> Location: Chicago, Illinois
Gus and Ida Lazzerini opened Club Lago in 1952. Their son-in-law, Francesco Nardini, took over in 1980, and his sons, GianCarlo and Guido, run it today. While the place was severely damaged by a boiler explosion next door in 2009, it was refurbished in the old style, complete with red-and-white checked tablecloths. Come here for things like pizza bread with sausage, green noodles al forno, chicken Vesuvio, veal piccante, and Italian lemon ice.
> Location: New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven’s most famous Italian dish is pizza. Just down the street from two of the city’s iconic pizzerias, Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s, this old-school Italian place eschews pizza in favor of such things as fried mozzarella, pappardelle bolognese, homemade three-cheese ravioli, linguine with Rhode Island littleneck clams, and spicy chicken gorgonzola. Opened in 1938 by Annunziata and Salvatore Consiglio, it is run by their grandchildren today.
> Location: West Hollywood, California
Opened by the eponymous Tana, a professional soccer player and aspiring actor from Belgrade, in 1964, this hanging-Chianti-bottle restaurant grew into one of L.A.’s premiere celebrity hangouts. From Fred Astaire to Leonardo DiCaprio, Jerry West to Joni Mitchell, everybody seems to have come through the doors at some point. Many of the dishes are named for regulars, many of them behind-the-scenes Hollywood types. The food is exactly what the decor would lead you to expect: mozzarella marinara, penne arrabbiata, shrimp scampi, veal parmigiana, zabaglione. All entrees are served, old-school style, with a side of spaghetti.
Dante & Luigi’s Corona di Ferro
> Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
One of the oldest Italian restaurants in America, Dante & Luigi’s was opened in 1899 under the name Corona di Ferro (Iron Crown) by an Italian immigrant named Michael DiRocco. (The name honored the Italian king.) Michael’s sons, Dante and Luigi, took the place over in the 1930s and their name became attached. The family ran it until 1996, when local Sicilian-born builder Michael LaRussa and his wife bought the place. The menu is classic — an antipasto plate, eggplant rollatini, a choice of pastas with the house special Italian “gravy,” osso buco, hand-dipped spumoni, and the like.
Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking
> Location: Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The parents of Paul Wilson, owner of Ermilio’s, were Italian immigrants who ended up in this Ozark town in northwestern Arkansas, known for its mineral springs and its Victorian architecture. Wilson opened Ermilio’s in the early 1990s in a Victorian cottage, in fact. The food is based on old family recipes, and includes things like sautéed artichoke hearts, a choice of eight pastas with such accompaniments as gorgonzola cheese sauce or “mom’s homemade meatballs in red sauce,” chicken marsala, and pan-roasted pork chop with porcini mushroom glaze.
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