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SAVOR Bonci Pizza; Bernie's Chicago
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Cash isn't accepted—and pizza is purchased by weight.

Those are just two of the more unusual concepts you'll find at Bonci Pizza ( 161 N. Sangamon St. and 1566 N. Damen Ave.; ), a spot that may challenge patrons on a variety of levels.

The pizza is served Roman-style, meaning that the pies are large, rectangular items that are cut with scissors, adjusting to the size you desire. Then, your items are weighed.

That might be the first hurdle for guests. Another may be the variety, not just of the toppings ( which include everything from potatoes to anchovies to bell peppers—but not on the same pie ) but also regarding the fact that a pie that's available one day might not be available the next. ( Typically, there are 12-15 pizzas available daily. ) Talk about mixing it up!

However, all of these potential difficulties are negated by another fact: The pizzas are wonderful. If you're not sure about how something might taste, you can opt for a sliver—but chances are you'll love what you taste. On the flip side, you can get slabs of pizzas you know you'll like.

And the fact that there are different ( locally sourced ) toppings every day can provide a sense of anticipation for the different. After all, isn't variety the spice of life?

I can't wait to return to Bonci. It initially threw me off, but lives should be shaken up once in a while—even if it's just a little bit.

Bernie's Chicago

The last time I visited Bernie's Chicago ( 660 N. Orleans St.; ) in an official capacity, it was called Bernie's Lunch & Supper, servers ( purposely ) wore tags that didn't match their actual names—and my dining companion had an unforgettable reaction when he mistook a bed of salt for rice.

Well, a few years later, all those things have changed ( the last possibly because of a different person dining with me ). However, one thing hasn't been altered: the high quality of the food.

The menu isn't the largest or most exciting—but the items there are done very well. Even the bread and butter ( with oil and tomato jam among the other options ) make for a nice starter. Small-plate items include an impressive charcuterie board, a sizable avocado toast and a elote dish ( sauteed corn, spicy mayo, cotija and cilantro ) that my friend liked so much that she took an extra serving home.

Entrees consist of tried-and-true items like brick chicken, red snapper and shortrib gnocchi—featuring tender beef, firm pasta and well-cooked spinach. And my friend ate her Bernie's burger—composed of a blend of pork belly, shortrib and onion—with relish ( pun intended ). And definitely don't pass on dessert, especially the cheesecake. ( A S'mores dish is another option. )

As for cocktails, they have very intriguing names, like Napalm in the Morning, The Root of All Evil and Mood Indigo. I had the very tasty Bobbin for Bourbon ( Breckenridge Bourbon, apple butter, lemon and cinnamon 11th Orchard seasonal bitters ). It's a great way to top an evening—especially if, for some reason, you decide to pass on the sweets.

Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.

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