Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub is keeping it all in the family. Breaking free from the chains of pizzeria franchising, the owners have given their Naples restaurant a major menu makeover with some catchy names to boot.
Neapolitans who hail from Chicago are like a cult. They are passionate about the Windy City and, thankfully, can't live without their favorite Chicago traditions. So it's fortunate for us that we can take advantage of some of Chicago's culinary offerings — especially pizza.
The name may be new, but the John and Christy Stewart's family has been in the Chicago cuisine business for 15 years in Naples. Their traditional dishes have a Chicago twist in homage to their home city. The most popular pizza here is a thin-crust Chicago pizza with more than 40 topping options. The pizza menu is flanked by signature salads, appetizers and piled-high sandwiches.
Popular appetizers include "Da Bears" pepperoni breadsticks (small, $4.50 or large $7.75) — soft breadsticks stuffed with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni and served with garlic seasoning.
Many of the dishes on the menu are named for famed Chicago roadways — such as the Maxwell Street meatball basket (small $4.75, large $9). The Wacker Weiner is a Chicago-style hot dog ($5.50). The Mag Mile meatball ($7.75) is served Italian style with meatballs topped with marinara sauce, pepperoncini and melted mozzarella cheese, served on a toasted roll. Pastas include the spaghetti, fettuccine, penne or bucatini (fat spaghetti), ravioli and tortellini. The restaurant serves a baked boneless chicken breast ($11) two ways, Alfredo-style or Parmesan over pasta.
If you go
Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub
Where: 590 U.S. 41 N., Naples
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 4 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, and 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $2.75-$7.75 starters; $5.50-$17 entrees
Information: 239-403-0037 or www.sweethomechicagopubandgrub.com
Several salads freshen up the menu, including an orange raspberry walnut salad ($6.75) made with iceberg and romaine lettuce with sweet mandarin oranges, dried cranberries and crumbled blue cheese. The signature salad at Sweet Home Chicago is the "Sweet Home" salad, prepared with iceberg lettuce, ham, capicola, pepperoni, shredded mozzarella cheese, green and black olives, red and green bell peppers, grape tomatoes and pepperoncini. An individual salad is just $6.95 and the small salad is $8.95, more than enough for a table to share. For large parties, the large salad is $11.95.
Of the many sandwiches on the menu, Blago's beef ($7.25) named for Rod Blagojevich (yes, the imprisoned former governor of Illinois) is one of the most simple, but tastiest French dip-style sandwiches in Naples. The owners jokingly say on the menu that the sandwich is "a cut above prison quality," but it's a lot better than that. Don't worry if you can't see the cheese right away — it's there. On the Blago beef sandwich, the cheese is underneath the beef. The Blago beef is served with au jus gravy. The owners also recommend the Pullman prosciutto ham sandwich ($7.75) topped with fresh mozzarella balls, sliced tomatoes and pesto sauce.
For sausage lovers, one of the best perks to eating at Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub is that the Stewarts are some picky meat buyers. They get their sausage made fresh from Jimmy P's Butcher Shop in Naples, whose culinary reputation stretches way beyond Naples — indeed they're widely regarded as one of the best butcheries in the state of Florida. So, any pizza with sausage is a tasty bet. Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub also prepares calzones with nearly all of the same toppings available on the pizza toppings menu.
What most patrons order is the pizza. It's easy to get it to go because there is a back section of the restaurant that backs up to an alley. You can dash into the bar area and pick up your pizza. The aforementioned choices of 40 toppings mean you can get creative. There are two tiers of toppings — Brookfield traditional toppings such as sausage, hamburger, pepperoni, anchovy, mushroom and green pepper among numerous other choices — and Lincoln Park specialty toppings such as capicola (otherwise known as coppa), shrimp, bacon, artichoke, roasted red peppers, chicken and Italian beef. You can choose from thin-crust pizza, Chicago deep-dish pizza and gluten-free pizza.