Aurelio's Pizza has a lot of history behind it.
Working with the motto "Tell 'em Joe Sent Me" (referring to founder Joe Aurelio), Aurelio's launched in 1959 in Homewood, Illinois. This small storefront had just enough room for four tables and a small kitchen with one pizza oven.
Since then, Aurelio's has expanded greatly, with restaurants in spots such as the Illinois cities of Bourbonnais, New Lenox, Naperville, Chicago Heights, Crete and Addison; LaPorte and Lowell, Indiana; and Naples, Florida, among others. (There was even one in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood that was open a few years ago, but it has since closed.)
The one that I and a couple friends recently visited is the spot in Chicago's South Loop area (at 1212 S. Michigan Ave., to be precise) and it has those local touches, including signed Blackhawks jerseys and a South Michigan Avenue sign.
One thing's for sure: You won't leave hungry. Calorie amounts (printed on the menu) may cause some restraint, but probably not muchespecially after tasting the items.
The menu is expansiveeven with the salads. My dining companions thoroughly enjoyed Aurelio's Italian antipasto salad (lettuce topped with ham, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, green and black olives, sweet red peppers and pepperoncini), but there are also options such as citrus, spinach, chicken field green and Cobb salads. (By the way, you're bound to get your money's worth, as even a small serving of a dish here can feed two to three people.)
Substantial sandwiches are also at Aurelio'sand they're all tempting. The homemade Italian sausage sandwich features broiled sausage and is served with red sauce. There are also chicken parmesan and (of course) Italian beef options.
Now, let's dive into the pizzas. First of all, there are three versions to choose from: thin-crust, stuffed and Calabrese. (As for the latter, I thought it would be the traditional spicy pizza, but it's basically a very large calzone with non-spicy options.) Thin-crust pizza comes in sizes ranging from personal (six inches) to fiesta (18 inches) and can be divided in half. Regardless of the type chosen, the history of the place and the experience behind food preparation definitely factor in the deliciousness of each type. However, with all the ingredients that are offered, it can be a nightmare for the indecisive. (Gluten-free crusts are available, although the restaurant warns that "cross-contamination can occur in very small amounts.")
As if those aren't enough, there are special-combination pizzas like Hawaiian (ham and pineapple), taco, spinach and the understandably popular Super Six "The Works" (with sausage, cheese, ham, pepperoni, mushrooms and green pepper).
And if THAT'S not enough, there are the desserts. Aurelio's deep-dish cookie is a half-pound of chocolate-chip cookie dough baked to order in a deep-dish pizza pan, served warm and smothered with vanilla ice cream. But if that's not your bag, there are other choices: baked apple-pie pizza, gelato, a cookie shot and Dip 'n Dough (pillows of fresh dough covered with cinnamon sugar and served with a vanilla dipping sauce).
I do believe that everything should be done in moderation, including indulging. Aurelio's is a spot where you can dine and happily indulgemaybe for a couple days. (It's practically guaranteed you'll have leftovers.)
See www.aureliospizza.com .
Note: This visit was arranged. COVID protocols are stringently followed.