Monday, June 29, 2009

New pizza joint in Lincoln Park

The building that housed Ranalli's on Lincoln Avenue for many years is now home to Rocco's Cafe & Pizzeria. I haven't heard from any friends about this new joint yet but Pat Bruno did review the place in last Friday's Sun-Times and had good things to say about the pizza. According to Bruno, the huge patio from Ranalli's has survived, so this place could potentially be a great spot to grab some pizza during the summer months. There are not many things I like to do more on a warm summer night than eat some fine Chicago pizza and quaff a couple beers so check back soon for a review of Rocco's. Read more!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Where can you find 200,000 slices of pizza?

No, the answer is not Heaven. It's a place that is much easier to get to, and much hotter. Nope, it's not Hell either. It's somewhere between Heaven and Hell. In fact, some think it may be the exact middle-way point between Heaven and Hell. No more guesses?

The answer is the Taste of Chicago. That's right - in addition to the freakish turkey legs, buttery corn cobs and barrels of beer, one of the most popular food items at the annual Chicago food fest is pizza. Of course this makes sense considering that Chicago is the pizza capital of the world. But for this Chicago pizza freak, over the years, I've often bypassed the pizza options at the Taste after having some disappointing pizza experiences. But in order to offer all the pizza freaks out there some guidance on their options at the Taste, I've listed the vendors selling pizza at the Taste below, and what they're selling (in no particular order).

Bacino's Pizza of Lincoln Park (stuffed spinach, stuffed sausage, thin cheese, thin sausage)
Connie's Pizza (deep dish sausage, deep dish cheese, thin pepperoni)
Home Run Inn Pizza (thin cheese, thin sausage, ultra thin sausage and pepperoni)
Lou Malnati's Pizzeria (deep dish cheese, deep dish sausage)
Reggio's Pizza (deep dish turkey sausage, deep dish cheese, thin sausage, thin pepperoni) Read more!

Monday, June 22, 2009

10 Commandments of Chicago Pizza

10. Taco Pizza is not pizza. If it were, it wouldn't be called a taco.

9. If its healthy, its not Chicago pizza.

8. True Chicago Piehounds have not, and will not ever order or visit a national pizza chain if in the Chicago area.

Read more!

From the Archives: Delisi's Pizzeria

On Tuesday evening, PCOC convened for its 29th meeting at Delisi's Pizzeria at 5806 N. Western on Chicago's far north side. Charter member Maggie Matthews chose Delisi's after hearing from her many contacts in the St. Hilary's area that Delisi's had some serious pizza game. Without vouching for the honesty or character of Maggie's local sources, I am happy to report that they sure know pizza because, in this member's opinion, Delisi's does put out some fine pies. Before getting to the nitty gritty on Delisi's pizza, a bit of a description on the place is needed to get the real feel of this great northside spot.

Delisi's is located on a strip of Western Ave between Bryn Mawr and Peterson that is dominated on the east side of the street by the never-ending wall of the massive Rosehill Cemetery. On the west side of the street, where Delisi's is located, there isn't much going on with the exception of a couple car dealers slinging beat-up rides and an occasional fast food spot serving out burgers, beefs (and even ghetto fries, but that is another story). It doesn't seem like there is much foot traffic on this stretch of Western which certainly must play a part in making Delisi's a place that seems like it is almost exclusively frequented by locals.

As you approach Delisi's, the first hint that you get that it is a pretty laid-back place is when you notice that the front door is really just a screen door: a brown screen door that looks like it could be the back door to any house or apartment in the city that, at this time of year, instead of opening out to a backyard or back stoop, opens right out onto the open air of Western Ave. Once through the screen door, if you've never been there before, you might think that you are in the wrong place as the inside of Delisi's doesn't look like a pizzeria, but really just looks like a bar with a few tables scattered around. And really, that is exactly what Delisi's is: a small neighborhood bar that serves excellent pizza (and judging from the menu, but not the tables of other patrons, sandwiches and dinners too). Pizzas are served to drinkers and diners at tables all within an easy yell of the bartender.

Speaking of the bartender, on Tuesday night, PCOC was blessed to enjoy the service and company of one of Chicago's finest bartenders. Marilyn, a longtime bartender at Delisi's, is, in my opinion, the driving force behind what makes Delisi's so laid-back and interesting. Within seconds of my early arrival with PCOC members Bryan Brisch, Maggie and Matthew Couri, Marilyn was deep into conversation with us about her story, our stories, Delisi's, pizza, beer, and even the "hurricane in her head." All the while, Marilyn was keeping track of a couple tables and a small group at the end of the bar, stocking beer faster than she likely has ever done before (as Brisch was guzzling BLs on a breakneck pace from the minute he sat down), and later, even banging on TV that was on the fritz, showing all of us just how you might develop a head hurricane like hers.

Despite all of what was happening around her, Marilyn still had the presence of mind to closely advise us on our pizza order. Even though we told her that we are partial to thin crust pizza, she insisted that we try a pan pizza. And when we told her we like out thin crust pizzas well done, she knew exactly what we were talking about and told the guys in the kitchen to make them crispy. But Marilyn's abilities were not limited to keeping cold beer in our hands (as she said, "F*ck it, how about another bucket"), or giving insider info on Delisi's pizza, she also is Delisi's DJ, and a good one at that. While Marilyn was certainly a big part of PCOC Meeting #29, the real star of the night in my book was Delisi's pizza.

For our group of nine, we ordered three large thin crust pizzas and one large pan pizza. Between the three thin crust pizzas, I was able to try some plain sausage, some spinach and tomato slices and some sausage and pepperoni, and I thought all three were excellent. What makes Delisi's thin crust pizza so damn good is its combination of a crispy, cracker-thin crust, good amounts of sauce, and a healthy amount of fresh, flavorful toppings. It is hard to say what really makes Delisi's thin crust pizza stand out for me, but it has something to do with the miracle of how the thin, crispy crust is able to support a healthy serving of sauce, tasty cheese and a substantial amounts of toppings without buckling, or being overlooked as an essential (if not the essential) part of the pizza. Whether its religion, science or pizza artistry that allows Delisi's to pull it off, count me as a fervent believer. The only thing I could think of that might improve the thin crust pizza at Delisi’s is to add a bit more tang to the sauce, but I am not sure that is even worth messing with the fine thing that Delisi’s has going.

As for the pan pizza, I thought it was pretty good too. As Marilyn explained to us, Delisi's pan pizza is well known in the area, and actually has a connection back to Ike Sewell, the legendary inventor of Chicago-style pan pizza and original owner of Uno's. It turns out that one of Delisi's first pizza cooks learned his trade while working at Uno's, and judging from the pan pizza that we had, he learned it pretty well. The crust was flaky and had a good buttery taste. The tomato sauce was fresh and tangy tasting, and the sausage, like that on the thin crust pizzas, had great flavor. While it doesn't reach the level of an Uno's of Malnati's pan pizza in my book, I thought it was not too far off. Some PCOC members thought that the pan was a bit too doughy, and I might have to agree. This may be what separates Delisi's from Malnati's and Uno's.

Overall, I was mightily impressed with Delisi's thin crust pizza, thought that the pan was pretty good, and, when considered together, I think Delisi's pizzas (and bar scene) make it a legitimate contender for one of Chicago’s finest pizza spots. Read more!

From the Archives: Tomato Head Pizzeria Lincoln Park

The Pizza Club of Chicago convened last night for its 27th meeting at Tomato Head Pizza Kitchen at the corner of Webster and Sheffield in Lincoln Park. New President Barry C. Owen made the pick after revealing that Tomato Head beat out several better-known spots (Uno's, Due's, Papa Milano's, Marie's) on the basis that it was a bit of a wild card while many of the other spots mentioned are firmly established in Chicago's pizza landscape.

The turnout last night was light, only eight members compared to our more typical 12-15. This low turnout is understandable considering that various PCOC members are traveling to and from various exotic locales during the summer months. But the low turnout was actually a blessing in disguise last night as T. Head's dining area would have been dominated and tested to the breaking point by a turnout of 15 PCOC members killing beers and running around the tables chowing pizza. (That we were just a small group did not prevent us from raising a bit of hell in the place anyway. T. Head is BYOB, so, as a group, we brought approximately 50 cold, cold beers to the place only to discover that they did not have a cooler, or other way to keep our beer cold. After learning this, B's eyes glazed back in his head, and he sprung into action like a man possessed, grabbing an empty tub from the guys in the kitchen and then hijacking the coke machine's ice dispenser to fill his tub full of ice, all while some poor woman cowered behind him hoping to get a cup of ice for her daughter's coke. In spite of the many possible tragic outcomes of this situation, all worked out well in the end as the little girl got her coke and our beer stayed cold till the last drop. Well done B.)

To explain the dine-in situation at T. Head a bit further, it is important to note that, judging from the steady stream of people coming in and out of the place, it looks like T. Head makes its bread and butter on delivery and takeout, and, as a result, has a fairly small and very informal dining (i.e. pizza-eating) area. They also do not have any waitstaff leaving eat-in patrons to order off of the chalkboard menu above the counter. All of this seems to make Tomato Head a place that is focused on one thing and one thing only: turning out good pizzas, and a lot of them. As a pizza freak, this is good enough for me as I don't need an attentive waitress or a white table cloth when I go out for pizza. I just want some quality pizza and somewhere to put down my beer when my hands are greasy and full of pie. Now let's talk about Tomato Head's pizza.

T. Head's pies are thin crust and thin crust only. For our group of eight, we ordered four large (14-in) pizzas. Initially, we thought that three pizzas would cut the mustard, but upon deep reflection and some slobbering "I'm starving" comments from our group, it was decided to up the order to four. This turns out to have been the right move as, when the dust settled, we had maybe a quarter of a pizza left. This works out to the following pizza equation:

  • 1 pizza-eating male + 1 pizza-eating female = 1 large Tomato Head pizza

I don't care what the menu or the people at the place tell you, follow this equation when ordering from T. Head or risk going home hungry, or worse, going home hungry and without leftovers to kill on the way.

We ordered all four of our pizzas well-done as a scouting mission by another table before we ordered indicated that the guys in the kitchen were possibly rushing some of the pies out of the oven. As for toppings on the four pies, we got a spinach and tomato, a sausage, a "Belt-Buster," and a sausage and pepperoni. The "Belt-Buster" was a house specialty and consisted of sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms and black olives. While I did not try this pie, judging from the speed at which Turtle and B were taking it down, it seems to have been a solid combination of toppings. I tried all three of the other pizzas but focused on the sausage and the spinach and tomato varieties. I thought the sauce and crust were both very good and the ratio of sauce to crust was good as well. I also thought that the toppings seemed pretty fresh and all had good flavor. Overall, I thought the pizzas were damn good and I am sure that I will visit and get delivery from this place in the near future. Read more!

From the Archives: La Villa Pizza

On Tuesday night, eleven members of PCOC convened for our 31st meeting at La Villa Pizzeria and Restaurant on Pulaski just north of Addison on the northwest side. La Villa was chosen by PCOC's Former President and Grande Dame Bridget Kelly after one of her old-school girlfriends from St. Viator's Parish recommended it. While St. Viator's Grammar School's hard-nosed, no-nonsense, and sometimes blood-thirsty hoops teams gave the neighborhood a certain reputation among those that spent time in the Big Ten Catholic League as kids, after visiting La Villa, it is apparent that the area is not all sharp elbows and knees to the groin, as love is being spread around this neighborhood in shape of round, steamy and delicious thin crust pizzas from La Villa.
Before getting into some info on La Villa and its pizza, I'd like to take a minute to say that I think that last week's meeting brought PCOC into rare territory as a club devoted to Chicago and its pizza. While there was nothing especially notable about this meeting number or its date, I feel that, with this 31st meeting, PCOC has successfully secured its place in the pizza world as an institution truly devoted to Chicago's pizza whose like cannot be found in the history of this fine city. With our combined experiences, we, PCOC's members, have all become true pizza experts. Congrats PCOC members, and remember, with our expertise and experience comes great responsibility. We must strive to broaden our personal experiences with Chicago and its pizza and to promote those pizza joints that truly embody the finest aspects of the crusty, cheesy, and tomatoey goodness that this city produces.

Moving on to La Villa. As mentioned above, La Villa is located just north of the intersection of Addison and Pulaski, within walking distance of the Addison Blue Line stop. La Villa appears to not simply be a pizza joint, but also a banquet hall, a local bar, and regular sit-down Italian restaurant, all of this seeming to add up to making La Villa a neighborhood institution of sorts. The main dining area that we were seated in consisted of a bar, several booths along both walls, and several tables. This main room was fairly crowded with bar patrons watching the Sox (somewhat strange considering how firmly La Villa is rooted in Cubs country), families, co-workers out for a bite, and locals having dinner. Before chowing down on some pies, various PCOC members made the following interesting observations about the place that may help readers out there in drawing a mental picture of La Villa:

  • There was what appeared to be a sold-out condom machine in the men's room. The machine's presence made PCOC member Tom Dine posit that any pizza joint with this feature likely produced killer pies with untold aphrodisiacs included in the recipe.
  • La Villa's tables are set with the red and white-patterned tablecloths that are a true sign of a quality family Italian joints.
  • It was the right type of dark in the dining area. This means, of course, that it was bright enough to evaluate a pizza's crispy quotient and to easily determine toppings at a glance without it being so bright that sauce, grease or beer stains were easily visible on clothing and/or faces.

Getting down to La Villa's pizza, I would first like to note that while La Villa offers stuffed and deep dish pizza in addition to their most-popular thin crust variety, PCOC only ordered thin crust pizzas on its visit. Looking back on this decision, I am pleased with it because by failing to try La Villa's stuffed and deep dish pizzas, I have given myself a great reason to go back and eat some more of La Villa's tasty thin crust pizza. (This may not seem to make sense, but a veteran pizza hound would surely understand that, on my next visit, I intend to not only try the deep and stuffed pies but also to remind myself of the fine quality of La Villa's thin pizza as well.)

La Villa's thin crust pizza is not of the cracker-thin variety found in Chicago but is more middle of the road in terms of thickness. (thicker than a cracker, thinner than a slice of bread.) After the pizzas arrived at our table, and after he was able to inhale a couple pieces, member Matt "Chief" Dine immediately drew a comparison between La Villa's thin crust and Pete's Pizzeria's thin crust on North Western Avenue. This is a monumental comparison as Pete's is often considered by PCOC one of the northside's finest pizza joints. (PCOC thinks so highly of Pete's that, while I am not sure of this, I would be willing to bet some serious cash, or pizza or beer, that Pete's delivery number is stored in the memory of several PCOC member's phones.) After several more minutes and several more pieces, the Chief even declared that he thought that La Villa might be better than Pete's. While I have to agree with the Chief that La Villa makes a damn good pie, I am not able to place it on the podium above Pete's quite yet, as there were a couple criticisms of the pies offered by PCOC's astute members.

before getting into a critique of La Villa's thin crust pizza, I'll set out our order. For our 11, we ordered a sausage & pepperoni, a cheese and tomato with half spinach, a sausage, and a special, all large and well-done. I tried all but the special focusing on the sausage and the cheese and tomato. Several members thought the sausage had a great flavor and really stood out among all the toppings. I also thought the sausage was good and also thought that the cheese and tomato was real good due to the juicy-fresh tomatoes. A couple female members grumbled a bit about the spinach and tomato pie as they thought there was too much spinach on it or that the spinach had a bit of a "dirty" flavor. I also thought that some of the edge pieces were a bit dry and could have used a bit more sauce. All in all though, La Villa makes a damn good thin crust pizza in a relaxed and friendly environment, one that is worth the trip up to Addison and Pulaski no matter where you're coming from.

Read more!

Open Letter to Pizza Hut: You are NOT Chicago's favorite pizza

Mr. Scott Bergren
President & CCO
Pizza Hut, Inc.
Dallas, TX

Dear Scottie,

Over the past few weeks it seems that every time I turn on the TV it's only a matter of seconds before I see a Pizza Hut commercial. I am not writing to complain about the ubiquity of your commercials as, while I don't enjoy them, at least they are promoting pizza and not adult diapers, ED drugs, etc. Despite this, I would still like to share with you some of my thoughts about your commercials and your pizza.

Invariably, at some point during your commercials, the claim is made that Pizza Hut is "America's favorite pizza." Since first seeing this claim, I've had several thoughts about it.

First off, on behalf of the Windy City, I'd like to be very clear: Pizza Hut is NOT Chicago's favorite pizza. In fact, you are probably not even one of Chicago's top 100 pizza purveyors. I think you know this as you don't have many shops in Chicago. Your pizza's failure to register on the list of Chicago's favorite pizza joints not only takes a rather large geographic bite out of your "America's favorite" claim, it also basically destroys the credibility of the claim. You surely must know that Chicago is THE city for great pizza in America and that no one knows great pizza like Chicagoans know great pizza. So, without Chicago's endorsement, I'm afraid that no pizza, including Pizza Hut's, can be properly considered America's favorite.

I also think it's curious that you call your pizza "America's favorite" rather than "America's finest," or "America's best." The difference between "America's favorite" pizza and "America's finest" pizza is like the difference between the most popular kid in high school and the smartest kid. And we all know what happens to the popular kid: he ends up pumping gas somewhere. In other words, you and the folks down at the Hut might want to think about your future.

Despite my criticisms, I would like to thank you for running your commercials so frequently. Besides being a welcome pizza daydream from all the other advert trash that's constantly on the tube, when I see one of your spots, my inner pizza fiend often comes out and I end up ordering a pie from some quality, local, family-owned pizza joint here in Chicago even though I wasn't planning on it.

In closing, I would like to invite you to come to Chicago and visit a couple pizza joints with me so you can take some notes and do whatever possible to improve your pizza as I trust we share the same grand goal in life: to make the world's pizza dreams come true.

With love,

The Chicago Pizza Project Read more!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chicago pizza under the stars?

I'm working on a list of Chicago's best al fresco pizza joints and need your help.

What's your favorite outdoor pizza spot in town?

Send me an email or leave a comment below with your top outdoor spot. With your help, I promise to compile the greatest list of outdoor Chicago pizza joints in history.



What Chicago pizza joint's patio is pictured above?

The first reader who emails me or
comments with the right answer
will win a gift certificate to one
of the Chicago Pizza Project's favorite pizza joints. Read more!

Friday, June 19, 2009

New Review: Michael's Pizzeria & Tavern

The Joint: Michael's Pizzeria & Tavern

The Dish: I decided it was time for a visit to Michael's Pizzeria in Buena Park/Uptown after a couple friends recommended it over the past several months. The recommendations were pretty general ("try the thin crust," "great for watching games"), so going in, my four fellow piehounds and I were not really sure what to expect. As detailed below, the Chicago Pizza Project's verdict on Michael's pies: good but not great.

After taking one step into Michael's, I suffered some minor hallucinations after being bombarded with dancing digital images. Was this a pizza joint or a video arcade? My confusion was due to the 33 flat panel and projection screen TVs spread throughout the one long room that makes up both Michael's bar and pizza-eating (i.e. dining) areas. Michael's literally has several walls of TVs showing every single sporting event happening at any given moment on the entire planet. Or that's at least what it seems like.

As you might guess based on the TV situation, Michael's is more of a tavern than a restaurant and based the night of our visit, it seems that the patrons are typically in their twenties and either in big groups or couples. The Wednesday night of our visit, there were several sports teams chowing pizza and quaffing beers and I'd bet that Michael's caters to similar crowds on most weeknights.

For our smallish group of 5, we ordered two large pies. The first was a thin crust pizza, half italian sausage and half fresh tomato. The second was an "extra thin and crispy" pie, half roast beef and fresh garlic and half sausage and pepperoni. (Michael's also features stuffed and deep dish pizza, but based upon the recommendations I received, and our group's preference for thin crust, we didn't try these pies.)

While its not really apparent from the pictures above, there really wasn't much of a difference between the two styles of Michael's thin pizza. Despite this, the majority of our group thought Michael's thin pizzas were above average. In particular, I thought Michael's pies stood out with their tangy-sweet sauce, decent crust, and quality cheese and toppings. In particular, I thought the
savory sweet/salty taste of the roast beef/fresh garlic combo was excellent and that Michael's italian sausage had an authentic flavor that is only found in quality Chicago pizza joints.

Chicago Pizza Project's Rating: 2.5 greasy thumbs out of 4
Read more!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From the Chicago Pizza Project Archives: Pat's Pizza

The Joint: Pat's Pizza;

The Dish: Pat's Pizza has long been a standby for Chicago's north side thin crust pizza lovers and is consistently ranked as one of Chicago's best thin crust pizza joints (and Roger Ebert's favorite pizza according to Pat's website).

A few years back, Pat's moved from its old home on Sheffield to a new location on Lincoln Ave just south of Diversey in Lincoln Park. While Pat's scenery has changed, lovers of Pat's pies need not fret because its pizza is the same as ever: thin as hell and addictive once you get in a groove.

For our visit to Pat's, we had 10 piehounds (with a couple possible late arrivals) and decided to play it safe by ordering 5 large pizzas. While the waiter opined that a large pizza would feed 3-4, we thought that considering the cracker-thin crust of Pat's pizzas, it would really only take 2-3 Piehounds to scarf down a large pie. And guess what, we were right - while we had some leftovers, if we had ordered 3 or 4 pies according to the waiter's suggestion, our order would have been light for sure. As for the pies themselves, we had a couple meat, a couple veggie, and a special, and the overall opinion of the crowd was that Pat's is a top-flight spot for Chicago's unique cracker-thin bar pizza.

Things at Pat's weren't all aces though. There were some grumbles at the table regarding one of the veggie pizzas with sun-dried tomatoes as the tomatoes overpowered everything else about the pie and were really not too tasty. There was also some talk about whether the pizzas were cooked enough. My practice is to generally order thin pizzas well-done or easy well-done to prevent getting undercooked, sloppy middle pieces, but during our visit we thought it best to go with what the kitchen gave us as there were some fears that ordering Pat's super thin pies well-done could be dangerous. After our experience and much reflection, on my next visit to Pat's, I'll order meat pizzas well-done and leave the veggie pies to the expertise of the pizza artists in the kitchen.

So there it is, you heard it here, from the experts, Pat's still puts out some of the best super-thin crust pizzas in Chicago.

Chicago Pizza Project rating: 3.5 greasy thumbs out of 4
Read more!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From the Chicago Piehound Archive: Pizza Metro

The Joint: Pizza Metro

The Dish: Having entered the approximately 2 & 1/2 week period of near-perfect outdoor pizza and beer consumption conditions in Chicago, an outdoor session seemed in order. The beer garden of the Bucktown Pub on Cortland and Paulina was chosen for headquarters while for pizza, it felt like time to give Pizza Metro a shot.

Pizza Metro makes what it calls Roman-style pizzas in rectangular sheets. Pizza Metro estimates that a half sheet serves 2-3 and a whole sheet serves 4-6. For our group of 15 or so Piehounds we ordered 4 whole sheets as follows:
  • one sausage, green pepper, & onion
  • tomato & basil
  • sausage
  • 1/2 potato & rosemary and 1/2 sausage & pepperoni

A whole sheet from Pizza Metro is probably about the equivalent of an 18" round thin crust pie, so you can imagine how much pizza we are talking about here. As I mentioned earlier, Pizza Metro refers to its pizza as "Roman-style." From my Roma experiences back in the day, Roman-style pizza is characterized by being served in rectangular sheets, a crust that is not thick or thin, and for certain fairly unusual ingredients like the potato & rosemary combo that Pizza Metro features. So it seems that Pizza Metro is probably Chicago's closest thing a true Roman style pizza shop. In fact, Pizza Metro's pie reminded me of a pizza spot very near the Ottaviano metro stop in Roma. (Anybody out there know the place? Wine and time have obliterated it from my memory.)

(Brief Piehound History lesson: Some astute Piehound noted that Pizza Metro also presumably is trumpeting its Roman roots with its logo of a pie-hungry wolf on its menus. With this logo, PM is likely invoking the historical protector of Rome, the she-wolf who suckled abandoned babies (and pizza innovators) Romulus & Remus, the somewhat mythical founders of Rome. This makes me wonder, what kind of pizza do wolves like? I'm thinking a deep dish with all the meat in the kitchen kind of thing but who knows.)

Getting to the Piehound's verdict on PM's pizza, it seemed the consensus of the group was that the pizza was OK, but was pretty dry and all the pizzas across the board needed more sauce. One member went so far as to say that our pizzas tasted like "a paper plate with melted cheese on it." Despite the dry pies, we went to town on them and nearly finished the whole load. This surely is a testament to the faith and optimism held by my fellow Piehounds that the next piece of pizza will be better than the last. Or it is further evidence of our sweaty-fat-man-at-an-all-you-can-eat-buffet pizza-eating habits. Regardless, this feat of eating was made possible for many members by the liberal use of hot sauce on their pie. As one Piehound said "it makes it wetter - I mean better" (this comment of course resulted in various inappropriate statements both related and unrelated to pizza). Although never formally considered by the Piehound, I can securely say that I will now always place hot sauce in the same lofty pizza-condiment universe as red pepper, parm, oregano, and giardinera.

As for my opinions, I too thought the pizza was dry but that the other pieces of PM's pizza puzzle (crust, cheese and toppings) were pretty solid. In particular, I thought the toppings seemed very fresh & full of flavor. I thought the rosemary was a great ingredient and that the potato rosemary may have been the best pie we ordered. If ever ordering from PM seriously consider giving it a shot.

All in all, based upon the strength of the fresh and flavorful toppings and the unique Roman/sheet style, I'm planning to give Pizza Metro another shot sometime in my pizza future. With this opinion I might be in the minority of the august and piecritical Piehounds present that evening though. One thing is for sure, if I ever do order Pizza Metro again I will ask the pieguys back in the kitchen to go heavy on the sauce.

The Chciago Piehound's rating: Read more!

From the Chicago Pizza Project Archive: Exchequer Pub

The Joint: Exchequer Restaurant & Pub

The Dish: For many Loop office workers, the question of where to grab a pizza during or after the workday is not an easy one. While there are many pizza joints downtown, most are franchise operations and don't offer top-flight pies. If you're looking for an original, family-owned joint, there are not many options, but there are a couple. One of these spots is the Exchequer Restaurant & Pub on Wabash.

Walking into Exchequer with fourteen fellow piehounds, it was clear that the place has been around for a good while and, judging from the crowds in the bar and the three dining areas, it looked like the folks at Exchequer must be pretty good at what they do. While I did not look closely at the entire menu, it looks like Exchequer has pretty much everything, but that they focus on their ribs and pizza. As for the pizza, let's get to it.

Exchequer offers three styles of pizza delineated by crust type. The first style, and the style that the menu states Exchequer is famous for, is pan pizza. In addition to its pan pizza, Exchequer offers what it refers to as "thin crust" and "crispy crust."

While I've got a bias for thin crust pizza, as a group we determined that we had to try Exchequer's pan pizza to find out if it truly deserves its "famous" tag. For our group of 15, we ordered 2 large pan pizzas, 2 large thin crust pizzas and 2 large crispy crust pizzas. This order was just about right for our 15 despite the menu. (I stress our, because the piehounds at Exchequer unapologetically chow pizza at a rate and volume that many would not believe until they see it).

As for Exchequer's pizzas, I can report that, overall, I thought that they were above average. To start things off I had one piece of Exchequer's famous pan pizza and thought that is was pretty well-balanced in terms of crust, cheese and toppings but was really nothing spectacular. After this, I focused in on the thin crust and crispy crust pizzas that we ordered. I thought that the crust, sauce and toppings on the thin pizzas were all better than what you'll get in most pizza joints around town. In particular I thought that the Meat-Eaters thin crust pizza was very good and was the best pizza we ordered on our visit and that the canadian bacon was a particularly tasty topping. I'm not really sure if there's much of a difference between the thin crust and crispy crust styles, but, as I thought the thin pizzas were all pretty good and very similar, I suppose there's not much to complain about. Exchequer could improve their thin pizzas if they ladled a bit more sauce around, especially toward the edges of the pizza as a couple edge pieces I ate were a bit dry. On the whole, I thought Exchequer's thin pizzas were good and I will surely be back for a pizza or two in the future.

Chicago Pizza Project rating: 2.5 greasy thumbs up (out of 4)
Read more!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Welcome to the Chicago Pizza Project!

Welcome to the Chicago Pizza Project, a blog about my ongoing love affair with Chicago's single greatest resource: pizza. With this blog I hope to provide Chicagoans and visitors to our fine city regular-guy reviews, ratings and info on the countless pizza joints in Chicago, and, more importantly, to give me an excuse to eat pizza on an obscenely frequent basis!

On an entirely random schedule, I'll be visiting pizza joints across the city and sharing my thoughts about them with the world on this blog. The frequency of reviews will be surprising because as I am single and cannot cook (I have never even used my oven, even for pizza!), and because I've already been to at least 75 different pizza joints across Chicago. I will be accompanied by a revolving cast of friends and fellow Chicago pizza fiends along the way who will offer a variety of opinion. In the future I hope to invite some readers to join me at their favorite local pizza spot so stay tuned!

Please visit often (and tell your friends!) as I've constantly got pizza on the brain and will be posting new and archived reviews and other thoughts on Chicago's pizza world very regularly. Some things I'm working on to check back for soon:
  • the Chicago Pizza Project's rankings of Chicago's best thin, deep dish, stuffed and Neapolitan style pizzas
  • pizza trivia contests for gift certificates to the Chicago Pizza Project's favorite pizza joints
  • the 10 Commandments of Chicago Pizza
  • Commute cravings - Chicago's best pizza joints near the "el" for those trips home when you've got to get your pizza fix
  • pizza joint rankings by neighborhood
  • Chicago pizza al fresco - a ranking of Chicago's best outdoor pizza spots
Thanks for checking the blog out and I hope you visit again soon. If you've got any suggestions for the blog, recommendations on pizza places, etc., please email me or leave a note somewhere in the comments section.

In the meantime, happy pizza-eating Chicago! Read more!