I'm kicking myself. Elio's Pizza On Fire has been open in Addison for more than two years, and I just went there for the first time in mid-June. I should have been stopping in at least once a week.
As one of my dining companions put it: "There is nothing to complain about. Everything is phenomenal."
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Elio's Pizza On Fire445 W. Lake St., Addison; (630) 628-0088, eliopizzaonfire.com
Cuisine: Sicilian-style wood-fired artisan pizzas and other casual fare
Setting: Modern, clean, comfortable; conversation- and family-friendly
Sandwiches and salads: $5.25 to $10.25; pizzas $9.75 to $15.25
Hours: 3 to 10 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 to 9 p.m. Sundays
Coming soon: Elio's Pizza On Fire's DePaul location, 2360 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Tucked into the far end of a small yet busy strip mall off of Lake Street, Elio's small size belies its vast and belly-filling menu. With only nine tables (seven inside; two outside) and seven bar chairs looking into the kitchen, Elio's easily fills up on busy weekend nights. The wait is more than worth it.
Whether you start with a plate of large bruschetta (try the "Rockefeller"), a huge salad or a wonderful antipasti, you will be both satisfied and ready for more.
Fresh dough made daily results in perfect breads and pizza crusts; and chef/co-owner Elio Bartolotta is a genius in combining different ingredients for perfect flavor combinations. Even an outwardly simple Italian beef and sausage sandwich sings -- a perfect fresh bun with tender beef and a slightly spicy sausage hits on all cylinders.
Yet the main reason to trek to Elio's is the wood-fired pizzas. With 20 selections from the "Pizza Rossa" (with fresh plum tomato sauce) menu and eight from the "Pizza Bianca" (no tomato sauce; with extra-virgin olive oil) side, there's something to please every taste bud.
We went two directions -- familiar and exotic. I always judge a pizzeria by how it handles that Chicago favorite: Italian sausage and cheese pizza. Elio's hits the mark; a perfect balance of mozzarella, savory sausage, sweet plum tomato sauce and chewy, fresh crust. On the exotic side, we chose one of the Bianca-style pizzas, the Elio Supreme. The olive oil covered crust was loaded with fresh mozzarella, pieces of spicy prosciutto, Swiss cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes and slices of red onion -- outstanding in both taste and as a new pizza experience.
The nice thing about Elio's menu is that even though I greatly enjoyed these two selections, I know that on my next visit (er, visits), I can order any of the other 14-inch pizzas and get the same great quality and taste. I haven't been a fan of thin, wood-fired pizzas in the past -- they're usually way too thin with uninspiring toppings -- but Elio's has made me a true believer. I devoured every bit of crust.
Heed this warning: With only one wood-fired oven, it can take a while to get your pizza, especially on a busy night. Relax and take in Elio's comfortable and family-friendly atmosphere that lends itself to conversation.
We capped our orgy of food with two picks from the Focaccia Artisan menu. The Palermo sandwich features arugula, Proscuitto Parma, Parmigianino flakes, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil; a great flavor combination. The Porky's focaccia showcases an equally stellar combo of Italian porchetta, provolone and Swiss cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes and Elio's "special dressing." Think of the best grilled ham and cheese sandwich you've ever had, then multiply that by 10.
Words hardly do justice to Elio's; I could write a few more pages and not be able to really describe the experience of eating at this wonderful place. I urge you to check it out for yourself. You're likely to run into me as I try to make up for all those meals I've missed at Elio's over the past several weeks and months.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.