Piece Brewery & Pizzeria [Map]
1927 W. North Ave.
CPC invaded Piece Brewery & Pizzeria on 10/28/08.
Bill Jacobs knows his breads. After the New Haven native and his brother sold their eponymous Jacobs Brothers Bagels, he started up a pizzeria based on the pies of his youth. And since the doors opened to Piece Brewery & Pizzeria, the place has been an unqualified success. Even now, the Wicker Park eatery does so well that they don't take reservations for groups of less than 10 and they take no reservations after 7 on Friday or 6 on Saturday.
Traditionally, New Haven pizza is cooked in a coal oven, has an oblong shape, and features a thick crust. Well, thick for a thin crust pizza; not nearly as thick as deep dish. Piece gets two out of three of those - there is no coal oven there. However, the rotating shelves in the gas oven get hot enough that there is actually some char on the crust, leaving a crisp and very chewy crust that is ready to hold up whatever toppings you choose to put on it. As I said, the man knows bread.
But before getting to the toppings, one must first choose what style of pizza they want. Piece serves up three distinct categories. Red is the most familiar - like most pizzas, it has tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. A white pizza also has mozzarella, but adds olive oil and garlic and eliminates the sauce. The plain pizza has tomato sauce, Parmesan and garlic and does not have mozzarella. Of course, the Chicago Pizza Club had to try them all.
Up first were a pair of red pies, one with sausage and one with bacon and onions. The sauce, which was plentiful, had a light sweetness and was full of small chunks of tomato. The juicy sausage had a strong garlic flavor; I didn't notice much fennel at all. The only criticism anyone had of the sausage pizza was that there was not enough sausage, a sentiment expressed by a few Pizza Clubbers in attendance. Quantity of toppings was definitely not a problem with the bacon and onion pizza. There were a lot of thinly sliced onions that appeared like they might overwhelm that pie. But the bacon had no problem standing up to the onions, and the thick, flavorful crust and generous helping of tomato sauce balanced it all out to make one very well-received pizza.
On our white pizza (mozzarella, olive oil and garlic), we opted for artichoke hearts. As was the case with the sausage, there was a noticeable lack of toppings on this pizza (at least by Chicago standards - East Coast pizzerias tend to focus more on the crust than the toppings). What wasn't lacking was the garlic - there was a whole lot of it on this pizza. Fortunately, the CPC has a good number of garlic fans, so there were no complaints at all about the garlic levels.
Finally, on our plain pizza (sauce, Parmesan and garlic), we honored Piece's Connecticut roots and ordered a pizza with clams. The white clam pie was invented at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven a little over 80 years ago. We opted to get the clams on a red pizza instead of a white one - not sure if that is a major cultural faux pas or not. I do know that judging by the pace the various pizzas disappeared, the clam pie was the least favorite of the four pizzas. That said, when the CPC went to La Madia a few weeks ago, the clam pizza there was also the consensus least favorite. Perhaps we just not a clam-loving bunch. And that's not to say we did not enjoy it - the CPC left nothing behind for starving children in Africa on this visit.
After polishing off four pizzas, we ordered pizza for dessert. Chocolate pizza! Allegedly inspired by Rachael Ray and Piece co-owner Rick Nielsen, the chocolate pizza consists of Piece's regular pizza crust topped with a homemade chocolate hazelnut sauce (think Nutella, only better) and a small amount of mascarpone cheese. Hot, chewy pizza crust covered in that sauce made for one very popular dessert.
No review of Piece Brewery & Pizzeria would be complete without mention of Piece's beer. Brewer Jonathan Cutler has been with Piece since the beginning and has piled up an impressive number of awards over the last few years, including the 2005 World Beer Cup Champion Small Brewery and Brewmaster Award.
Petey Pizza gives Piece a 7.81.
The Sausage Pizza...
White Pizza with Artichokes...
AJ digs in...
I guess they brew beer or something too...
The Mighty Oven...
The Chocolate Pizza!
Where it went down...
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Piece Brewery & Pizzeria [Map]