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Rosati's Pizza & California Style Deli: We don't quite get the California-Italian-New Orleans connection, but we never take deep-fried dough for granted. So we dropped in on a recent morning and ordered the combo breakfast of cafe au lait and beignets ($4.99)—the only thing they serve during their 7-10 a.m. breakfast hours. We were not wowed by the chewy star- and moon-shaped beignets, which tasted as if they'd been sitting under a warming lamp too long. Management tells us that if you come in at 7:15 or 8:45 a.m. you can get them straight out of the fryer, which would surely improve their flavor. We were, however, impressed by the urn of steamed milk next to an urn of Cafe du Monde chicory coffee that allows diners to make real cafe au lait and balance it to taste. 125 W. Grand Ave. ; 312-755-9955.



Both a California-style deli and authentic Chicago pizzeria, Rosati's covers a lot of ground. Much of the menu is devoted to specialty sandwiches with Californian names, like the Pasadena and the Malibu. Being from Los Angeles, I'm a little dubious of the authenticity of some of their sandwiches. For example, the ultra posh Brentwood neighborhood has given its name to a sandwich made with soft hoagie rolls. Considering most people in LA don't eat bread, I can't imagine trophy wives noshing on giant subs.

All nitpicking aside, Rosati's will tackle any empty stomach with hearty portions and zesty flavors. It follows that the bevy of Cali-style eats (like the $5.99 Grover Beach, with avocado, cucumber, sprouts, lettuce and tomato on tomato basil bread) meets with Chicago-style deep dish pizza, just one version joined by thin crust, double dough, stuffed and cheese-filled crust varieties, among others.

Interested in Italian? A slice of lasagna big enough to clog an artery comes with a half-loaf of garlic bread and a pre-prepared salad. Or try a full slab of ribs (almost half a cow) for only $17.99. Like our great country, Rosati's manages to absorb nearly every cuisine imaginable. There's catfish, breaded cauliflower, jalapeno poppers, fruit trays and guacamole and chips. If you like packaged cheesecake, its assortment of Eli's desserts is hard to beat. Should that not sweeten the deal enough, you can heat up your couch-potato love life by requesting your pizza be made in a heart shape, at no extra charge. Enjoy it all on the outdoor patio.

On the walls of the small restaurant are two murals depicting the cultural fusion of Italian and California cuisine. It looks like the muralist never left River West, transforming the canals of Venice into an office park and the LA beaches into high-rise-lined shores. You may be too engrossed in your food to notice the tin ceiling or the ornate ceiling fans, but they're worth an upward glance. Another perk: Rosati's offers free parking.

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