Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.


[Photographs: Dennis Lee]

Boni Vino Ristorante and Pizzeria is on a stretch of Van Buren just behind the Chicago Board of Trade, and the front windows are so dark that the interior has been a mystery to me for years. Because of that, I, little chicken Dennis, was sort of intimidated to go in. But eventually, little chicken Dennis needed pizza, and so he placed an order for some classic sausage and mushroom pie, and hoped for the best. What an interesting story.

The interior of the place just screams old school Chicago, with the red and white checkered vinyl tablecloth and everything. My suggestion is that if you're going to order a whole pizza, like me, call about 20 minutes ahead so you can preserve your precious lunch minutes, which I know are more valuable to you than those weird digital Bitcoins everybody's talking about.


Boni Vino serves traditional Chicago thin-crust pizza, and since I grew up on sausage and mushroom, I had to give my favorite a shot. There are several sizes, and the small 12" sausage and mushroom pizza ($14.25) is plenty for two people. As you can see from the upskirt photo, the pizza isn't cooked at a terribly high temperature, resulting in a soft doughy crust in the middle pieces; either that, or it's just not in the oven long enough. The tomato sauce is tart and overly acidic, which is a bit of a turnoff for me, and the sausage isn't the most flavorful in town either. I probably won't be going back to Boni Vinos unless I'm in a pinch. At least it's a pretty looking thing, just like me. Ahem. Ladies?


There are individual pizzas too, and the individual 7" cheese pizza ($5.25) is pretty small. There's not much to talk about—acidic sauce, same underwhelming crust, and mozzarella.


This hulk of a sandwich is Boni Vino's Italian sub ($7.95) could easily serve two. It's huge, and for someone who is craving a straightforward meaty sandwich, the layers of salami, mortadella, capicola, provolone, lettuce, and tomato will work well for you. The vinaigrette for the sub is served on the side, which is nice touch in case you're keeping the second half for later. It's hefty, meaty, salty, and chewy—no surprise M. Night Shyamalan twists on this big guy.


While the menu is pretty big, I stuck to lunch type items, so a plate of spaghetti and meatballs ($10.25) fits into that category if you're craving pasta. The noodles are overcooked, and though the meatballs have the right texture—they're a little spongy, tender, and soft—there's surprisingly little flavor to them.


I'm not entirely sure I'd go back. I want to like the pretty pizza, but unfortunately, looks aren't everything. Rather than have a Megan Fox (attractive and bland) pizza, my search is still on for the Jennifer Lawrence (attractive with substance) of pizza. They say even bad pizza is good pizza, but you know, I prefer Jennifer Lawrence. If she were pizza.

111 West Van Buren Street, Chicago, IL 60605 (map)

About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.


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