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updated: 4/8/2014 12:01 PM

Bapi chef brings big flavors to Schaumburg's Big Chef Burgers

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  • Chef Cristiano Bassani serves gourmet burgers and pizza at Big Chef Burgers in Schaumburg.

       Chef Cristiano Bassani serves gourmet burgers and pizza at Big Chef Burgers in Schaumburg.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Thomas Witom
Daily Herald Correspondent

Opening a burger restaurant isn't exactly a move into uncharted waters, but given the popularity of America's favorite sandwich, it's small wonder that so many restaurateurs -- from chains to independents -- continue to enter the market.

One of the latest entrants to give it a go is Big Chef Burgers, which debuted in Schaumburg early this year. This startup is the brainchild of chef-owner Cristiano Bassani, who for some seven years has fed customers classic Italian fare at Bapi Ristorante in Arlington Heights.

Bassani, who continues to operate Bapi, decided to branch out and try his hand at the "gourmet" end of the burger circuit.

Big Chef, a casual sit-down storefront restaurant, gets its name from its towering 6-foot, 6-inch owner. Customers have 11 burger choices with an intriguing assortment of toppings. Except for the turkey and veggie burger, almost all are half-pounders made with fresh ground, hormone-free Angus beef and priced from $8-$12. One anomaly is the Big Chef Burger, a one-pound bruiser that goes for $20 and is decked out with half a dozen toppings.

The restaurant also wisely hedges its bet by expanding the menu to include eight hand-tossed pizzas baked in a brick-fired oven. Each custom-made Neopolitan-style 12-inch pie costs $8 and comes to the table with a nice, crispy crust. Classic renditions such as Pizza Margherita and Quattro Formaggi were represented as well as a vegetarian version. And bargain-hunters will find pizza prices half-off from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Another available option that gets the brick-oven treatment are calzones filled with tomato sauce, prosciutto, mushrooms and mozzarella.

Four tossed salads -- Caesar, house, lentil and spinach -- round out the menu.

During a recent visit, my Italian burger -- a tasty patty cooked medium-rare as requested -- came with sun-dried tomatoes, onion, arugula and a slice of buffalo mozzarella. The regular bun proved no match for this hefty sandwich and was quickly in shambles. Stick with the more durable onion or pretzel roll.

A tablemate's bacon burger, topped with spicy cheddar, bacon, lettuce and tomato sated her hunger.

All burgers come with a choice of a side dish. I found the seasoning on the sweet potato fries bland, and other places do a better job with french fried onion rings. Other options available included homemade potato chips, fresh cut french fries, coleslaw and mashed potatoes

A highlight of the meal was the whipped-cream-topped mocha cappuccino milkshake, a rich, flavorful treat. One suggestion to the kitchen: for such beverages have a supply of wide straws available and reserve the thin ones for ice tea.

Big Chef's bar carries a small selection of red and white wines, available by the glass or bottle. Diners get a view of the open kitchen, and off a corridor in the back is an alcove that can be curtained off to accommodate small private parties.

Service was attentive and properly paced. Water glasses never had a chance to run dry. Large windows, even though they overlook the parking area, lend a pleasing airiness to the space as does its understated contemporary decor.

Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

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