REAL, honest-to-goodness CHICAGO deep dish pizza and Italian Beef
I have GREAT news!
The GTA finally has a REAL, honest-to-goodness CHICAGO deep dish stuffed pizza and Italian Beef joint and it's called (not shockingly) Chicago Pizza Kitchen.
Chicago Pizza Kitchen has arrived in Maple and I'm here to tell ya', it is the real deal.
Real Chicago pizza lovers will favour either the single-thicker-cornmealy-crust with everything piled inside Gino's East or Lou Malnati's style pizza or the two-crust stuffed pie like they serve at Giordano's - I love both, but this is the latter style.
The pizza is 'stuffed' with a top and bottom crusted pie filled with cheese and your choice of "toppings" (inside-ings?) and then has an unbelievable fresh-tasting chunky imported tomato sauce on top of the crust. I like mine well done, and get the home-made sausage in your pizza, it's fennel meaty goodness is a must!
If that wasn't enough, CPK also makes a real-deal Italian Beef! For the uninitiated, Italian Beef at CPK is wet and soggy like it's supposed to be, piled with tons of tender thinly sliced beef and dipped in the yummiest beef juices. (seriously, I could drink this stuff!), then topped with spicy pickled giardiniere.
CPK's Italian Beef is better than Als' Beef in Chicago in my opinion, and while the bread isn't imported Gonella, sacrificing authentic for fresh I assume, this italian beef ranks right up there with Portillo's and many of the quality mom-and-pop places in Chi-Town that the locals prefer. (despite the sad-looking sandwich photo on the website)
I am not affiliated with CPK, other than happily handing over my cash on regular visits since I discovered the place recently, but the owner, Spiros who is a transplanted Chicagoan by way of San Francisco, is delightfully freindly and outgoing in that authentic american way that sometimes frightens reserved Torontonians, but many of us find completely disarming.
The menu has a bunch of interesting items, like an old-fashioned patty-melt, and I was told by a couple at the next table that the thin-crust pizza was one of the best they ever had, but I'll take their word for it, because I haven't managed to order anything but the stuffed pizza and the italian beef.
Please go to Chicago Pizza Kitchen so this place continues to be around to satisfy my Chicago pizza and Italian Beef cravings.
I think the trattoria is gone, but here's a video review:
Chicago Pizza Kitchen
2338 Major MacKenzie Dr, Maple, ON L6A3Y7, CA
This place has been mentioned quite a few times here already so it's not really "new news".
A bunch of Chow people that go to various eateries once a month were there about 10 days ago. I think we all liked it. It's in an area I almost never get to since I moved from Maple 25 years ago, but I heard they expect to open a location in Toronto in the future.
It's not exactly new and has been discussed before:
I'll have to vehemently disagree that the Italian beef is better than or even as good as anything in Chicago. Spiros is trying hard and it's the closest thing we have here, but it isn't the real thing. The beef isn't thin enough, it's not sitting in the braising juices (I'm not even sure it's braised) and the spices are tasty, but off. It's a darn tasty sandwich, but it's not quite there.
And let me (also vehemently - why not? does this mean I have to type in ALL CAPS?) disagree with you.
The beef is braised as the final step - see the video above - and no respectable italian beef in Chicago (other than Al's overcooked weird-tasting beef) is sitting in braising juice for any length of time, as it would become horribly overdone, and you want to begin with rare to medium rare beef that is quickly heated and cooked in the juices, not sitting in them.
Thickness of the beef is a personal taste issue, ranging from shaved to thin to thick cut appearing in varoious Chicago joints and loved by the fans of each. I would prefer a thinner shave on the beef as well, frankly, and putting it on Gonella bread would be a thrill, but I think the seasoning and the juices are outstanding, better than Al's or Mr. Beef, similar to Portillo's and pretty close to the best beef in Chicago, IMO, found at Chickies.
But hey, you're entitled to your opinion.
I'm sure we agree that it's the best italian beef in Toronto GTA-land, so enjoy it!
Lots of places in Chicago will shave the beef and hold it in the juices during busy times (like lunch), so there's no risk of over cooking. The beef doesn't stay in the juices for long. I guess I highlight this aspect just because the beef at CPK isn't juicy, and I can only think of this as the reason. It may be for another reason altogether. I'm not a fan of Al's, so I'm not using that as a reference point. I don't see the relationship to Portillo's at all, but hey, you're entitled to your opinion. :)
And despite my chowhound name, I'm a Chicago native who ate a LOT of Italian beef in my time. It's really the only food that I truly miss from Chicago.
As mentioned, they don't hold the beef in the juices, they shave what they need, heat it through in the juices, and serve it immediately, it only looks like it's holding because they are made in large batches at Chicago joints to satisfy the long line-ups that form.
Spiros unquestionably does the same, as you can see in the video, they're just made to order one at a time, but I agree that a thinner shave would improve the sandwich, to my personal taste.
But those juces, I practically shed a tear when I ran out of bread and the plate was taken away still with a puddle left behind! :-)
Ya, as has been pointed out, this has been a topic of discussion and even a topic of deletion for better than a year.
I've never had either dish in Chi town so I can't compare but I will say that I think this is the best pizza in the city. I have yet to try Libretto so I can't compare it.
Careful, I know you're joking, but this isn't the bready thick-crust pizza, often mistakenly called "chicago deep dish" here in TO, (but usually called sicilian pizza everywhere else).
Real Chicago stuffed pizza like this is actually thin crust, like an apple pie, with all the cheese and toppings in-between and a big pile of yummy tomato sauce on top.
As mentioned, there are a few threads already regarding CPK, which is a fan fave here, but thanks for the reminder lol.
CPK is really good as is Chicago Style Pizza Shack in Hamilton. The owner at CPK is very friendly and helpful as well.
I haven't tried Libretto but it's on my list.
My go-to pizza in the city is Danforth Pizza House. That guy is my hero.
Seriously...he doesn't have to work, but does it because he loves it...it's who he is.
He always makes a good pie. His son is okay too, but Pops is the best.
920 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J1L9, CA
We're planning to visit both in the next two weeks to compare, but unfortunately the distance between the two precludes a real head-to-head that would be fair. But here are my thoughts:
Both are small, family-run joints with just a handful of tables in cute small spaces. Both are offering real Chicago stuffed pizza (not thick-crust pan pizza) with Hamilton customers seeming to concentrate more on the pasta, veal, and chicken items - perhaps because it's more of a neighbourhood joint than a touristy destination.
Maple is more of a Chicago joint with the Italian Beef sandwiches, and charming transplaned Chicagoan-by-way-ofSan-Francisco Spiros but you're not really gonna go wrong with either one.
Personally, I love the italian beef sandwich, super-fresh tomato sauce topped pizzas (both thin and stuffed) and the owners of the CPK in Maple, but Hamilton makes a pretty great Red & White Chicken with Linguine and a fine stuffed pizza as well.
I'll have to check out Danforth Pizza House, based on these recs, but I'll pass on Libretto - I'm sure you're heard my rants about cracker-crusted-spelt-soy-sun-dried-goat-avacado-pineapple-yuppy-gournet-pizza before :-)
Just a side note - if you're like me and thing pizza should be cheezy-messy-decadence, get yourself to Buffalo and try Buffalo style pizza. (Especially LaNova, Bocce Club, Anchor Bar, Pizza Junction) Personally, I think Buffalo-Style is the most under-appreciated style of pizza, overshadowed by NYC, New Haven, and Chicago, etc. but absolutely fabulous, and definitely worth a try on your next cross-border excursion. Hmmm, maybe I'll post some pics and details later.
If you want to try some nice tasty Italian food and are ever near Martingrove and HWY 7 during the week, you should stop in at Kappa Sports Bar and Grill on Regina Rd. I always stop in if I'm in the area. Last week, they had anchovy pizza and also tripe in tomato sauce.
Kappa Sports Bar & Grill
140 Regina Road, Woodbridge, ON L4L 8N1
TOTips- Sounds interesting - will definitely try next time I'm in Buffalo.
I've also heard good things about Fratelli's on Old Kingston Rd and Calabria on Midland. There are some threads kicking around here on both of them. They both use wood fired pizza ovens and are nice and thin.
Calabria only makes them on Thursdays and Fridays though. These two are also on my list of must try places.
There was an old Windsor-style pizza thread on here too. A few places down in Windsor have gotten good reviews for their style of pizza. Worth checking out if you're ever down there.
foodeyDudey - Kappa sounds good as well. Will check it out when I'm in the area.
Fratelli Village Pizzeria
384 Old Kingston Rd, Toronto, ON M1C1B6, CA
1772 Midland Ave, Toronto, ON M1P, CA
I've never been to Fratelli's, but I've frequented Calabria numerous times. I find their super-thin pizza not to my liking, but I have often taken home a fresh-daily bag of really good pizza dough to make a quick and excellent pizza at home on hockey nights.
Word of advice, though, skip the veal from the hot table, it's pedestrian at best.
My most recent pizza at Calabria was undercooked and doughy in the center. I think it was a fluke, just human error from a cook who's been doing it right for many years. However, next time I'll ask for one well done, slightly charred. (There is good interaction with staff at Calabria.) I agree with comments on the rest of the food, from a steam table; doesn't look too appetizing, but definitely has a lunch time following.
Since when is the tried and true marinara and margherita pizza offered by Libretto "cracker-crusted-spelt-soy-sun-dried-goat-avacado-pineapple-yuppy-gournet [sic]-pizza"? Really I can't think of anything on their menu that qualifies. Quattro stagione? Sardines? They're not exactly nouveau, or, more accurately, nuovo.
If you double-check their menu, you will find a duck confit and pear pizza, and spelt crust, and the place brags that it's pizza has been certified by the Naples Pizza Police, and it's located in the trendiest Ossington strip where Range Rovers from Forest Hill and Rosedale go to mingle with the peasants, but hey, to each their own.
I just personally don't like thin-crusted pizza sparsely decorated with toppings chosen for their colour palette, with an occasional whole basil leaf, and a meagre disc or two of snobby cheese. I like pizza that's been certified yummy by Nunzio and Guido in the 'hood as cheesy decadence, with tons of flavour and lots of pepperoni grease to stain the take-out box.
I'm sure Libretto makes a great quality gourmet pizza and I'm sure I would appreciate the quality and effort they put into it, I just like my pizza to be substantial and a meal in itself, not a crunchy appetizer to my meal as many others prefer.
Viva la difference!