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Biancalana brothers turn over reins to Elmcrest Banquets

Jim and Al Biancalana turned over the reins of Elmcrest Banquets in November, ending a remarkable run that spanned two generations and nine decades. Located in Elmwood Park, The Elmcrest has been catering to the needs of countless customers since it opened its doors in 1994. But the Biancalana family was in the food service business for decades, and recently celebrated its 90th year in business. Begun as a small ice cream parlor in 1929 by Al Biancalana Sr., the business grew into Biancalana’s Restaurant and Banquets. During this time, Al Sr. was joined by his three sons, Al, Jim ...

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U.S. team scores big at Spanish pizza tourney

U.S. Pizza Team members competed in the “5° Pizza por Pasión” Spanish Pizza Championship in Granada, Spain, on Oct. 8 and took home numerous awards in several categories of competition. Team members representing the U.S. in the culinary division included USPT Culinary Coach Gino Rago and Bruno Brunetti of Panino’s Pizza in Chicago; USPT athletic director Dave Sommers of Mad Mushroom in West Lafayette, Ind.; and Sean Dempsey of Dempsey’s Brewery Restaurant & Pub in Watertown, S.D. Competing for the team in the freestyle acrobatics division were Missy Green and Caroline Felker, former USPT members and representatives of PMQ Pizza ...

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Porretta’s, Forza Pizza bring the sweet heat

Legendary Chicago pizzeria Trattoria Porretta (trattoriaporretta.com) is adding a little sweet and a little heat to your pizza life. Developed in collaboration with pizza media company Forza Pizza (forzapizza.com), the Sweet Heat and Sweet Fire are the newest additions to the pizza menu at Porretta’s. Both are topped with pepperoni and a drizzle of hot honey, with the Sweet Fire packing extra heat with added jalapenos.

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‘Little acre’ produces a bonanza for Gioacchino’s

If you’ve ever dined at Gioacchino’s Restaurant in Bellwood, you know what good old-fashioned, made-from-scratch Italian cooking tastes like. During the summer months, many of the ingredients in Gioacchino’s time-honored recipes are literally homegrown in the garden that surrounds the house in Addison where Nella and Jack Curatolo have lived for 43 years. While Nella is the undisputed queen of the kitchen at Gioacchino’s, Jack is the acknowledged king of the family garden. He only has a “little acre” to work with, but oh, what a bounty it yields. Among the vegetables you’ll find are beefsteak, cherry, plum and heart ...

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Pizza team from U.S. strikes gold in Italy

The United States Pizza Team headed out for the 28th edition of the World Pizza Championships in Parma with high hopes — and returned with accolades galore. USPT member Scott Volpe of Fiamme Pizzeria in Tucson, Ariz. wowed the crowd with his seamless blend of hip-hop break-dancing and flawless dough spinning, earning first place in Freestyle Acrobatics. His performance was set to custom-edited music by fellow team member Lenny Rago of Panino’s Pizza in Chicago, Park Ridge and Evanston. The culinary side of the USPT took some accolades as well in several events. Rago achieved the second highest score for ...

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NAPCA hosts first annual Festa della Sopressata

More than 80 people gathered for the first annual Festa della Sopressata competition at the North American Pizza & Culinary Academy in Lisle. Hosted by NAPCA founder and master instructor Leo Spizzirri and his partner, founder and chef instructor Anthony Iannone, the four-hour event was as much of a party for friends and family of the 19 competitors as it was a serious tournament for the best homemade sopressata. Judges included Frank DeCicco of the Calabresi In America Organization. “I was honored to be selected and humbled by the passion every contestant showed for maintaining this great Calabrese tradition,” DeCicco ...

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Elio Pizza adds Sicilian street food to menu

Street food has been a staple of cuisines around the world for generations, and the trend has finally reached American shores. Leading the charge on behalf of the street food of Sicily is Elio Bartolotta of Elio Pizza on Fire and Elio Café. “Sicilian street food represents our tradition, our roots, our soul,” Bartolotta says. “We want to share that soul with America.” On the street side of Bartolotta’s menu are pane e panelle, a sandwich stuffed with fried herbed chickpea meal; caponata siciliana, an antipasto featuring eggplant, capers and olives in a sweet-and-sour red sauce; and pani câ meusa, ...

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Buona Beef opens West Loop location

Buona Beef recently opened for business at 804 W. Washington Blvd., bringing the family-run fast-food chain’s total locations to 24. “We’re thrilled to be a part of the vibrant West Loop community,” says second-generation owner Joe Buonavolanto Jr. “Our new location is steeped in Chicago tradition: a fitting way to continue the city’s great Italian beef tradition.” Founder Joe Buonavolanto Sr. took out a second mortgage on his home to open the family’s first restaurant in Berwyn in 1981. Today, Buona is the official Italian beef of the Chicago Cubs and White Sox and is served at Cubs, Sox and ...

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Tony’s marks 40th with new store in Berwyn

Tony’s Fresh Market rang in its 40th year with the grand opening of a new grocery store in the Cermak Plaza Shopping Center in Berwyn. Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero and other city officials presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome Tony’s, which simultaneously shuttered its North Riverside location. The new Tony’s took over 71,500 square feet previously occupied by Meijer. The move marked a 25 percent increase over the North Riverside footprint and maintained Tony’s 15-store area-wide presence. Tony’s was founded in 1979 by Tony Ingraffia and Domenico Gambino, cousins from Ciminna, Sicily, who built a grocery empire from a ...

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Panino’s pizzaiuolo shines in Spain

The culinary coach of the U.S. Pizza Team took second place in a pizza championship held on Oct. 8 in Granada, Spain, while four other USPT members finished in the top 10. Gino Rago of Panino’s Pizza in Chicago took home second place in the Pizza Classica division, with Michael LaMarca (Master Pizza, Cleveland, Ohio), Jason Samosky (Samosky’s Homestyle Pizzeria, Valley City, Ohio) and Dave Sommers (Mad Mushroom, West Lafayette, Indiana) placing fourth, seventh and 10th respectively. Thirty-two competitors from around the world participated in the fourth annual Pizza por Pasión, organized by Antonia Ricciardi, president of the Università di ...

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