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Aug 20, 2009 11:56 AM

Chicago Pizza Kitchen, or, How a Small Pizza Lasts Three Meals

Got out to Maple to try the Chicago-influenced pizza.

Service was very friendly. I got a small pizza and a bottomless homemade ice tea. Which was appreciated as the day was hot and no A/C.

The pizza came. Sauce was a chunk one based on plum tomatoes. I liked it, it was simple, but tasty. I thought back to how I had a simple but disastrous sauce at Massimo's and marvelled at what cooking skill can do for a meal.

I had four slices, and then I stopped. My stomach said "No more!" I took the rest back home. It made breakfast one day and lunch the next.

Will definitely return. The bottomless ice tea was a nice idea, and he did provide a pitcher of ice cubes to keep it cool, but refills on the tea were accompanied first by new ice, but the ice water was poured out first so I was getting diluted ice tea each time. But, I didn't mind so much. They had sugar water in a separate shaker bottle to sweeten it if you wanted, which was a nice touch.

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  1. IMHO, this is simply the best pizza in the GTA. I've been waving their banner since they opened.

    The owners are very friendly, all the food we've tried (and we've tired a lot) has been top notch and it's pretty reasonable. At first when you see 30+ dollars for a large pizza you're thinking it's expensive but when you realize 2 adults can get 2 meals each out of it, that's not too bad. Especially for something of this quality.


    1. Pincus and Davwud -- can either of you identify which style of Chicago pizza this is? The three types are:

      - deep dish (crust, thick layer of cheese, toppings, sauce, in that order)
      - stuffed (similar to above, but thicker and with a second layer of crust on top, covered with sauce)
      - pan (really thick, buttery crust that almost tastes like a pastry crust, then sauce, then cheese and toppings)

      I've been meaning to try these guys since they opened, but I must admit that I can only eat Chicago-style pizza about once every two years (I grew up there) because, while damn tasty, I find it sits like a brick in my stomach from the insane amounts of cheese. There are some places in Chicago where the cheese layer is a quarter inch thick or more.

      Has anyone tried the Italian beef sandwiches there? Now there's a Chicago specialty that I would drive distances for...

      19 Replies
      1. re: TorontoJo

        Typically, Chicago DD pizzas have a second crust 'lid' with a layer of sauce and cheese on top as well.

        1. re: Marumari

          Nope, that's the "stuffed" pizza, not deep dish. Giordano's does stuffed. Uno's and Gino's East do deep dish. I'd like to know what Chicago Pizza Kitchen does.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            The pizza there is stuffed, there is a second crust covering the toppings, then covered with the sauce.

            1. re: TorontoJo

              It's the exact same syle as Giordano's, stuffed. It's a thick pie with cheese and filling/topping with sauce on top. I don't like the Uno's style, this is my fave and Chicago Pizza Kitchen pulls it off perfectly.

              Each slice is like a delicious brick. Two big eaters couldn't finish a medium.

          2. re: TorontoJo

            Yes, thin crust, then a half inch of "Toppings" and cheese, then another then crust then a tomato sauce on top.

            Their Chicago Beef is excellent and is completely made in house. Except for the bun.


            1. re: Davwud

              Thanks, guys. I miss Chicago Italian beef sandwiches way more than the pizzas, so I think maybe a trip this afternoon or this weekend.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  Jo, PLEASE report back. I have never found a proper Italian Beef sandwich outside of Chicago. Many imposters, but never the real thing.

                  1. re: Wahooty

                    OK, Wahooty, here you go...

                    So I went today for the Italian beef sandwich. My verdict is "it's ok" (it did hit the spot), but it's not great. But it could be great with some tweaks. Here are my observations:

                    The beef needs to be more thinly sliced and it needs to be resting in the jus. I believe (I could be wrong) that he keeps the beef and the jus separate. As a result, the beef itself is a little dry and in need of more flavour. I'm guessing that he doesn't do enough business in this item to keep the beef and jus just sitting around hot, so he makes each portion to order -- warming the beef and jus, then assembling the sandwich.

                    The jus itself needs more seasoning -- way more herbs and a hit of salt and pepper would go a long way to making it closer to a true Chicago Italian beef.

                    The bun is fine -- the owner said he couldn't find just the right buns here, so he's using an Italian stick, toasted. It doesn't have quite the right soft, but chewy texture as the real thing, but it's certainly a respectable option.

                    I do recommend that you go and try it for yourself -- I get the feeling that the owner would be happy to take feedback (I did tell him about the seasoning issue). So maybe if enough of us ask for him to pump up the herbs, he'll change his recipe. If you do go, make sure you ask him to "dip" the sandwich. One of my favourite parts of Italian beefs is the dripping mess you make when you eat it (in Chicago, they are usually a minimum 4-napkin affair for me). We ended up asking for a side dish of the jus and pouring it over our sandwiches, which improved it greatly. The owner told us that when he makes them "wet" like they are supposed to be, locals complain that the sandwich is too soggy. Also make sure you ask for lots of the hot giardinara -- it helps make up for the shortage of seasoning in the meat and jus.

                    So the bottom line is he's trying and it's the closest I've had to the real thing since I left Chicago. It's not quite there, but it's good enough that I would go back to satisfy a craving.

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      Thanks, Jo! The sogginess is part of why it's never right outside of Chicago. Sometimes regional foods are regional for a reason - if you're not expecting it, the fact that the sandwich can't be eaten in anything remotely approaching a neat fashion is off-putting. That being said, I find it essential to my enjoyment of said foodstuff - I want my sandwich sloppy, soggy, and spicy, or not at all. :)

                      But it sounds like he's at least making an effort - one of my most traumatic chow-speriences was finding out that only 2 hours from Chicago, "Italian Beef" involves tomato sauce (?!?). If I can ever swing a ride up to Maple, I might give it a shot, although I'd have a hard time choosing between it and the pizza. I grew up on my mom's homemade Italian Beef on the east coast, so I'm used to the real thing being at best a once-yearly treat. :)

                      1. re: Wahooty

                        What's funny is that when we asked for more jus, he told us that he had deliberately made ours wetter than usual, because I had told him I was from Chicago and craving the real deal.

               or Italian beef? Methinks there is a chowmeet in the making...

                        1. re: Wahooty

                          Dear Jo and 'hoo,

                          Forgive my ignorance.

                          What constitutes a proper Chicago Italian Beef sandwich?

                          Sounds a bit like braised eye of round on a Kaiser with extra jus but without added grease (cheese or fried onions etc.) though possibly other toppings?

                          1. re: sumdumgoy

                            Here ya go:


                            That picture explains one of the big drawbacks in the version I had today -- the meat is supposed to be shaved thinly. My sandwich today had slices that were too thick. The textural aspect is a big part of the appeal -- thin, spicy, tender beef in a sopping wet bun. It may not sound appealing, but the real deal is sooooo good.

                            1. re: TorontoJo

                              Yeah, personally, I like 'em hot (spicy giardinere, but it's often evenly distributed, so it's not like a topping per se) and if the bun isn't disintegrating, it just isn't right. It's like a French dip, but soaked thoroughly with a jus based in Italian herbs. I can make a passable substitute, but it's a very specific version that my mom raised me on to feed her own yearnings after she moved to the east coast, so most Chicagoans probably would find it an abomination - the seasonings aren't right, although they are VERY tasty in their own right.

                              Basically, it's one of the things that popped up in the "regional favorite you just didn't get once you tried it" thread more than once. :)

                              And I know it's been bandied about as a potential future chowmeet - I would make sure I'm in town that weekend if the group decided to seek out Chicago delicacies...

                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                Thanks Jo,
                                I recently had a "Beef on 'weck" at Barbill in East Aurora near Buffalo that was utterly outrageous.
                                Braised, very thinly sliced, very moist eye of round on a Kimmelweck bun which is like a rye flour Kaiser with cumin (kimmel) and salt on top and served with jus on the side.
                                The virtue of the 'weck is that the bottom sort of serves as a soup bowl for the copious jus. They don't do a gardiniera but do provide a bucket of potent horse radish.

                                1. re: sumdumgoy

                                  Cumin on a kimmelweck?
                                  The ones I've had down there have always been caraway.

                                  1. re: koknia

                                    Sorry koknia, you are right!
                                    Just a defective microchip trying to deal with spices that start with the letter "c".

                                    1. re: koknia

                                      Kimmel and caraway are the same thing.

                                    2. re: sumdumgoy

                                      How I miss BarBill:( Need to make a visit real soon.

                    2. Just tried Chicago Pizza Kitchen on Thursday and must say it was excellent. First thing I noticed is the place is spotless. I shared a medium classic deep dish and took half home. Very nice people running it who seem to care about their ingredients.The house made Italian sausage had great flavor in the pizza and they recommended I try the chili oil on the pizza which they say is popular. Yum! The chili oil was a great addition, nice heat and flavor. They told me they jar it and sent me home with a little in a plastic container. It was a great idea on their part because Ive been putting it on everything and I'm running out fast. This is a great pizza joint and I look forward to the next time I'm in the Maple area so I can try the Italian Beef. It may even call for a special trip some day.

                      1. Tried this place this weekend, found the pizza ok, but not amazing. The bottom crust were either soggy or soggy and burnt so much it was bitter. The smell of some of the meats weren't that fresh. i have only had deep dish in chicago at gino's, so im not familiar with the stuffed crust style, but i would think the bottom shouldnt be so soggy...

                        still, it satisfied a craving for fat and meat, and wasnt too pricey. It also seemed slightly healthier than the pizza at ginos snice i didnt walk out feeling as food coma'd as i did in chicago.

                          1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                            Their website (complete with menu and prices) is "" Went last week (as posted here in another thread) and thought everything was great.