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Just Like Italy, is Like Nothing Else In Gurnee!

This year my wanderings and travels have taken me all over the planet. So when I get out and about, in my very own neighborhood and discover that there are new and exciting restaurants opening up in the area (in spite of a horrible economy), I want to be the first one on the scene.

A few weeks ago I discovered the newly opened “Just like Italy” in the Northeast corner of Gurnee (in the old Gurnee Pizza location). It’s been a long time since there was good Italian restaurant to talk about in this area, and let me tell you; this place is special!

The restaurant is run by a really nice Italian family, Mom & Dad and two sons run the back and seem to do most of the cooking. Two daughters run the front by waiting on tables and doing a great job of making everyone feel right at home.

The décor is non pretentious, with red & white checkerboard tablecloths and small mementos and pictures of Italy on the walls and counters, Italian pop music plays in the background.

So far, I’ve been back 3 times; once with my family, and once with a work colleague of mine, and once on my own, and all I can say is each visit gets better than the last!

For starters, all the pasta’s and sauces are made fresh in house everyday. The same goes for the amazingly flavorful soups (tortellini & minestrone) that I’ve tasted as well. The Panzerotti is really special by the way, according to the daughters, they tell me that their dad the chef, is from the very town in Italy where these originated, and that he takes great pride in them. I loved them.

The cold subs are outstanding using quality Italian deli meats, and the meatballs & sausage have my work colleague considering a 12 step program to help him stop eating them! They're that good. The pasta and sauces are amazing; especially that vodka sauce. My daughter loved the lasagna, and from my taste, I can see why. And the Cappuccino that I had was authentic and right on the money made perfect!

The pizza is very good, I’ve only had two so far, the first one was good, the second was even better.

I want to cut them some slack, since they are only in week three of doing business, and they may still be tightening down few details, but my only criticism would be that I was not crazy about the Italian beef/combo sandwich. But, I am still amazed that they are able to knock this many quality items out of the park, this early into the game. So I remain optimistic that anything that isn't great now, will be, in a very short amount of time.

Just like Italy is a very welcome addition to the Gurnee/Waukegan area, and I know that as word about the great food starts to get out, they will do a great business, and hopefully be with us for a long time to come.

So get over there, and support these guys! And please let me know your thoughts and comments if you can, take care and happy eating-

Just Like Italy

1810 N. Delany Road

Gurnee, IL 60031

(847) 336-1200

Taste: 8.5

Experience: 8.5

Value: 9

Score: 8.75

Oct 03, 2011
abf005 in Chicago Area

Northern Lake County Hot Dog Round up

Just to keep it lively, I've updated and reassessed this entire list for 2009, this time I visited 30 of the 47 or so places, pictures and statistics are included.:

Aug 28, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Best barbeque sauce out of a bottle?

This May, I went to compete in a KCBS event in Alton, IL with Heads Red BBQ. Using his sauce we won Grand Champion with 1st place brisket, 2nd place pork, 2nd place chicken & 3rd place ribs.

It really good stuff and I now use it exclusively for all my home & competition bbq.

I would describe it a slightly sweet & tangy sauce, not sticky or over thick, it glazes the food rather than coats and masks it. Allowing the taste of the meat you worked so hard to cook stand on its own.

It's available in stores throughout Chicagoland and other US locations listed on his website plus online at bbq sauce of the

Jul 23, 2009
abf005 in General Topics

Taco Testing Lake County Mexican Restaurants

Gordeaux!! Your the best!

I just got back from LA and I can confirm that without a doubt, it is the WORST eating city in the US. Especially for Mexican. I've been going there close to yearly for the last 35 years and have yet to hit a great Mexican restaurant. So Tito's comes as no surprise. This past trip I tried the Tamales at some way over rated place in the San Fernando Valley, they were hockey pucks in con husks with some horrible meat, I returned one dozen of them since they were cold to the touch!! That's LA for you.

As to the review by wayfatwhiteeee, I'll do a drive by and see whats going on there sometime soon. I doubt they've magically turned into a Las Asadas or La Pasita overnight.

For the record, I stopped doing the Lake County taco tests after about 25-30 places when I concluded that it was a colossal waste of time to try to find a char grilled steak or chicken anything up here.

Jul 10, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

I need pizza, beer and the Cubs near Highland Park

Try Barnaby's of Northbrook by Sunset & Skokie (1 block south of Dundee), great pizza, lots of beer and tv's for the game

Barnaby's of Northbrook
960 Skokie Blvd, Northbrook, IL 60062

Jun 14, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Great Lake Pizza

No worries!

I'm thinking that his article could have been "Best Neapolitan pizzas in the US" since 20 of the 25 selections are of that style...

The guys a knob, plain and simple

May 21, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Great Lake Pizza

I was there just two weeks ago and it was down to three choices. One of the folks I was with lives in Andersonville, and he also stated that it had previously been five, until recently.

Yes, I'm aware of the term "Check Please! effect", but I just wasn't sure it applied in this instance being as it was GQ...perhaps we should call it the GQ effect?! LOL

Personally I think Richman is a moron, anyone who writes as audacious an article as the one he wrote called: 2ND CITY NO MORE with a byline of "Chicago has never been known for its cuisine, but three dynamic young chefs are transforming it into a culinary mecca".

Yet he brings out Charlie Trotter in the next paragraph as part of the old guard, and not one of above mentioned three. He has extreme issues with being credible from paragraph to paragraph...

May 20, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Great Lake Pizza

I think people going are going to find the seating for 12, to no seating thing a real pain, especially if they get famous or popular based on the article. I find it hard to get past the being limited to three pizza choices of the day. And while I enjoyed it, I really disliked not being able to customize my toppings.

Best in the US? Not in my book! Is it a really good place? You bet!

May 19, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Looking for any unturned stones in or near Gurnee

Did not know of it. Thanks for the tip, and if you get there first, please post back to us how you liked it.

Bhickman's post about Kawa looks very intriguing, and its on my short list of places to try sometime soon.

Apr 24, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Looking for any unturned stones in or near Gurnee

There are the following sandwich places within a 2-3 mile radius in Gurnee:
Subway on Grand (great America)
Subway on Old Grand
Subway in Walmart
Subway in Gurnee Mills
Quizno's on Delany
Jimmy John's
Dominick's deli & fresh store
Jewell Deli

Now either sliced bread is indeed the greatest thing ever or people in Gurnee are about the least creative people on the planet! My money is on the later.

Either way, guess what new restaurant is coming to Gurnee??!! Yep, you guessed it, another sandwich sub shop!! Woohoo!!

This time it's Jersey Mikes. They are opening in the recently closed Quizino's spot that was on Grand in between the Starbucks and Panda Express. They are a 350+ chain franchise, who according to its website: claim to do things very differently from the competition; i.e. they bake their own fresh bread in store, and use fresh quality ingredients. Yeah right! It still sounds like everyone else around here to me!

What gets me, is that the real places like Leno's & Tony's Subs are also concidered "sandwich shops". They dont need to bake the bread in house, they just buy the best bread: Gonella. And they dont run around telling every one how "fresh" the ingredients are, and then just have fresh shredded lettuce to show for it. Instead, they pile on the meat and have original sandwich combinations, tasty oils with high quality meats that simply kick butt! And the cost? I can eat at Tony's for about $1 more than Subway, and for about $1 or 2 less than Panera or Jimmy Johns.

Anyway, that's the scoop. Jersey Mikes grand opening should be next month as the construcion looks to be mostly complete and they seem to be affixing the "flair" to the uniforms and mounting the last bits of their cookie cutter corporate image junk to the walls.

Apr 24, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Looking for any unturned stones in or near Gurnee

In re-reading my post, I have to say, perhaps I'm overstating just how good Rhapsody Cafe really is.

So I'll put it in this perspective: By GURNEE standards, its the best Gurnee has to offer. By City standards ... its just good or OK.

Apr 24, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Looking for any unturned stones in or near Gurnee

Gurnee's yellow rose, the Rhapsody Cafe

A month ago, as I was driving around Gurnee, feeling genuinely exasperated about the lack of non-chain restaurant options from which to choose, I remembered that a brand new restaurant had just opened up in town, and I decided to give it chance, I'm glad I did.

Ever heard the phrase "watch out for the quiet ones"? Rhapsody Cafe is one of those quiet places. To date I haven't seen any print ads or coupons announcing its existence. The signage is subtle and the location is remote. Rhapsody is tucked in behind and to the rear of the loathsome Moe's & the Golden Corral. The fact is, after only a few months in business, it's starting to gain some momentum, but very slowly, and very quietly.

Rhapsody Cafe is a family restaurant with a large menu, at first glance it seems very reminiscent of many of the Chicago area Greek style family restaurants. But the difference is that the entrees are a bit more... shall we say "upscale"? Yes! I definitely think so.

The basic menu ( covers options such as your typical breakfast fare, you know, eggs done 20 different ways, the usual omelette's and pancakes etcetera. But the thing I noticed right away was that there is an obvious chef's flair and classy touch put on just about every menu item, which carries through on to the creative and healthy sandwiches all the way through to even the burgers.

For the evening diner, the dinner menu offers much more. The upscale and slightly more pricey options begin to show that Rhapsody isn't just trying to be yet another family restaurant in town, but that Rhapsody is really trying to offer Gurnee diners something they've never before experienced in town; QUALITY.

On my first visit, I experimented with both menus, and from the dinner menu I had the shrimp scampi appetizer and from the basic menu I ordered one of Reynaldo's Gourmet 1/2 lb burgers (pictured below).

Everything was really, really, good.

Being as it was late in the evening the owner Ramon came over to my table to check on me & my food, we ended up sitting and talking about my favorite subjects, food & wine. He explained to me that his goal is to put out the best quality food and use the best possible ingredients while keeping things reasonably priced, which seems straightforward enough for me.

My next two subsequent visits were as equally impressive as the first.

For the second visit I took the entire family for breakfast, which was delicious and satisfying, the kids loved everything.

And then last week, I went in for a light dinner, and tried one of the soup and 1/2 sandwich specials, again, everything was great.

Rhapsody Cafe is by far the best restaurant going in town right now and I for one, truly hope Ramon succeeds. And in spite of the dull and dumbed down Gurnee chain pallets that will ultimately be making up the bulk of his clientele, I hope this place can find its niche and be with us for the long haul, much like a yellow rose standing alone in the middle of the baron Texas dessert.

Rhapsody Cafe
1475 N Dilleys Rd
Gurnee, IL 60031
(847) 623-6200

Rhapsody Cafe Gurnee
1475 N Dilleys Rd Ste 15, Gurnee, IL 60031

Apr 21, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Best Bread Bakery? Nominations Please

Typo!! I accidentally left off the i, its Cardinali's!!

Apr 20, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Best Bread Bakery? Nominations Please

My vote would be for Kaufman's Bagel bakery in Skokie for bagels, rye's and specialty breads like challah.

For the BEST bread bakery however, I vote for the Cardinal Bakery in Kenosha, WI. They make the best hearth baked goods period especially that Italian bread with a perfect crust that's so flaky, I could live on that bread alone!

Apr 20, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Cheap, good lunches in Buffalo Grove, Wheeling, Vernon Hills, et al.?

The Buffalo Groove Malnati's is indeed a good location, but Lincolnwood location is actually the original and to many Lou's fans I know, still the best.

Mar 27, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Cheap, good lunches in Buffalo Grove, Wheeling, Vernon Hills, et al.?

I totally concur with most of your list, and the ones that I don't, well I just never visited them *yet*! Now I've got some interesting new things to try in that area.

Agreed that the best Mexican is Las Asadas, which is only 15 minutes from Allstate, and well worth the drive! In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a better Mexican place anywhere.

Korean BBQ's: there must be 15-20 of these places along Milwaukee ave going north from Golf Rd. I never got a chance to hit any.

I didn't see Moondoggies on the list, they're OK, nothing to rave about. But still good cheap food.

Pizza: Barnaby's of Northbrook. By far, this is the best Barnaby's location I've ever been to, and one of top 3 thin crust pizzas in Chicago. They also have very decent burgers.

I'm told on very good authority that Francesco's Hole in the Wall in Northbrook is supposed to be good Italian, it's on my short list of places to go this year.

Another great Mediterranean (Israeli) option nearby is the Mizrahi Grill 215 Skokie Valley Road, Highland Park, IL, and of course, Max's Deli is right in the same strip mall 2 doors south.

At the Vernon Hills/Libertyville border on Milwaukee is Burt's Deli, a nice classic deli with solid food.

Breakfast wise, the Elly's Pancake house in Vernon Hills at Rt 60 & 45 is good.

Chinese: there was a decent carry out place near the corner of Hintz & N Elmhurst Rd next to a Convenience & a Subway, sorry, but I can't recall the name,I just remember liking the food.

Last year for two months I was working on the Allstate campus, too bad I didn't know you were in the area or I may have had someone interesting to enjoy some of these lunch spots with!

Mar 27, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Northern Lake County Hot Dog Round up

I'm bugged I missed out on trying those burgers!

As to hot dogs: Big Jacks for Chicago Red Hots and either Scotty's (Round Lake) or Zabe's for the snappy natural casing Vienna Beef franks would be my advice to you, not all is lost.

Big Jacks
507 N Hainesville Rd, Round Lake, IL 60073

Scotty's Hot Dog Stand
1016 N Cedar Lake Rd, Round Lake Beach, IL 60073


Mar 26, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Northern Lake County Hot Dog Round up

Yes, technically you are correct, Portillo's is on the south SIDE of Rt 60...

Admittedly, I haven't been there since shortly after they opened (a very long time ago), in fact, its been so many years I dont remember my thoughts on it. It might be worth a visit, especially if I don't feel like making it across to the south side of Rt. 60 for Portillo's.

Mar 26, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Authentic Chinese in the burbs

There are over 250 sub-burbs in Chicagoland, could you please narrow it down to an area for us?? Thanks.

Mar 23, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Wisconsin-style Fish Fry?

The VFW is amazing, I'll be there with the family this coming Friday:

Mar 15, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

TOFTT- New BBQ place in North Chicago

I have, and Smokin T's was HORRIBLE! I threw away more than I ate. By far one of the worst of the Northern Burb BBQ places I've encountered, and not far behind that mistake is The Full Slab.

The only three places worth going to in all of Lake County are, in order:

1) Big Ed's
2) Big Ed's
3) Big Ed's

I'll give an honorable mention to Brothers Ribs in Mundelein.

Mar 15, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Recommendation for an upscale business lunch spot in Libertyville general vacinity?

You cant beat the Tavern in Downtwon L'Ville for great food and ambiance.

Top grade Prime steaks, great wine list and excellant food all around. If you want upscale Libertyville, this is it:

Mar 10, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Wisconsin-style Fish Fry?

Not to side track the OPs request (who was in the city, not Gurnee), but I cant think of a worst set of recommendations than two of those three.

The Country Squire is great if you want to have a Sunday brunch with your 90yr old grandma and like bland flavorless food.

The Full Slab is not only HORIBLE BBQ but its way overpriced too. If BBQ is the topic, than hands down, Big Ed's on MLK in North Chicago has few, if any equals in the entire city.

The Vine is really a wine bar with mostly appetizers, and is known for its high prices and just OK food.

Being that the OP is from the city, he/she can do significantly better than Grayslake for good dinner options.

Again, the Thirsty Turtle in Antioch with its Door County fish fry is quite good but a quick trip to Kenosha is definitely the way to go on this one.

Mar 06, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Food in Wauconda

Not to seem disagreeable, but those prices seem to be in line with the Chicagoland area and don't jump out at me as being too high, I'm assuming you must be from another part of the country where the food is more reasonable.

Anyway, there's a couple of alright Mexican taquerias along 176, my favorite in that area, is in the building next to the Chinese buffet place, I cant recall the name.

Wauconda is relatively thin on dining options so IMO, if you want really good food, you'll have to either drive to Crystal Lake, Lake Zurich or McHenry.

For a better hot dog experience go to Fratellos on the corner of Rt 120 & Rt 12 in Volo, the best sub sandwiches anywhere are found at Tony's on Rt 120 about 1/2 mile west of Fratellos, both are only 15 mins drive away from Wauconda. If you want an upscale steakhouse, drive to the Stony River just on the other side of Lake Zurich. LZ also has a Gino's East pizza that's decent (not as good as Downtown Chicago, but good) and a Hackney's for good burgers.

There is also a great thread on good eats around the McHenry area that might give you some good dinner ideas since they may not all be do-able for lunch.

Mar 03, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

Chinese in/near Grayslake?

I've tried just about all of the places in this area, and the only one worth going to is Dragon Star in Mundelein.

Note: the egg rolls are not very good, but the rest of the menu is very solid.
They are carry out, but excellant!!

Mar 01, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

El Norte for Mexican

Calling out for amoncada!

I think you one the most knowledgeable people on this board on the topic of great Mexican food, in other words; I really respect you recommendations.

Where would you go for a North of Madison (not Downtown) place to eat with an adult group of about 10 (5 couples), that has not only great food (obviously) but also Latin dancing & music?

I also need to keep it at about $50 a couple (minus drinks) Thanks!!


Also, does anyone know what is the brand of burrito & taco salsas that 80% of the taquerias in Chicagoland all seem to use?? I'm looking for name of both the green Tomitillo & the Red
salsas - I want the authentic real thing only.

Feb 28, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

A Good Indian Buffet On Devon

I love Bhabbi's Kitchen, & Marigold for Indian in general, but everyone I know says Tiffen is the best, Its on my short list of places to try.

Feb 24, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

What is Chicago style pizza?

You contradicted yourself and never ended up making a point since in a very narrow way your statement was indeed literally true, and yet and in a broad sense you also know you’re very wrong for not making the obvious thin crust connection as well.

The American Heritage author wrote poorly, while profiling very specific pizza styles on one hand he also spoke about the phenomena of pizza in a very broad sense. For example, the narrow focus on the history of pizza up to the introduction of the tomato or the first US pizzeria which was NY style and the major variation of Chicago deep dish. But interlaced in between were also broad statements and stats about consumption and “the industry”.

This is a poor text to be quoting and debating, but its foolish to not realize that there is much interpretative text between those lines and missing detail from other newsworthy sources as well.

Feb 20, 2009
abf005 in General Topics

Northern Lake County Hot Dog Round up

That's one of the dumbest thing that seems to happen in the food business isn't it?

Original owner does an amazing job of building up a solid reputation and devoted following doing something great, then along comes the next co-investor or new owner and they decide to change the frigging product from the very thing that attracted them to the business in the first place? Because if you change it, than you’ve just lost on you investment! DUH!

And if that's what really happened over at Droppy's, then the whole community was just done a disservice, and that’s a shame... I’m sorry I missed out.

I guess if you want that true Gene & Jude’s flavor, I guess you’ll just have to trek the 45 miles south like the rest of us, but in the meantime there is always Big Jacks; Red Hot Chicago dogs done the right way with the hand cut fries wrapped inside the paper with the hot dog so that the proper steaming of bun, salty steamy fries, snappy pure beef wiener and relish, all comingling in perfect harmony… Hmm, I think I’ll save the gas and just eat up here!

Feb 20, 2009
abf005 in Chicago Area

What is Chicago style pizza?

So, I will assume that for the sake of continuing an argument just to argue. This time, you are contending that what the author really meant was that deep dish pizza is the style of pizza referred to in his statement; "The modern pizza industry was born in the Midwest". And not the more commonly found thin crust, which by even your own statement in the post above proclaims:

>The simple fact is that there's a pizza place offering thin crust pizza on every corner IN EVERY CITY IN THE COUNTRY<

Well then it would seem that if "The modern pizza industries” drive was indeed about deep dish that they have failed miserably, that is, if that was the author’s real intent since:

>CAN'T have our deep-dish pizza back home; you can only find it here< (again your words)

Feb 19, 2009
abf005 in General Topics