HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >

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

p
Pincus Aug 20, 2009 11:56 AM

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.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Davwud RE: Pincus Aug 21, 2009 04:37 AM

    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.

    DT

    1. TorontoJo RE: Pincus Aug 21, 2009 04:52 AM

      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
        m
        Marumari RE: TorontoJo Aug 21, 2009 06:38 AM

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

        1. re: Marumari
          TorontoJo RE: Marumari Aug 21, 2009 06:41 AM

          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
            p
            Pincus RE: TorontoJo Aug 21, 2009 06:45 AM

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

            1. re: TorontoJo
              a
              abigllama RE: TorontoJo Aug 23, 2009 12:37 PM

              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
            Davwud RE: TorontoJo Aug 21, 2009 07:21 AM

            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.

            DT

            1. re: Davwud
              TorontoJo RE: Davwud Aug 21, 2009 07:52 AM

              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
                Davwud RE: TorontoJo Aug 21, 2009 08:27 AM

                Hope you enjoy.

                DT

                1. re: TorontoJo
                  Wahooty RE: TorontoJo Aug 21, 2009 09:09 AM

                  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
                    TorontoJo RE: Wahooty Aug 22, 2009 03:56 PM

                    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
                      Wahooty RE: TorontoJo Aug 22, 2009 06:37 PM

                      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
                        TorontoJo RE: Wahooty Aug 22, 2009 07:07 PM

                        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.

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

                        1. re: Wahooty
                          s
                          sumdumgoy RE: Wahooty Aug 22, 2009 07:20 PM

                          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
                            TorontoJo RE: sumdumgoy Aug 22, 2009 07:35 PM

                            Here ya go:

                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_...

                            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
                              Wahooty RE: TorontoJo Aug 22, 2009 07:58 PM

                              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
                                s
                                sumdumgoy RE: TorontoJo Aug 22, 2009 08:11 PM

                                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
                                  koknia RE: sumdumgoy Aug 24, 2009 06:26 AM

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

                                  1. re: koknia
                                    s
                                    sumdumgoy RE: koknia Aug 24, 2009 06:41 AM

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

                                    1. re: koknia
                                      deelicious RE: koknia Oct 11, 2009 08:11 AM

                                      Kimmel and caraway are the same thing.

                                    2. re: sumdumgoy
                                      c
                                      callitasicit RE: sumdumgoy Nov 5, 2009 12:10 PM

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

                    2. mlukan RE: Pincus Oct 11, 2009 07:55 AM

                      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. p
                        Pigurd RE: Pincus Nov 2, 2009 11:05 AM

                        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. v
                          Vinnie Vidimangi RE: Pincus Nov 2, 2009 01:34 PM

                          address and phone # ?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                            f
                            FrankD RE: Vinnie Vidimangi Nov 2, 2009 02:51 PM

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

                          2. ikapai RE: Pincus Nov 5, 2009 09:39 AM

                            My boyfriend and I tried this place on Sunday as he's been wanting to go for quite a while. I've never had real Chicago pizza, so I can't comment on the authenticity, but the pizza was great and the service was excellent. We were alone in the restaurant and the whole family came by to check on us, one at a time, at some point through our time there.

                            We had the wings as an appetizer which were decently spicy but they were small and kind of slimy. Not something I would order there again but I had a wing sauce craving that night.

                            We also got a medium Dionysus (meat lover's) pizza which was pretty good. The crust was excellent and the sausage and meat balls were very tasty. We felt that there could have been more cheese on the pizza and perhaps a bit more depth to the sauce. It tasted pretty much like straight up tomatoes. The chili oil was nice and had a latent heat that had my mouth and lips burning for a while!

                            The unsweetened iced tea is great too and I actually had to tell her to stop filling me up because I drank so much!

                            Overall it was a really pleasant experience, but because we live downtown I don't think we will visit too often.

                            1. j
                              jaki_d RE: Pincus Nov 5, 2009 01:22 PM

                              Where is this place? id like to try it

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jaki_d
                                CeeQueue RE: jaki_d Nov 5, 2009 08:18 PM

                                2338 MAJOR MACKENZIE DRIVE,
                                MAPLE ON.
                                Chicago Pizza Kitchen Unit #1
                                Just West of Keele street.

                                Phone: (905) 303 - 4030
                                Fax: (905) 303 - 4022

                                -----
                                Chicago Pizza Kitchen
                                2338 Major MacKenzie Dr, Maple, ON L6A3Y7, CA

                              2. TorontoTips RE: Pincus Nov 16, 2009 08:44 AM

                                Hey Gang,
                                As a regular visitor to Chicago, I wanted to add my two-cents.
                                Personally, I think the italian beef at CPK is better than the "famous Mr. Beef" (which is frankly a tourist trap, and not much favored by the locals) precisely because it doesn't have that weird over-herbed clove-flavoured beef juice. Be aware that Chicagoan's debate hotly over who has the best beef, each favouring a particular thickness of meat, or seasoning to the juces. This is the real deal, more like Portillo's than Mr. Beef or Al's, even if it's not to everyone's taste.

                                Personally, I like my beef to taste beefy, not like salt and cloves, and this one is pretty close to perfect! The bread isn't authentic Gonella, but it's yummy, and while I would be OK with shaving the beef a little thinner and dunking it a little longer, note that real italian beef isn't left simmering in the juices where it would become horribly overcooked, the meat is sliced to order and dunked long enough to warm it and make it wet, put in the bun, and then the whole deal is dunked again, before being topped with giradiniere and sweet peppers, to taste.

                                At CPK I order mine "wet", as virtually everyone in Chicago does, and it arrives huge, messy, dipped and sitting in 1/4" deep lagoon of beefy juice that I happily dip and sopp up as I eat, and I have to resist the urge to tip up the plate and drink the rest when my sandwich is done.

                                The stuffed Pizza at CPK is great too, better than many Chicago joints, and I LOVE the fresh-tasting chunky tomato sauce on top and the simple home-made fennel sausage (which could use more "hot"). I am so pleased they don't ruin the gorgeous imported san-marzanos with horrid dried herbs and garlic powder like Torontonians seem to love along with their spelt-crust sundried goat cheese broccoli pesto pine nut avacado cracker-thin abomination they call pizza. :-)

                                This is goooood! Enjoy it!

                                Show Hidden Posts