Small town with prices to match

The biggest bash is Northlake Days in June, when families flock to a carnival, car show and parade.

Baseball fields fill each spring as youngsters progress from Pintos to Broncos. In local taverns, allegiance is split between the White Sox and Cubs.

In addition to a dog park, Northlake's canine residents appreciate the city's "fire hydrant garden" (colorful old hydrants) — proof that city hall has a sense of humor.

"Meet me at Perry's" means you are headed for Perry's Pizza Joynt. Other popular eateries are Thai, sushi and Chinese restaurants; several taquerias; and Winking Dog Restaurant, where Sherwin suggested "two hot dogs and fries for $4.53 — how can you beat that?"

The city's Italian roots shine at Ancona Bakery. "On holidays, we're swamped because people buy the things their mothers used to bake, like cuccidati and tiramisu," said Cheri Buoniconti, wife of third-generation owner, Frank.

Northlake is split into several school districts. High school kids north of North Avenue attend West Leyden High School in Northlake, while the kids on the south side attend Proviso West High School in Hillside.

You can count on one hand the number of times the suburb has made regional news, including the 1960s escape by a circus elephant and the firing of the city finance director after the 2011 disappearance of $100,000 in cash from Northlake Days.

To curb violent crime, the police department's Neighborhood Enforcement Team warns gangs to take their business elsewhere and visits parents of gang members.

While city hall's cat, Ginger, watches from her file-cabinet perch, Sherwin, who is running unopposed April 9, ponders his upcoming fifth-term to-do list: street repaving, luring new businesses while keeping commercial residents happy, and adding mixed-use developments.

"Yes, there have been changes, but they've been for the better," said LaPaglia, as she flicked shut the windows on her Bingo cards. "We have crime, but not like in Chicago." Referencing the city's slogan, "City of Friendly People," she said: "It's true; it really is."