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‘Top Chef’ Champ Joe Flamm Reveals His Favorite South Side Chicago Restaurants

The Spiaggia chef also talks about Stephanie Izard’s support

Chicago’s Top Chefs Stephanie Izard and Joe Flamm.
Spiaggia/Matthew Reeves
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Fans of Top Chef champion Joe Flamm will continue to see the Chicago native this summer on television as Spiaggia’s executive chef will appear as a judge on Top Chef Junior. Only days after his win against fellow South Sider Adrienne Cheatham, Flamm — armed with precious little sleep — was filming scenes for Bravo’s child-centric spinoff.

Being around youthful energy has been fun for Flamm as he makes his media victory tour. He previously chatted about intentions to open his own Italian restaurant, but for now, he’ll remain cooking at mentor Tony Mantuano’s restaurant. Mantuano triumphantly held his protege’s arm raised at a viewing party, much like a boxing champ in the ring. That gesture may have been a bit choreographed. Though reality TV shows embargo the results of episodes filmed months prior, Mantuano already knew Flamm had won before the episode aired.

“I was allowed to tell Tony,” Flamm said.

Stephanie Izard, Chicago’s first Top Chef winner, attended that viewing party and Flamm said she supplied the red “Team Flamm” shirts Flamm and Mantuano were wearing. Izard’s success — which includes four restaurants with Boka Restaurant Group, a catering company, and an Iron Chef win — leads Flamm to call her “the champion of all things chef related.” Flamm intends to pick Izard’s brain.

“We’ll eventually have breakfast and she’ll explain how life works,” Flamm said.

While it’s too early for Flamm to share specific plans for his restaurant, this South Sider, who attended Marist High School, is happy to share a few of his favorite South Side Chicago restaurants. Check out Flamm’s picks below.

  • Vito and Nick’s Pizzeria, 8433 S. Pulaski Road: This pizzeria may be the best example of Chicago’s square-cut tavern style thin crusts. The pizza and frosted beer glasses put Vito and Nick’s on Flamm’s “all-time list.”
  • Top Notch Beef Burgers, 2116 95th Street: Since 1942, Top Notch has served fresh — never frozen — beef. Flamm said he’s loves the place which features a relaxed, retro feel. The milkshakes are also popular.
  • Ricobene’s, 252 W. 26th Street: Open late, customers will find that famous breaded steak sandwich. It’s a reliable neighborhood spot for Flamm.
  • Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, 60 W. 31st Sreet: This craft beer bar/bottle shop sits only seven blocks from where Flamm got married. He’s also a big fan of Kimski (the Korean/Polish restaurant inside the bar) and “whatever [Maria co-founder] Ed Marszewski does.” As he’s been busy with Top Chef, Flamm said he hasn’t visited the new Marz Community Brewing taproom in Bridgeport.
  • Palermo’s of 63rd, 3751 W. 63rd Street: This is one of two pizzerias on the list, as Chicago’s pizzas are superior to the rest of the country: “Every time time I go back home, the pizza is so much better,” Flamm said. Palermo’s has been family owned since 1961. Flamm gives high marks for the slightly sweet sauce.
  • Billy’s Grill, 3711 W. Columbus Avenue: Near 83rd Street and Southwest Highway, Flamm called Billy’s “little hamburger stand in Chicago that nobody knows.” It’s a small diner with smashed burgers that Flamms craves.

Top-Notch Beefburgers

2116 W 95th St, Chicago, IL 60643 (773) 445-7218 Visit Website

Vito & Nick's Pizzeria

8433 South Pulaski Road, , IL 60652 (773) 735-2050 Visit Website

Billy's Grill

3711 West Columbus Avenue, , IL 60652 (773) 767-2929

Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar

960 W 31st St, Chicago, IL 60608 (773) 890-0588 Visit Website

Marz Community Brewing

3630 S. Iron Street, Chicago, Visit Website


252 West 26th Street, , IL 60616 (312) 225-5555 Visit Website