A serious craving for pizza one recent Sunday afternoon prompted us to try someplace new, Barone's of Glen Ellyn, which turns out to be a community institution steeped in the village's history and in the noble art of the American pie.
Founded in 1971, the restaurant has two dining rooms, decorated with photos tracing the history of Glen Ellyn, with an homage to earlier identities such as Danby and Prospect Park written prettily across faux-finished walls. Warmly greeted as we were directed to our table, we were treated to one of several booths with a digital frame shuffling through a display of historic photographs, which proved great fun and a conversation kick-starter.
The attractively designed space is conducive to conversation, even as the rooms began to fill shortly following the daily mid-afternoon opening.
Looking for an interesting brew, my dining companion found Mama's Little Yella Pils, which he recommends for its crisp, clean flavor, and I enjoyed a generously poured house cabernet. Cocktails are available, along with a variety of wines and craft beers.
While we studied the menu, which extends to Italian dishes and other staples in addition to pizza, we enjoyed thick slices of crusty bread accompanied by a petite carafe of olive olive for dipping and a shaker of Parmesan. While good enough to be homemade, the bread turned out to be from Turano Baking Company of Berwyn.
We opened with a delicious wedge salad, with ultra crisp iceberg lettuce smothered in the house bleu cheese dressing and well sprinkled with diced tomato and crunchy, flavorful bacon for zesty contrasts in texture and taste.
A cross-country celebrity argument recently in the news about the merits of Chicago's stuffed pizza vs. traditional crust was resolved peacefully long ago at Barone's, which embraces thin crust, pan and stuffed pizza.
Thankfully, it also offers a delicious gluten-free crust option that I tried with sausage, onions and a plentiful topping of fresh mushrooms. This alternate thin crust with its mildly tell-tale sweetness means the welcome end of deprivation for pizza lovers trying to avoid gluten.
My companion went for the stuffed pie, with fresh spinach, mushroom and bacon.
"While not classic Chicago style, it's a tasty suburban twist," he said.
And while he ordered a “small” pizza, it provided eight massive slices – and ample leftovers for lunches.
The service was terrific, and we liked being able to help ourselves to water refills with a wine-bottle-cum-water-carafe as we lingered over the meal.
The menu ranges from pasta and Italian specialties to barbecue ribs, burgers, soups and salads, with gluten-free pasta also available.
Off the dining rooms is a spacious entry area that accommodates pickup and delivery services, and houses a freezer case of pizza and other dishes that folks can take home to finish cooking in their own kitchen.
Another case holds tempting desserts, ideal to take along if you haven't left enough room at dinner. Also sold are package wine and beer, candy, ice cream and ices.
As we walked to its parking lot, we spotted Barone's playroom for kids, featuring toys and video games with several rapt young people – another thoughtful touch at this venerable family restaurant.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.
Barone's of Glen Ellyn
WHERE: 475 Pennsylvania Ave., downtown Glen Ellyn
HOURS: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 3 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday
DRESS CODE: Casual
INFO: 630-858-0555, www.bpizza.com