Monday, June 22, 2009

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.

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