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Gelato and Belgian waffles at Baladoche

Gelato and Belgian waffles at Baladoche

Baladoche

2905 N. Clark | 773-880-5090

$

EUROPEAN, ICE CREAM | 3 PM-midnight MonDAY-friDAY, 11 AM-midnight sATURDAY-sunday | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Baladoche specializes in waffles, but not just any waffles—Belgian zucker waffles, about the size of your hand and filled with pearl sugar chips, which look like something a storybook mouse would put in its tea. The pearls melt a bit during cooking, providing little pockets of crunchy sweetness that make syrup superfluous. Toppings include cinnamon sugar, chocolate, jam, Nutella, or the house gelato, though two small scoops of the last made the waffle too soggy for my taste. —Anne Ford

Bellezza Gelato Caffe

3637 N. Harlem | 773-545-1239

$

ICE CREAM, COFFEE SHOP | 1-9 PM TUESDAY-SATURDAY, 5-9 PM SUNDAY | CLOSED MONDAY  | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Opening a gelateria was a longtime dream for Bellezza Gelato owners Maria DiNunzio and Tim Ashorian, and it's safe to say that the couple's Harlem Avenue shop is a dream come true for us too. When I paid them a visit it was so hot outside that everything was melting, and after a previous customer's order oozed out of her cone in the heat, the guys behind the counter recommended I stick with a cup. Even half melted, however, my scoop of banana-caramel-praline gelato was one of the best I've had outside Italy. My second scoop—butter pecan—was just as good, whole pecans sprinkled liberally throughout. With its wide selection of gelati (for chocolate lovers there are now three different choices, double-Dutch chocolate, dark-chocolate-covered cherry-cognac, and dark chocolate-raspberry tartufo) Bellezza is a go-to spot, and the well-prepared coffee (espresso, cappuccino, latte, and Turkish coffee) and pastries—most under a couple bucks—can't hurt either. There are also house-made biscotto and custom-made gelato pies. Don't miss the affogato: gelato with a flavored shot of espresso, topped with whipped cream and an espresso bean. —Sam Kaplan

Black Dog Gelato

859 N. Damen | 773-235-3116

$

ICE CREAM | 5-10 PM monday, noon-10 pm tuesday-thursday, noon-11 PM friday-saturday, noon-10 pm sunday | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Onetime Scylla pastry chef Jessie Oloroso's long awaited fuschia-colored ice cream parlor was preceded by gallons of goodwill engendered by her gelato's placement on restaurant dessert menus and in select retail freezer cases. Texturally her execution is flawless, and her flavor combinations are for the most part fascinating—avocado-cinnamon, lemon-ginger, goat-cheese-cashew-caramel, and the perpetually out-of-stock sesame-fig-chocolate-chip, to name a few. Occasionally, however, they're almost too aggressive or unbalanced; my tongue remained shriveled the morning after a few spoons of salted peanut, and rich Mexican chocolate packs enough chile heat to seem like an unfriendly dare. House-made sodas and novelties such as the chocolate-and-bacon-dipped whiskey gelato bar and build-your-own ice cream sandwiches add a minimum of variety. I'm curious to see what might be offered in the winter months. —Mike Sula

Caffe Gelato

2034 W. Division | 773-227-7333

$

ICE CREAM | 10 AM-10 PM sunday-Thursday, 10 AM-11 PM fRIDAY-sATURDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This sleek family-run Ukrainian Village spot offers 18 seasonally rotated flavors, including bacio (chocolate hazelnut), frutti di bosco (berries), ananas (pineapple), and panna cotta. You can also mix flavors or get your gelato fix in the form of a shake with a shot of espresso. The owner also runs Pilsen's Ristorante al Teatro (see separate listing). —Susannah J. Felts

Canady le Chocolatier

824 S. Wabash | 312-212-1270

$

ICE CREAM | 11 AM-9 PM MONDAY-SATURDAY, NOON-6 PM SUNDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Primarily an outlet for the handmade chocolates of Michael Canady, which are wonderfully fresh and delicate, Canady le Chocolatier also sells gelato made in-house. The eight daily flavors change regularly; on a recent visit I tried chocolate, burnt caramel, raspberry, and mascarpone. The creamy textures were right on, and the raspberry had bright fruit flavor, but some of the others stumbled: mascarpone was too yogurty, and I found the chocolate disappointingly average—certainly not what you'd expect. —Peter Margasak

Crepe Crave

1752 W. North | 773-698-8783

$

european, ice cream | 10 am-9 pm monday-thursday, 10 am-10 pm friday, 8 am-10 pm saturday, 8 am-8 pm sunday | reservations not accepted

Crepe Crave bills itself as a "crepe and gelato cafe," and that's exactly what it serves—no more, no less. The coffee's from Illy, the 18 flavors of gelato (some seasonal) from the Michigan company Palazzolo's. The crepes are classified as sweet, savory, or "breakfast," which spans both, and if you don't like the combinations offered you can build your own for a base price of $3.50. The smoked salmon on the Norwegian, served with cream cheese, was perfectly balanced by capers and red onions; an egg crepe with feta, spinach, and fresh tomatoes was equally good. Sweet cheese was our favorite of the sweet crepes—a cheesecakelike confection made in-house that we had with strawberries. Though the place is fairly nice, with a leather couch and hardwood floors, everything's served in or on plastic. —Julia Thiel

Dolce Casa Cafe

4947 N. Damen | 773-506-0708

$

COFFEE SHOP, ICE CREAM | 7 AM-7 PM MONDAY-FRIDAY, 7:30 AM-6 PM SATURDAY-SUNDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Coffee shop in the former Ventrella's Caffe; there's still sorbet and artisanal gelato in addition to panini, soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Freddy's Pizzeria

1600 S. 61st, Cicero | 708-863-9289

$

PIZZA, ITALIAN, ICE CREAM | 10 am-7pm MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY

The Zabar's of Cicero, Freddy's Pizza offers dry goods such as olive oil and pasta, but the real attraction is a display case of antipasti and hot dishes you can take away or eat on the crowded porch. Primi include a very fine chickpea salad, slices of salami in oil, and buffalo mozzarella with basil and tomato—the last, if you ask me, one of the clearest expressions of Italian culinary genius. I've sometimes thought I'd rather eat my toe than another plate of pasta Alfredo, but the rigatoni here is dressed with light cream, just a little cheese, and a few peas—I'd order it again, especially with some sauteed rapini on the side. The lasagna is quite delicate, house-made noodles layered softly over fluffy ricotta and discreetly covered with a chunky, conservatively seasoned tomato sauce. Rather than being cracker crisp, the pizza crust is like a good slice of puffy Italian loaf smeared with cheese and sausage (or any of seven or eight other options). There's an array of Italian ices and gelati, ethereally creamy and, like most offerings here, made in the back. Note: Freddy's will be closed through Thursday, September 16, resuming normal business hours on Friday, September 17. —David Hammond

Heavenly Gelato & Ice Cream Cafe

2662 N. Sawyer | 773-342-0427

$

ICE CREAM, COFFEE SHOP | 3-10 PM Sunday-Thursday, 3-11 PM Friday-saturday | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Being a Logan Square resident, I welcomed the news of Heavenly's opening. Located near the corner of Sawyer right off Milwaukee, the family-owned independent business offers a selection of gelato, ice cream, sorbet, and the delectable Temptation Vegan Ice Cream, a pleasant surprise. This past trip I was more than satisfied with my small, rich amalgamation of banana praline and peanut butter cup gelato, just as I had been with previous excursions into the mixed berry, triple dark chocolate, and pistachio gelatos. The ice cream selections are nothing to shrug at, either, particularly the black walnut. The quaint three-table outdoor setting is perfect for lounging on a summer evening with your dessert of choice and mooching off the free Wi-Fi or taking in some solid Logan Square people watching. —Kevin Warwick

Istria Cafe

1520 E. 57th | 773-955-2556

$

ICE CREAM, COFFEE SHOP | 7 am-8 PM daily | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

It's hard to think of a more perfect example of early 21st-century food culture than this bright Internet cafe, full of laptop-using, iPod-wearing U. of C. students, yet literally carved into the crumbling urban infrastructure of the South Shore Line. The coffee and espresso, expertly hand-pulled, is Intelligentsia. Panini, the only real lunch offering, are served on a bread that doesn't have quite the crunch you'd hope for; still, what's inside (prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, a couple of vegetarian choices) is fresh and flavorful. But the main reason to come here and try to snag one of the few tables is the house-made gelato. Texture-wise, it may seem a little too pliable as compared to authentic European gelato, but the fruit ones taste of real fruit, and the chocolate and hazelnut varieties are dreamily creamy. In the summer, sidewalk tables relieve the cramped interior somewhat. There's a second location in the Hyde Park Arts Center (1530 S. Cornell, 773-324-9660). —Michael Gebert

Little Branch Cafe

1251 S. Prairie | 312-360-0101

$

COFFEE SHOP, BREAKFAST | Monday-Tuesday 7 AM-4 PM, Wednesday-Friday 7 AM-10 PM, Saturday 8 AM-10 PM, Sunday 8 AM-4 PM

Tucked into the ground floor of a gleaming South Loop high-rise, this casually modern spot run by fashion designer Soo Choi and her sister Sang is notable for both its good looks and its utter lack of street parking—the cafe seems primarily to serve the culinary needs of neighborhood condo dwellers and the occasional museum campus refugee. Nice aesthetic touches, courtesy of designer/contractor Kevin Heisner, include silky-smooth polished limestone tabletops, chalkboard-painted walls, counters faced with unfinished lumber, and stools made from painted tree trunks. The food is as well designed as the space: a turkey Reuben from the short panini menu was surprisingly tidy, bird, kraut, and cheese smooshed cleanly between slices of marble rye. Also on offer: smoky espresso drinks with Metropolis coffee, Palazollo's artisanal gelato and sorbetto, and smoothies. —Martha Bayne

Paciugo

3241 N. Broadway | 773-248-8433

$

ICE CREAM | 1-10 PM monDAY-THURSDAY, 1-11 PM FRIDAY, noon-11 PM SATURDAY, noon-10 pm sunday | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This outpost of the Dallas-based gelato chain performs a daily production miracle, churning out 30 to 40 fresh traditional and modern flavors from a master list of 270, some of them fascinating (Blackberry Cabernet, Latte Menta), others just plain audacious (Blueberry Lavender Chocolate Chip, Gold Fish). I don't think corporate has quite reached the optimal ideal of franchise-style consistency; some flavors turn out remarkably smooth and silky, others are grainy and broken. But as long as customers make judicious use of the tasting spoons, frequent turnover virtually assures a good ratio of quality flavor to failure. I'm particularly taken by the chocolate jalapeño, smooth with just a slight afterburn; Amarena black cherry swirl, with imported cherries suspended in a luxuriant matrix; and an intensely floral if gritty violet. Among value-added preparations such as sundaes and shakes, the ridiculously sybaritic affogato—two or three scoops drowned in hot espresso—is the way to go. There's a second location in Lincoln Square (2324 W. Giddings, 773-989-1926). —Mike Sula

Ristorante al Teatro

1227 W. 18th | 312-784-9100

$$

Italian, pizza, ice cream | Lunch, Dinner: seven sunday, tuesday-saturday | closed monday | Open Late: saturday till 2, Friday till midnight

This dramatic spot in Pilsen's landmark Thalia Hall lives up to its name, with ornate tin ceilings and painted stage drapes framing the mouth of the wood-burning oven, from which emerge the would-be star pizzas. Slightly puffy and thin crusted, they come with 20 topping combos ranging from a simple margherita to the al Teatro, baby shrimp and prosecco bechamel on sauteed spinach. But our pizza rustica rated little applause: the crust was standard for its type, and the mix of fresh tomato pulp, partially caramelized onions, asparagus, mozzarella, and barely there shaved grana and oregano lacked pizzazz. We preferred an opener of tender grilled squid, tossed with a few arugula leaves, and a well-seasoned secondo, galletto al Teatro, a small but mostly moist roasted half chicken. Owner Dominick Geraci is also behind Caffe Gelato, and not surprisingly the many gelati and sorbetti are the best desserts. The wine list is small but offers quite a few bottles for less than $30. A DJ plays on Fridays and there's salsa dancing on Saturdays —Anne Spiselman

Sapore di Napoli

1406 W. Belmont | 773-935-1212

$$

PIZZA, ITALIAN, ICE CREAM | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | OPEN LATE: TUESDAY-SATURDAY TILL 11 | BYO | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

"They used to do this a hundred years ago in Naples," the chef at Sapore di Napoli told us as he slammed a wad of dough against the counter—a little open-kitchen entertainment before the meal. The dozen kinds of authentic Italian-style pizza here include salsiccia e cipolle (Italian sausage with smoked mozzarella and onions), verdure (mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, and roasted peppers), and quattro stagioni (artichokes, prosciutto di parma, mushrooms, and olives). Thanks to the 800° brick oven, they're all rapidly prepared in "like, five minutes," said our server, and feature a crackerlike crust. A cooler holds about 14 flavors of gelato and sorbetto, all so good that you could be excused for playing dumb just to get samples; some current favorites include burnt caramel and Nutella. We found the service at this small, warm restaurant endearing: setting down after-dinner coffee, our server said proudly, "I steamed the milk for you, so there's no coldness!" —Anne Ford

Please submit new listings or updates (include phone numbers) to restaurants@chicagoreader.com or Restaurant Listings, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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