your run of the mill pizza. The thin crust is flavorful, with added crisps that make an extra crunch. The oregano, basil and a hint of garlic are apparent in the sauce, which is neither too salty, nor too tangy, and used in ample amounts, there is nothing worse than a pizza without enough sauce! The topping ingredients are fresh, not canned, or overcooked. If you are a meat lover, they have homemade meat balls, fresh sausage and pepperoni. Finally, real grated Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh red peppers make the cake! Or in this case, the pizza pie.

And to make the best of this feasting visit, I decide to stuff in a little linguini and clams with red sauce, which my Dad was having. It certainly is “all in the sauce”. A perfect consistency, neither too thick nor too watery, the marinara sauce is mixed with a perfect balance of clams which were obviously sautéed in butter and garlic before being tossed on top of perfectly cooked linguini. To accompany your meal, they offer many Italian wines, bottled and draft beers, or full liquor bar. The Sam Adams I had partnered well with the pizza.

Paterno’s Pizza, a place rich in history and in flavor, you’ll find a warm atmosphere, good people and great food. Leave your fancy attire at home. You’ll be more comfortable, especially after you stuff yourself with pizza, pasta and of course the Incredible Beef ! (sorry there is no picture of the beef I ate it too fast!)

Visit Paterno's Pizza, 5303 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, Illinois.

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