Welcome

This is the blog and public record of the Chicago Pizza Club. We eat a lot of pizza and share our thoughts on it as well as post any relevant pizza news we come across.

We invite you to post any comments on anywhere you have eaten under our review of that establishment. If you have any questions, please read the FAQs on the sidebar first to see if it has already been answered. Please note that we are at capacity and are not seeking new members. And finally, if you have a place you think we should try, have some other inquiry, or want to send us love/hatemail then please contact us at:

ChicagoPizzaClub@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Frasca Putting Pizza on Sale

In honor of the barely known and questionably real National Pizza Week (January 12-16), Frasca will offer their Neapolitan-style pies at the low price of 2 for $14. The deal includes all the toppings one is inclined to try. Pies typically start at $8 - $13 each, though with extra toppings they could be higher.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

[Special Report] Davenport's Pizza Palace

Davenport's Pizza Palace (GoogleMap)
2837 Cahaba Rd
Birmingham, AL 35223
205.879.8603

Davenport's Pizza Palace is located in Mountain Brook, Alabama, a well-heeled, old-money suburb of Birmingham. Davenport's is consistently voted as "Birmingham's Best Pizza" by various local surveys. Chicago Pizza Club: Operation Birmingham went undercover and on the case to find out how Davenport's measured up.

The pizza place itself is a quaint pizzeria, offering thin crusts only. You can see people preparing doughs and pizzas right in the front window. There are arcade-style video games to pass the time while you wait for a table, and the wait staff generously agreed to give us six mugs of beer instead of one pitcher. After a half-hour wait, we were seated in a cozy booth. We were not given new mugs for a different kind of beer we ordered after sitting down. But the waitress did not know it was different, so we won't hold that against her.

We quickly decided on three medium pizzas: Rex's Special with onions, sausage, and green peppers; Meat Lover's with ham, sausage, and pepperoni; and Veggie with black olives, green peppers, and Roma tomatoes.

The pizzas were delivered in a timely fashion and all came out at the same time. The circular pizzas are cut into small squares, and I noticed right away that there was excellent topping distribution -- even though the squares were small, each one (for the most part) had each topping represented.

The toppings on each pizza were fair to good. The sausage was nice and one guest of the CPC noticed fennel. The Roma tomatoes were fresh, and really not bad considering that it is the middle of December. The sauce was tasty, but average. There was not too much nor too little sauce, which was appreciated.

Where Davenport's falls short is the crust. The edge of the pizza had a fair chew, but the inner parts of the pizza fell limp, and some slices were even soggy. The toppings became separated from the crust on nearly every slice I had, because the crust could not bear the weight of the toppings.

Davenport's is close to being a good pizza -- considering the decent toppings, even distribution, and tasty, if not spectacular, sauce. But the dough and the crust keep it from meeting its full potential.

- Review submitted by Amanda

[Chicago Pizza News] Stupid Man Robs Suburban Pizzeria

Pizza Cucina is a 4-store pizza chain in the far western suburbs. The westernmost location is in Wasco, an unincorporated town just past St. Charles.

Late Saturday or early Sunday, Mark Jendrzejczyk broke into Wasco Pizza Cucina and stole the cash drawers and broke some computers. When the police came to investigate, management reported that there was a car key sitting in the restaurant and a car sitting in the parking lot that nobody recognized. The key was to a Dodge and the car in the parking lot was a Dodge.

Turned out they went together and belonged to Jendrzejczyk. He was arrested and charged on Sunday afternoon.

Friday, December 26, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] 2 Inches of Snow Means No Parking and Free Pizza


Since the Blizzard of 1967, about 500 miles of Chicago's streets have been decorated with signs that ban parking if there are more than 2 inches of snow on the ground. For more than 40 years, those signs have left Chicagoans wondering how they are supposed to measure two inches while standing in the freezing cold with no ruler.

Thanks to Pizzeria Via Stato, there is now a reason to cheer for 2 inches of snow accumulation. Starting on January 6, if there is more than 2 inches of snow downtown, every carry-out order comes with a free pizza.

Incidentally, most of the fear of the 2-inch snow parking ban is unnecessary. The City generally doesn't start towing cars from those streets unless there is a good amount more than 2 inches. Also, chances are your car will just be moved, not put in the pound.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Great Kitchens Inc. Moves Into New Romeoville Facility

Great Kitchens Inc., which produces private-label pizzas for, among others, Trader Joe's, Costco, and Wal-Mart, is expanding. The company already operated in a 40,000 square foot facility in Addison that is capable of producing as many as 200,000 pizzas per day. They have now added a 155,000 square foot facility in Romeoville.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Bobby Flay Throws Down Against Lou Malnati

Throwdown! With Bobby Flay is the Food Network show where the network tells chefs and restaurants that they are going to be profiled, but when the time comes to start filming, Bobby Flay shows up and challenges the chef to a food battle in which both people will make the chef's signature dish and then let the customer choose the winner.

New York native Flay showed up at Lou Malnati's to throw down a deep dish pizza challenge this summer. That episode will air tomorrow night, December 21, at 9:00. It will be on again at midnight and again on December 24 at 8:00. The recipe Flay uses in the challenge is here.

Art of Pizza [Meeting #72]

Art of Pizza [Map]
3033 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60657-3035
(773) 327-5600

CPC invaded Art of Pizza on 12/19/08.

At our last meeting, the members of the Chicago Pizza Club came to the realization that our social lives were no longer so exciting that the unofficial ban on weekend pizza club meetings needed to remain. Rather than being depressed about the realization that our post-college social peaks are behind us, we embraced it and immediately scheduled a Friday night meeting.

And so it was that we ended up at Art of Pizza last night. In 2001, Phil Vettel and a team of about three dozen reporters and editors from the Chicago Tribune tried deep dish and stuffed pizzas from more than 100 different Chicago area restaurants and determined that Art of Pizza has the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. Now, given that #2 was awarded to the Hyde Park location of Pizza Capri, and that both Chicago's and Exchequer were given Honorable Mention (which puts them in the top 13), it is clear that this team would not fit in well with the Chicago Pizza Club. Still, some of us knew Art of Pizza to offer a quality pie, and any place that gets high praise from Phil Vettel and thousands of pizza-eating Chicagoans is more than worthy of a visit from the CPC. And any place that is BYOB and charges no corkage fee is worthy of a visit on a Friday night.

Art of Pizza offers stuffed, pan, and thin crust pies. The nine of us split three large pizzas, one of each variety. Up first was the thin crust pizza which we got with sausage on the whole thing and giardinera on half of it (to accommodate those members with sensitive stomachs and palates). The sausage had some fennel and a noticeable amount of garlic. Texturally, it had some nice chew, but was definitely not rubbery. The giardinera, as is typically the case, was strong. Unfortunately, the giardinera overpowered the sausage, a problem that could have been fixed with either more sausage or less giardinera. The sauce, which was a little sparse on the thin crust, was well-seasoned - I'd call it zesty - and the cheese, which was generously applied, seemed to be a decent quality mozzarella.

The pan pizza arrived next. For that pizza, we went with Art's Meaty Delight, which includes sausage, bacon, ground beef, pepperoni and sliced beef. Like many pan pizzas in Chicago, this is essentially a deep dish pizza that has cheese on top instead of sauce as it comes with a crust that's at least half an inch thick. And what a crust it was. The thick, crisp, light crust at Art of Pizza is full of herbs that are not overwhelming, but are strong enough to stand up the substantial amounts of cheese, tangy sauce and, in this case, five kinds of meat. Speaking of the meats, they were all generously applied on the pizza, and while that made for a good deal of salt, the cheese and sauce were sufficient to balance things out.

Our stuffed pizza was Art's Vegetarian, which comes with mushrooms, onions, green peppers, tomato slices, broccoli and spinach. The bottom crust was almost as thick (maybe as thick) as the crust on the pan pizza, which is unique for a stuffed pizza. Given the amount of toppings that were stuffed inside this pie and the moisture that is inevitable when that many fresh vegetables are involved, that thick crust may have been necessary to prevent the pie from devolving into a wet mess. Necessary or not, the crust, which had the same herbs (and maybe oil?) as the pan pizza, was a welcome inclusion. By virtue of it being on top of the pizza and the fact that vegetables don't have as strong flavors as meat, the stuffed pizza was the one where we were most able to taste the chunky, flavorful sauce.

A couple of final notes worth mentioning. Art of Pizza gives out free liters of pop to anyone who spends over $11 pre-tax, and 2 liters for orders over $22. However, that offer is limited to take out and delivery orders. While we were disappointed by the policy, the wine we brought (BYOB!) more than made up for it. Also, Art of Pizza has a full menu beyond pizza, though I didn't notice anyone eating anything other than pizza and salad. They have lunch and dinner specials every day, but oddly for a pizzeria, not a single special involves pizza.

Petey gives Art of Pizza a 7.60625.



Art of Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Palermo's [Meeting #71]

Palermo's [GoogleMaps]
4849 W. 95th Street
Oak Lawn, IL
708.425.6262

CPC invaded Palermo's on 12/11/08.

Palermo's is our first fan request Chicago Pizza Club Meeting. It was on our list of places to try, but since we received maybe 5 emails over the last few months suggesting we try their thin-crust pizza I moved it up on our priority list. It's been a long standing Italian restaurant in Oak Lawn for over 30 years. In that time, its thin-crust pizza has developed a following around the city as one of the best although a quick tour of less illustrious review sites reveals real "love it or hate it" opinions from other customers.

Palermo's and the nearby Italian restaurants on this stretch of 95th street all have a similar cavernous space divided into many small and cozy nooks. And they all know how to fill them up - they always seem to be operating at near maximum capacity even on a cold Thursday evening. After some drinks and chatting with one of the owners, we placed our order. We were given the options of having the pizza come out at the same time or staggered as they came out of the oven as well as a choice in our deep dish and stuffed crusts between regular, slightly burned, and slightly undercooked. We chose to have the pizzas delivered with regular crusts and asked for them to be brought out as soon as they were done baking.

We ordered:

  • Thin crust with pepperoni and mushrooms
  • Regular with pineapple and half canadian bacon
  • Stuffed with spinach
  • Deep dish with sausage and onions
The most striking thing about a pizza from Palermo's is the sauce. They use abundant amounts on their pizza and they have a very sweet sauce. You can pick up some basil and garlic in it, but it appears that it's otherwise a very smooth (texture-wise) paste-based sauce with a decidedly sweet start and finish. Overall, I think some of us found the sauce to complement the salty pepperoni quite well, but that when the pizza was topped with pineapple and Canadian bacon the whole pie became noticeably sweet. Similarly, the stuffed pizza had its sweetness tempered by what appeared to be generous sprinkles of Parmesan cheese over the sauce. Ultimately, I think our members and readers will judge Palermo's based on its sauce. It's entirely on one end of the sweet/savory scale so be warned if this will be a non-starter for you.

The toppings were perfunctory and abundant. They had a hard time standing out amidst the sauce on the pizza. I will note that it appears that the mushrooms were canned, although I personally didn't notice the canned mushroom brininess right away, and the spinach, while excellent, appeared to be frozen based on the color and way it was chopped. The cheese was the standard pizza mozzarella. I enjoyed it and found that they put on a good amount, except for the stuffed pizza which was tightly stuffed with lots of spinach. By choosing to sell four pizzas, they essentially choose to sell you four different crusts. The regular is that kind of in-between crust that you find in Chicago. I found ours to be soggy and collapsed. The thin crust is nearing the cracker thin crust of bar pizzas in Chicago and had a nice breadcrumb coating on its underside. This crust was certainly crispy and had a good crunch to it. The deep dish pizza crust was surprisingly light and crisp for a denser crust. Finally, the stuffed pizza crust did a good job of holding the heft of its contents and still being noticeable despite the avalanche of spinach. Word to the wise, they bring these pies out piping hot from the oven. Let them sit for a few minutes before digging in, maybe even longer for the stuffed pizza.

Tony and his staff made frequent stops at our table to make sure everyone was kosher. At the end of the meal, they gave us dessert wine and a platter consisting of creme brulee, tiramisu, and Nina's cake, a variation on the Italian cassata. Nina's cake was new for me, a cake with rice pudding as the filling. The pizzas came out in an appropriate time frame despite the heavy rush of diners and large volume of take-out and delivery orders. The bill came out to $14 apiece for all the pizza we could eat.

Petey gives Palermo's a 5.975



Palermo's Italian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 15, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Two Pizza Chains Are Coming to Chicago

Papa Romano's, a pizza chain with 46 restaurants in Michigan and Texas, and Mr. Pita, which has 40 locations in Michigan, Texas, Florida and North Carolina, are both planning massive expansions into Illinois and Indiana.

According to Papa Romano's website, that company is also looking to expand into Colorado, Florida, New York, and North Carolina. Mr. Pita, which does sell pita pizzas, is also looking to expand to Colorado.

The restaurant chains, which are owned by the same Michigan-based company, plan on opening their first Chicago location in the summer of 2009.

[Chicago Pizza News] Anticipated New Neapolitan Pizzeria Opening is Delayed

A couple of months ago, the CPC found out that the original pizzaiola from Spacca Napoli would be opening a new pizzeria in January.

Now it appears that the opening of Franco & Nella has been delayed until at least March.

Friday, December 12, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Chicago Style Pizza in Beijing

This is not particularly timely, but it's still news. Here's a video of Tribune reporter Kevin Pang from The Kro's Nest, a pizzeria in Beijing that he found while covering the Olympics last summer. The restaurant sells, among other varieties, a Chicago style pizza.

Oddly, it appears than Pang is only familiar with deep dish pizza and doesn't realize that Chicago is also known for it's stuffed pies. He says, "I don't know why they call it Chicago style...It just appears to be...two layers of crust with meat and cheese stuffed inside." As you can see from the video, the slice also has tomato sauce on top. Looks like a slice of stuffed pizza to me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

[Meet the Members] Mikel


Screen Name: mawatras

Real Name: Mikel

Came out of the Oven: In Farmington, CT

Favorite toppings: Pineapple

First Pizza Club Meeting: October 29th, 2008 at Piece

Favorite Deep Dish Pizza: Hmmm...I haven't tried too many deep dish pizzas so I'm choosing from only a handful of restaurants. I'm going with Pizzeria Due because I remember being surprisingly satisfied.

Favorite Thin Crust Pizza: Piece - no doubt.

Favorite Pizza outside of Chicago: Naples Pizza, Farmington, CT

Had Pizza in the Motherland? Yes, I've had pizza in Capri and it was delicious. I recall large circles of fresh mozzarella. Yummmmmy!

What Do You Do When Not Eating Pizza? Dream about crepes.

Personal Pizza Statement: I love eating (pizza), I love trying new things (pizzerias), and I love letting my voice be heard. This all happens at CPC and others benefit from our experiences to boot. What's better?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pizza By Alex [Meeting #70]

Pizza By Alex [Map]
5044 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
(773) 427-8900‎

CPC invaded Pizza By Alex on 12/01/08.

From deep dish pizza to stuffed pizza to the pizza puff, Chicago has been at the forefront of pizza innovation for over 50 years. But we at the CPC are not regional chauvinists; we can appreciate additions to the pizza world that did not originate here. One such welcome addition came from the California-based movement that began at Chez Panisse in 1980. When Alice Waters started putting then-goofy toppings like goat cheese and artisinal sausages on pizza, she started a movement that was soon copied by multiple California chefs. Ed LaDou was a San Francisco chef who copied Waters's pizza style while the chef at Prego. Wolfgang Puck had one of LaDou's pizzas and hired him to work at the not-yet-opened Spago. The founders of California Pizza Kitchen hired LaDou away in 1985 to create their menu and a new national pizza phenomenon was born.

Today, nontraditional toppings are commonplace throughout the land, but there is room for so much more variety, particularly if pizzerias choose to combine pizza with other ethnic culinary traditions. Pizza By Alex has done its part to fill that gap for the past five years, offering a number of Mexican-influenced options in addition to more traditional toppings. And it was the CPC's quest for chorizo pizza that brought us to Pizza By Alex for this meeting in Portage Park.

Alex Pinega learned the pizza business while working at Caponie's, where he started as a dishwasher in 1992 and quickly worked his way up to general manager in just three years. After developing his pizza-making expertise there, he founded Pizza By Alex as a carry-out pizzeria in 2004. He did well enough there that he expanded to add a sit-down restaurant in the early part of 2006.

Greeting customers who enter the restaurant is a large brick wood-burning oven that not only made pizzas, but provided us with some additional heat on what was the coldest night so far this winter. The thin crust pies, which includes their 8 special pizzas, all cook in the 500+ degree fire in that oven, while the deep dish and stuffed pies cook in a gas oven in the kitchen.

Ordinarily, the Chicago Pizza Club tries each style of pizza offered by every restaurant we visit, but we were so enamored with some of the specialty pies that we went with four thin crust pizzas one deep dish. We were not disappointed.

The crust was cooked well and had noticeable charring on the bottom. The texture was a little crisp and a lot of chew, which I think was a reflection of it being a touch thicker than is typical for wood-burning over/Neapolitan-style crusts. The extra girth was necessary to support the very generous amounts of whole milk mozzarella, fresh vegetables, and wide variety of meats.

Up first was the Pizza By Alex, which features Italian Beef, mushrooms and onions. There was ample meat which was good, but the fresh mushrooms actually had the strongest flavor. There was a very thin layer of tomato sauce on the pizza that some of us thought had little to no flavor, but others thought had a light tanginess to it.

The Pizza di Pastor had steak pastor with grilled onion and pineapple, and came with a choice of red or green sauce. We didn't specify the sauce and the pizza came with a spicy green tomatillo salsa, which was definitely the right call. The sweet pineapple provided a good balance to the spice from the salsa, and with the grilled meat made one of the more popular pizzas at the table.

The Pizza Ranchera featured chorizo, pinto beans, mushrooms, onions and a homemade chipotle sauce. The chorizo was crumbled and there was some disagreement as to how much flavor came from the meat and how much came from the chipotle sauce. Wherever the epicenter of spicy goodness was, this pizza made many Pizza Clubbers very happy. The soft pinto beans did an excellent job tempering the kick from the chipotle while adding a flavor that more than a couple of us thought was surprisingly good.

Carne Enamorada, which means in love with meat, had a whole lot of pig on it: The pizza came with bacon, ham, pepperoni, and chorizo. Italian sausage is an optional replacement for chorizo, but given how important chorizo was to the decision to go to Pizza By Alex, no serious consideration was given to Italian Sausage on this pie. As was the case with the Pizza by Alex, there was very little sauce on this one. An interesting twist to the pizza construction was that the bacon, chorizo and pepperoni were all on top of the pizza, while small pieces of ham were spread out under the cheese.

We also got one deep dish pizza - with roasted red peppers and onions. The crust, which was not thick at all, was firm and had a lot of chewiness to it. It was topped with a good inch of cheese that was filled with the onions and meaty red peppers. The sauce has more seasoning and is a little thicker than the red sauce on the thin pizza. There was a lot more sauce on the deep dish pie, but compared to other deep dish pizzas, there was very little. The deep dish pizza was well-received, but most of us were so focused on trying the different thin crust pies with the unique toppings that most people did not get to it until the latter part of the meal.

One more important detail worth noting about Pizza by Alex that is not advertised on their website: it's BYOB. And for your convenience, there's a liquor store around the corner, albeit one with a limited wine selection.

Petey Pizza gives Pizza by Alex a 6.972.




Pizza By Alex on Urbanspoon