"But Chicago has certain kinds of meals
no city does better: the breakfasts at Lou
Mitchell's, dripping Italian beef sandwiches
at Mr. Beef, pizza at the obvious places...."
Jonathan Gold posted this about a year ago, and
I'm hoping that he (or anyone else) might
elaborate on what those "obvious places" are for
the best Chicago pizza. I'll be in Chicago soon
for the first time, for just about 24 hours, and
am hoping to enjoy an exemplary pie. Many thanks.
I was in Chicago for the 4th of July weekend. Man, it
was HOT. After wading through crowds in Grant Park's
Taste of Chicago we decided to get a "real" Chicago
pizza. My friend, a Chicagoan, took us to a joint
right downtown called Gino's. It has graffiti on every
square inch. I thought it sounded suspiciously like a
chain pizza place but the line outside portended
something better. Admittedly, since I joined Weight
Watchers last Jan., this was to be my first piece of
pizza since that time, so my opinon may be tainted by
my pizza lust, BUT I found it to have the attributes of
very good pizza, though deep dish. The sauce was spicy
and very tomato-y, very good cheese, and the crust was
the yellow of cornmeal, which I suspect it contained.
In fact the crust would have been wonderful simply as
bread. One other thing: A very worthwhile thing to do
while you are there is to take the Architectural Boat
Tour on the Chicago River. It costs $18 and is 90
minutes long. Have fun. pat
re: pat hammond
The whole deep-dish pizza thing turns me off
completely since I had Pizzeria Uno many years ago.
It's just a personal thing, I guess, so I would not be
able to refer you to a "usual" Chicago pizza. BUT, I
will tell you I had great, albeit in the designer
mode, pizza and apps at Cafe Spiaggia - impeccable
ingredients, thin crust (the way I like). Don't
confuse Cafe Spiaggia with its' more pricey and
upscale sister, Spiaggia, ( where you will have an
outstanding meal but pay lotsa more lira!).
The ``usual places'' for Chicago pizza include Uno, which is the grimy, airless original, and Due, the slightly more pleasant sister restaurant down the street; Giordano's, home of the double-crust pizza; Lou Malnatti's, advertised as an alternative to, but basically a duplicate of, Uno; Edwardo's, which specializes in a spinach souffle pizze; and Gino's East, which is basically Uno's with graffiti and loud music.
In all of them, the crusts are too hard (I assume they were made with buckets of oil in the good old days, but have succumbed to a nutritional regime), the tomato sauce is undercooked and watery, and the lakes of molten, poor-quality mozzarella overwhelm the pie. My advice: Due, at an off hour, and with nothing more complicated than sausage.
re: jonathan gold
Jonathan, I'm confused. It doesn't sound like
you highly recommend ANY Chicago pizza. But
in your long-ago post, you included pizza (at
"the obvious places") among the "certain kinds
of meals no city does better" than Chicago.
What's up? I'll admit, having been born and
raised in Manhattan, and never having been to
the windy city, I've never been a fan of any
"Chicago-style" deep-dish pizza I've had
elsewhere in the country. But from your original
post, I thought maybe it'd be worth trying the
real thing on it's home turf. But now I'm
thinking maybe not.
I'm backtracking a little, I know. But I guess I've eaten an awful lot of pizza in Chicago this year looking for the archetypical pie, and I've sort of bummed a little on the genre. Which is not unlike, come to think of it, the world-view of a lot of posters here on the subject of NY pizza: I think Lombardi's, Patsy's, Totonno's and John's are just great, but as a newcomer to the city, I apparently lack a halcyon ideal with which to compare them too.
So if you go to Chicago, eat a pizza! I recommend Due, but any of the famous places will do just fine.
re: jonathan gold
Chicago pizza is something you either like or you
don't. It should not be judged by anyone who can't
stomach the idea of eating a half pound or more of
melted mozerella in one sitting. Expect it to be
heavy, rich and too messy to eat with your fingers.
I love it, in all its cheesy, salty, red-sauced
heaviness. My favorite was from Pizza Capri, a little
neighborhood place on 53rd St. in Hyde Park on the
South Side. But that was a while ago. I'd recommend
calling first to make sure that I remember correctly
and their pizza is the sauce-on-top real thing.
Otherwise, I've had fine pizza at Gino's and Uno (in
the pre-chain days), but I'd avoid Giordano's.
re: Kathryn Callaghan
Speaking of Hyde Park, what about the Medici on 57th.
It was my first taste of Chicago pizza, and for me
remains the best. I know that aficianados of pan pizza
like to dis' it, but as you say, Chicago pizza (or any
pizza) may be beyond reason.
Re: Pizza Capri -- I never heard of it. I wonder if
that was before my time, or after.
re: Alan Divack
The Med on Chowhound! What is the world coming to? I
avoided the place, whether because of the dinginess or
the atmosphere of collegiate culinary capitulation I'm
not sure. But I can believe that they make a decent
pizza. My boyfriend, who ate there often, reports that
it was greasy but enjoyable, though not exactly of the
classic Chicago style.
Pizza Capri is a younger competitor. I graduated in
97', an it opened during my second year, I think. I
ate there often because they served the only edible
food in Hyde Park. What a chowhound nightmare that
place was! Not even a decent grocery store...
Stay away from Gino's East for pizza; I got dragged
there 4 or 5 years in a row in the 90s (not to mention
20+ years ago, before the proliferation beyond the
original Unos, Due and maybe one other place on the
North Side) Gino's pizza was in my experience always
been greasy, almost rancidly so, with mediocre
ingredients. Fact is, I was never much impressed by
any of the Chicago deep dish pies. Maybe others have
had better specimens.
can't say, since its been too long since I visited the
originals, and I have never been tempted by the Uno
chain stores. For additional Chicago dining info, you
might want to take a look at Chicago Magazine, which
publishes a decent scope of restaurant reviews and
info. Their website has some recent reviews, but no
active archive, unfortunately.
re: jen kalb
Chicago has its faults, but a lack of online dining guides isn't one of them. http://www.searchchicago.com takes you to a site including the Sun-Times archive, whose Pat Bruno is perhaps the most chowhoundy critic for a major daily anywhere, and http://metromix.com/dining/ gets you--or at least once got you--to a site with review archives from both the Chicago Trib and Chicago magazine.
Don't miss Tufano's, whose pork chop with peppers and fried potatoes if sure proof of the existence of God.
Lived in Chicago for 12 years, just returned to NY last
I agree with Joanthan Gold that Uno and Due need to be
visited on slow-nights. The quality often suffers
during peak operation.
Lou Malnati's butter-crust pan pizza has consistently
impressed me with its fine balance of flavors and
overall freshness. The regular pan pizza and their flat
pizza are better than average. The sausage there is
home-made and a real Malnati family owns the place to
Giordano's is a crap shoot. They allegedly created the
stuffed-crust pizza. The original location in Hyde Park
continues to be decent--flaky crust, rich sauce, good
Edwardo's. The owner worked for Giordano's before
hitting the road to start his own place. Has been up
and down in quality. Claim to have invented the stuffed
spinach pizza--their trademark pie.
Gino's East--wildly erratic. Known for its cornmeal
crust pan pizzas. A crap shoot.
Geppetto's--was in Rogers Park, now in suburban Oak
Park. Serves pan, flat and stuffed pizzas. Fresh,
premium ingredients. The flat is frequently excellent
as is the stuffed. The pan is average. Worht several
visits to try all three.
My Pi--on N. Clark. Pan pizza. Not as well-known, but
Ranalli's--I can't understand the appeal. A favorite
yuppie watering hole Really just a bar that serves
mediocre pizza, IMHO.Cardboardy crust, bland cheese and
a by-the-numbers sauce.
Pizza at all of the above should be eaten on-site. The
stuffed and pan varities don't work as well cool nor
Damenzo's, at Taylor and Oakley, sells slices of pizza that are big enough for 2 meals if you're a chick. Great people watching, too...reminds me of the pizza place in "Do the Right Thing". For great pizza in an out-of-the-way location, try Roselli's on Higgins (about 5200 N and 6000 W). Super crisp crust and tons of toppings.