I spent 3 years working and eating in Chicago and still have very fond memories of the food scene there. My office was in the Merchandise Mart which was a block from Gene & Georgetti, the best steakhouse I’ve ever been to and whose rib eye I still count as the best I’ve had and the main course in my last supper. A couple blocks further was Al’s Italian Beef, in my opinion the holy grail of Italian Beef and where I developed a slight obsession for this Chicago centric delight. The original Billy Goat, tucked under Michigan Avenue and the basis for the cheeseburger-cheeseburger skit was my go-to for mornings after a big night out for the best greasy burger anywhere and remember, no Coke, Pepsi. There was also the Chicago style hot dogs, deep-dish pizza and bone-in pork chop sandwiches from Maxwell Street. Yes, you heard that right, it was a full-on pork chop with the bone and grilled onions on a bun and there was nothing better.
I was stoked to hear that many of my Chicago favorites were now available in Encinitas at Rosati’s, including Italian Beef. To have a solid version of that Chicago classic readily available would make me very happy. Prior to my first visit, I had so many questions. Is the beef sliced razor thin? Do they offer sweet and hot peppers? Can the bun withstand a single and double dip in the jus? Do they even offer a single or double dip? And when I say dip, I mean the entire sandwich submerged in the broth that the beef has been cooking in. I’m a single dip guy but it should be able to handle the double dip also. Well, I am happy to report that Rosati’s Italian Beef passed every test and for this I am very grateful. I could get greedy and request they add the pork chop sandwich, but I’m not sure that would fly in San Diego.
And well this was primarily an Italian Beef mission, we did sample some other dishes from the menu including the fabulous Penne Pomodoro with nicely cooked Penne pasta, fabulous sausage, tomatoes, olive oil and shaved Asiago cheese. It was a very hearty, flavorful dish that was definitely large enough to be shared. Same with the Caesar salad we started with.
Rosati’s is Chicago-based and still a family-owned pizza franchise established in 1964 in Mt. Prospect, IL. Even though it consists of 158 locations it felt like a slice of Chi-town and the Encinitas location has the Rosati's Pizza Sports Pub theme.
There is some serious history behind the restaurant going way back to 1895, when an Italian immigrant from the region of Naples, Italy, Ferdinand Rosati opened a fine-dining Italian restaurant on Coney Island. In 1906, he moved to Chicago and started yet another Italian restaurant on Chicago’s famous Taylor Street. Since the restaurant thrived, a hotel, saloon, and a small importing and exporting business of Italian foods were added to the restaurant. By 1927, Ferdinand’s son, Saverio Rosati opened another restaurant on Pulaski and Madison in Chicago, right next to the Marbro Theater. Soon after, the restaurant became a favorite watering hole for the old Chicago society and Windy City politicians. On any given night you might spot Jack Haley, famous for his role as the “Tin Man” in The Wizard of Oz enjoying a hearty helping of Saverio’s homemade Italian specialties or contrary to popular belief, notorious gangster, Al Capone and his entourage could be spotted sharing a heaping dish of pasta with his so called “nemesis”, Eliot Ness. When Saverio retired, his sons moved to the suburbs with a new and timely concept. The year was 1964 and pizza was now a popular trend. Saverio’s sons opened the first Rosati’s Pizza in Mount Prospect. By 1978, a total of ten Rosati family members owned carryout pizzerias. Flash forward and the Rosati’s brand is approaching 200 restaurants nationally.
The key here is that they have managed to keep true to the recipes that made them successful in the first place. Besides the food, they have a nice selection of beers on tap including a few that are brewed in Chicago including Goose Island.
After our over indulgence in pasta and beef there was little room for dessert but of course we had to try the Zeppoli. These are the bite-sized pieces of crispy dough tossed in powdered sugar and paired with rich Nutella hazelnut spread. Yes, they are really good and the serving is enough for about six people, seriously, way over the top. I took them home and they were perfect with coffee the next morning.
So for those of you with roots in Chicago, or just an affinity for or are curious about the food from the area, Rosati’s does it right.
337 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas, 760.452.2007 or www.myrosatis.com