5343 N. Clark St. (GoogleMaps)
CPC invaded Calo Ristorante on 3/27/08.
Calo is a well-regarded Italian restaurant in Andersonville that has been around for 45 years. It is better known for its regular Italian fare, but the pizza has been embraced by many. According to the restaurant's website, in 2005, the Sun-Times identified Calo's as the place to go for Chicago pizza. The CPC had to do some fact-checking.
Eight members of the Chicago Pizza Club arrived at Calo on a sleet-filled evening, including three new members who are sure to debut on this site soon (or else they may quickly be former members). Calo has two large dining rooms, both of which had dimmed lights supplemented by candles on each table. The heavy wood tables, cloth napkins, painted murals on the wall, and framed photographs and sketches of Italy were all nice and made it clear that we were not in a typical pizzeria. Still, none of us were tempted by such menu items as Calo's famous gnocchi; we were there to try the pizza.
Calo offers three types of pie: thin, pan and stuffed pizza. We tried all three. At 7:58, we placed our order: a thin medium with goat cheese and onions, a thin medium with giardiniera, a large pan with canadian bacon and garlic, and a large stuffed with sausage. At 8:13, the stands to hold the pizzas were delivered. About 20 minutes later, four very attractive pizzas were placed before us.
The thin crust with goat cheese was very good. There was an ample supply of both toppings. The onions were particularly noteworthy as they were long thin strips of onion that had a slight sweetness to them that played well with the rich goat cheese. The sauce, which seemed a bit too sweet on the stuffed pizza, was fine on the goat cheese and onion pie. The crust was very thin, almost cracker-like. The taste of the crust was fine, though nothing special, but the texture of it held up well.
The thin pizza with giardiniera had the same sturdy, well-textured crust. The sauce and mozzarella were fine - there was plenty of both. But the crust, sauce and cheese were no match, flavor-wise, for the giardiniera. For those unfamiliar with Chicago-style giardiniera, know that it's not the same as the Italian antipasto. This is a much spicier local treat that is commonly put on Italian beef (another Chicago specialty), and occasionally offered as a pizza topping. I don't know if Calo makes there's or who they buy it from, but this was some spicy stuff. It was good, but it overwhelmed the pizza, which is probably not a good thing. However, the goat cheese on the other thin crust proved to be a very good follow-up to the giardiniera pie as it restored sensitivity to the taste buds.
The pan pizza, which came with garlic and canadian bacon, was another example of too much of a good thing. I love garlic. There was so much garlic on this pizza that I could not taste the canadian bacon. This was not garlic powder or minced garlic. This was a lot of coursely shopped garlic cloves on the pizza. The taste was very good - but I couldn't taste the bacon or the sauce - so basically this seemed like outstanding cheesy garlic bread. I would have been perfectly happy with that except the bread part, so essential to a pan pizza, was pretty much flavorless and fairly dry. It seems they use the exact same dough for the thin and thick crust, and that particular mixture of flower, egg, yeast and water works much better for the thin version.
The stuffed sausage pizza was very good. It has the same dry crust as the pan pizza, but that was less of a hindrance due to the amount of sauce. Speaking of the sauce, it was noticeably sweeter here than normal. It wasn't a bad thing, it was just different. The sausage, of which there was plenty, was very good. And while, as is always the case with stuffed pizza, there was a significant amount of cheese, this was definitely a very thin pizza by stuffed pizza standard - I'd guess about 3/4 of an inch thick.
Overall, I thought Calo's offered better than average pizzas. If I were to go back, I might get a thin crust pie to share as an appetizer, but I'd prefer to get something other than pizza as a main course. But if someone really wanted to just have Calo's pizza for dinner, I wouldn't complain.
Petey gives Calo Ristorante a 6.2/10.
Chicago Pizza Club and newbies...
Garlic and Canadian Bacon pan pizza...
Goat Cheese and Onions thin crust...
Sausage stuffed pizza...
Giardiniera thin crust...
Where it went down...
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Thursday, March 27, 2008