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An Italian Jewel Nestled in Old Town
Posted on January 17, 2013


Just like out of the Disney classic “Lady and the Tramp” this is a place you have to look hard to find. Smells that reminds me of the kitchen of my Italian friend’s mother waft through the air and tempt your taste buds. Its all about atmosphere at one of Chicago’s newest nooks “Mama Milano” Rat Pack music filled as people gather for a drink. With the aura this bistro is is perfect for a romantic evening but the Real attraction is the food! Janice prides herself on her homemade dishes. She was more that glad to some of her culinary treats. One word describes it all…Delicious!


We started with Mama Milano’s famous spinach bread. This isn’t just any appetizer, it fills you up! Light dough surrounds mozzarella cheese and spinach shaped into a loaf marinara sauce is served for dipping, paired with a salad and you have a healthy lunch. The salad was a work of art as well. we also sampled Calamarata Pasta cooked perfectly loaded with ricotta.


What first brought us into “Mama Milano” was the pizza. Even the most elementary of pizzas was a treat. Yes the word was cheesey and the crust was chewy and soft, but the one we tried that night was the Milano, besides loads of cheese stretching from the plate, the pizza contained everything but the kitchen sink. only the freshest ingredients populated this dish. Of course you can’t end a meal like this without dessert! We munched on on sweet cannoli with a sweet creamy filling made by Janice herself. I could easily become addicted to this!


So if you want to taste a little bit of Italy that is nestled away go to Mama Milano located at 1421 N Wells. Come in and let Janice welcome you to her place. MANGA!






Chicago, Ill. —Joseph Tomaska, the great-grandson of Chicago restaurateur Papa Milano opens MAMA MILANO PIZZA BAR today at 1419 North Wells Street.


Joseph Tomaska’s great-grandfather, Papa Milano, opened his first restaurant in Chicago in 1919. He is credited as being the first restauranteur to introduce Italian home-style cooking to the public. Papa Milano owned and operated 13 restaurants in Chicagoland by 1960 from the Gold Coast to the north side of the city. Great-grandsons Joseph and Tony Tomaska produce the long running, theatrical production “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding.”


Says owner Joseph Tomaska, “The portions are generous and reasonably priced, as we wish to offer the neighborhood a casual and familiar menu at a great value.” Tomaska is proud to carry forward his family tradition in bringing his “boutique pizzeria” to Old Town.


The cozy, family-friendly space is located in the heart of Old Town and boasts a beautiful oak bar, comfortable seating, and large plasma TVs. Mama Milano’s initially features individual-sized pizzas cooked in a brick-style oven, fresh salads, home-style sandwiches (prepared with imported Italian meats and cheeses) and one of a kind traditional Italian desserts. Pizza prices start at $8 and increase according to the number of toppings.


Plans are in the works to expand the menu to include family favorites such as lasagna, ricotta cheese ravioli, and various pasta dishes, all offered as daily specials in a delicious Southern Italian-style Marinara sauce.


Mama Milano’s Sunday Brunch Menu will feature a individual breakfast pizzas, including a Bacon and Egg Breakfast Pizza, with pancetta, farm-fresh eggs, and seasoned olive oil on house-made Neapolitan crust; a Florentine Breakfast Pizza, with spinach and farm-fresh eggs; and the Benedict Pizza, with Canadian bacon and a tangy Hollandaise sauce. Specialty brunch cocktails include the $5 Old Town Bloody Mary, a delicious blend of fresh tomato juice and a house spice blend, as well as a variety of Bellini flavors. Brunch will begin on Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 11:00 AM.


There is a full-service bar with a very resonably priced cocktail list. The wine list consists of Italian and California wines ranging from $6 to $12 per glass (8 oz), and bottles are priced from $18 to $40. The menu is prepared from old family recipes, passed on by generation and featured at restaurants owned and operated by his family.


Pizza review: Mama Milano Pizza Bar

This Old Town pizzeria serves pies halfway between Neopolitan and New York-style


March 20, 2012|By Kate Bernot


Pizza review: Mama Milano Pizza Bar

1421 N. Wells St. 312-787-3710

Rating: !!! (out of four)


Wells Street in Old Town has its fair share of dining institutions, from Bistrot Margot to Topo Gigio and Kamehachi.  One of the strip’s newcomers, Mama Milano, also has inherited its share of culinary cred: It’s owned by Joseph Tomaska, whose great-grandfather once owned multiple locations of Papa Milano around Chicago.


Despite walls lined with bottles of Italian wine and the big, red tomato on the restaurant’s sign, Mama Milano manages to avoid kitsch overkill. Stylish touches in the form of an ornate gold mirror and intricate, lantern-like lights help this pizza bar appeal to the date-night crowd while stil honoring the family’s roots. The menu is small, with just a few Southern Italian appetizers, three salads, and one or two specials each night, letting the dozen pizza options ($8 to $12) shine.



A cracker crunch gives way to hearty chewiness, halfway between a Neopolitan and a New York-style thin crust. Sauce and toppings spill all the way to the edge of these ten-inch pies, leaving only a half-inch of virginal dough. The secret to the crunch-chew balance is the dough press, a round, metallic device that starts the cooking process before the pie enters the stone oven.  Once it’s in the oven, the dough only bakes for about four minutes, maintaining a springiness after the initial char. The crust has its own earthy flavor, but it’s the char and the audible crunch that make the biggest impression.



A thin tomato sauce is the only knock against the pies, which would benefit from a chunkier, spicier kick. The pizza bianco trades it for a blend of parmesan, mozzarella, romano, and fontina cheeses, to better results.



The 12 options should satisfy most palates, with options from pepperoni to eggs Benedict to the Milano, the most heavily-topped pie featuring cheese, sausage, green peppers, mushrooms and olives. The classic margherita nails all the crucial details, from evenly-shredded basil to high-quality mozz. A spinach and ricotta special is generous with the fresh lumps of cheese, and the spinach packs a lot of leafy, earthy flavor.



The menu’s highlighted appetizer—Mama Milano’s “famous” spinach bread, made from the owner’s great grandmother’s recipe—is debatably famous but is certainly deserving of the nickname. Warm dough buns pull apart to reveal long, melty strings of mozzarella and romano and hefty piles of spinach. The cannoli is forgettable, so save those calories and have another slice of pizza as “dessert.”



I haven’t been anywhere else in town that’s serving pizza quite this crunchy, chewy, and thin, which makes Mama Milano’s worth trying before your next night out in Old Town. Throw in the warm, laid-back atmosphere and a super-affordable wine list, and it’s equally appropriate for a no-pressure date night. Just make sure to check for spinach stuck in your teeth.



Mama’s Family

A Secret New Pizza Joint in Old Town


Psst. This way. Follow me, kid. Down this alley. Don’t be scared. We got what you want.


A piping-hot pizza.


And once upon a time, that’s how you ordered one in this town. Or so we imagine.


Well, good times are here again. Meet Mama Milano Pizza Bar, a hidden Old Town gem that has pepperoni in its DNA, now open.


Brief history lesson: Papa Milano was the visionary who introduced the world to eating lasagna in a restaurant in 1919. In the 1930s, another family member did the same for pizza. Before then, there must have been a marinara underground.


The last Papa Milano closed in 2007. Now, two great-grandsons have returned to the family business. (Side note: these guys produced Chicago’s Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, so they’re that Italian.)


Come here when you’re craving traditional Chicago thin crust. Yes, cut into perfect squares and triangle corners. These pies are just big enough to share with maybe one person, so have at it. They have some salads, a couple of sandwiches, cannoli and plenty of chianti. So have at those, too.


To find it, poke your way down a cobblestone walkway off Wells, following the scent of warm mozzarella. Squeeze into a place that’s mostly just bar, pizza oven, vintage Cinzano posters and gilded chandeliers—which, by the way, appeared in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding.


But no autographs, please.


BY BILL ZWECKER February 5, 2012 8:18PM


TUMMY TIME: A name long associated with traditional Italian dining has returned to the Near North Side. Joseph Tomaska, the great-grandson of the late restaurateur Papa Milano, has launched Mama Milano Pizza Bar at 1419 N. Wells. More recently, Milano’s great-grandsons Tony and Joseph Tomaska were producers of the long-running “Tony ’n’ Tina’s Wedding.”




The Family Behind Papa Milano Returns with Mama Milano

Posted Apr 6, 2011 at 5:43 PM

By Penny Pollack, Graham Meyer, and Lena Singer


Coming Attraction


Two brothers are the great-grandsons of Papa Milano, who at one time owned 13 Chicago-area restaurants. One, at State and Oak, had the old-school red-sauce charm that made people sigh with nostalgia even when it was open. In Act One, these two brothers face a decision: Keep their Lincoln Park branch of Papa Milano or produce an unusual, interactive theatre show. The brothers, named Joseph and Tony Tomaska, choose the show, called Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. It’s a hit, running 17 years. In Act Two, they are successful producers, having just premiered a movie called Drunkboat, with John Malkovich, John Goodman, and Dana Delany at the Chicago International Film Festival. In Act Three, they decide to return to the family business to open Mama Milano Pizza Bar (1419 N. Wells St.; 312-787-3710). “[The pizza bar] is a concept that’s pretty hot in New York now,” says Tony Tomaska. Bartenders make Neapolitan pizzas in a gas oven, and wines are served in quartino carafes. The Milano family recipes come back, including the Giuseppe pizza: tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, salami, and olives. “Our great-great-uncle Tom Granato was the first restaurateur to have pizza on a menu in Chicago,” Tony says. “On Taylor Street. It was called Granato’s. Probably the late thirties.” Mama Milano is scheduled to premiere in May.



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