Chicago Italian: Two Great “Clubs” To Try Out

Growing up, I had a great Italian grandmother and (half) Italian mother that infused in me a love of the culture and given me an unwaveringly curious outlook about everything Italian. I want to learn the language, try all types of Italian food, and eventually, visit the country itself. There are some great restaurants and cultural institutions in Chicago to check out, and until I get a pasta maker and start experimenting with making my own, I have to get my fix elsewhere.

Its hard to pick favorites with Italian food, because almost every place I’ve been to here in Chicago has been great, but there are two that I’ve been to fairly recently that I want to point out, not only because they have similar names, but because they also had superior food and drink: Club Lago on Superior and Club Lucky in Bucktown.

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Bar Forza: New to Lincoln Park

Living in Lincoln Park, I find it especially interesting when there is a new restaurant right in my neighborhood, especially one that is affordable and unique. There’s where Forza comes into play.

Popping up on Lincoln where the Spread previously was, Forza is an italian-themed bistro, featuring fresh flowers on the tables, a Vespa-type scooter in the restaurant, and a classy yet affordable atmosphere for a classy, affordable night out. Now, I’ve been to Forza twice, and both times I’ve been impressed with the care and attention that they give their customers. The owner walks from table to table, making sure each customer is satisfied, and sometimes even giving away free drink coupons.

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Playing with Ramen and Fun Recipes

Ah, ramen. The ultimate cheap, quick meal. Many college students have thrived off of it. Taking only three minutes to cook, this meal is the ultimate lazy lunch and dinner. Despite this, ramen can get to be a very dull dinner. For many people, cooking ramen turns into an art, challenging themselves to take it further and experiment with recipes.

While at Whole Foods the other day slinging granola, I met a chef who was eager to talk about food. After telling him I didn’t know how to begin experimenting with different spices to create my own recipes, he told me the best way to start was experiment with ramen. Its basic flavor makes it the ultimate palate to test out various spices and herbs, and get accustomed to different tastes, for the novice chef to work their way up to creating their own recipes. Using this tactic, I find that I’m already much more accustomed to using spices and herbs on a whim, which I love!

After that fun experiment, I began scouring the Internet and other sources to look for tasty ramen recipes. I was surprised at what I found: almost every type of noodle recipe imaginable! Here’s three recipes from completely different ends of the spectrum that I’m the most excited about:

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Meatless Fridays: Sweet Potato and Sage Pizza

With this post I’d like to introduce a new feature to Chow City: meatless Fridays. I eat a lot of meat, almost every day, so I am trying to cut back, and will be looking for new, tasty meatless recipes to post every Friday. Lately, I’ve been expanding my horizons with spices and herbs and other flavor-adding ingredients, and while surfing the internet the other day, I found the perfect recipe to put my new-found skills to use: sweet potato and sage pizza. This recipe is delicious and flavorful, and wonderfully vegetarian. As an added bonus, sweet potatoes are pretty healthy, while at the same time not losing their subtle flavor. All in all, I found this pizza to be an explosion of subtle flavors, and extremely enjoyable.

Sweet Potato and Sage Pizza

Ingredients – to make a personal pizza:

  • 1/2-3/4 cup slices sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced onion
  • 1 tbsp sage leaves
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese, by preference
  • Salt and pepper (I used garlic salt)
  • Pizza dough
  • Italian herbs and spices (I used parsley, thyme and oregano)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425. Mix together sweet potatoes, onion, sage, salt, pepper, and a little olive oil in a baking pan. Wrap unpeeled garlic cloves in aluminum foil and put them in the pan as well. Cook at 425 until tender, which should take 10-15 minutes.

Put cooking oil, crisco, or butter on the pan and put in the crust. Use your judgement on how big you want the pizza. Pre-bake crust for eight minutes.

Take the crust out and spread over it a mixture of olive oil, parsley, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Put the potato and onion mix on top of the crust, and sprinkle cheese as desired over the top. Put back in the oven, cooking until it reaches desired crispness and the cheese melts, which could be anywhere from 10-18 minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy!

-Lisa