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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pizza Art Cafe [Meeting #87]

Pizza Art Cafe
4658 N. Rockwell St. [GoogleMaps]
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 539-0645

CPC invaded Pizza Art Cafe on 10/28/09.

Pizza Art Cafe is tucked into a quiet block of Rockwell Street in Ravenswood, just north of the Brown Line el tracks. The first thing you see when you walk inside is the wood-burning oven to the left. The air is thick with a pleasant garlic aroma, and the dim overhead lighting and candle-lit tables create a warm atmosphere. Some sections of the wall are brick, some wood panels, some drywall, and there are a few curious pieces of three-dimensional art featuring things like high heels, jewelry, and what looked like dried meat. The service is friendly, but can be a bit slow.

In addition to 24 gourmet pizza offerings, the menu includes a variety of Italian and other Mediterranean dishes. There are also a few Bosnian dishes such as cevapcici to reflect the owner's Bosnian roots. One key feature of the menu to note before making plans to eat here is the invitation to BYOB.

The pizza is of the Neapolitan variety, with each thin pie quickly cooked and (usually) lightly charred in the wood-burning oven. The pizzas are each about 12" across, and they range in price from $8 to $13 depending on the toppings. We tried the following six pizzas, which seemed sufficient to sate the eight pizza clubbers in attendance:

  • Margherita - tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil
  • Funghi - tomato sauce, mozzarella, sliced mushrooms, parsley, garlic
  • Siciliana - tomato sauce, mozzarella, sliced assorted roasted peppers, house-cured smoked beef, mushrooms
  • Diavola - tomato sauce, mozzarella, salame, hot green peppers
  • Pizza Lasagna - tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta cheese, ham
  • Pizza Art - shrimp topped with homemade cheese sauce and parsley
We found the crust to be very inconsistent from pizza to pizza. Some were crisp and a little too burnt, and some were thick and chewy. The sauce tasted fresh and simple. Pizza Art can be heavy-handed with the cheese, which is a good or bad thing depending on your preferences. The toppings really stand out because they are fresh, they include high-quality cuts of meat such as ham and salame, and they offer lesser found seafood options such as smoked salmon. The Margherita really captured the essence of what Pizza Art Cafe is striving for, though some members found the cheese too plentiful. The Funghi was interesting because the mushrooms and garlic were almost raw, which was nice to try with respect to the mushrooms but a little overwhelming with respect to the garlic. The meat toppings were well-received for the most part, though the signature house-cured smoked beef was quite dry and too smoky for some. The Pizza Art, the restaurant's namesake, was probably the least popular pizza because some folks just don't like shrimp on their pizza, and because others found the cheesy/yogurty sauce off-putting.

Overall, Pizza Art Cafe offers some inventive Italian cooking in a cozy, date-friendly space. But some of us could have done with a little less invention and a little more consistency.

The CPC gives Pizza Art Cafe an average score of 5.6.



Pizza Art Cafe on Urbanspoon

8 comments:

  1. I wanted to like this pizza a lot more than I actually did. But none of the pies seemed to quite fire on all cylinders. The Margherita had too much cheese, the Funghi was overwelhmed with garlic, the Siciliana had less than ideal beef, the Diavola was too greasey and the crust suffered under the weight, the Pizza Lasagna was ok, but had weird topping distribution that made sharing awkward, and the Pizza Art was a less than noble effort at shrimp pizza…

    The crusts from their wood burning oven seemed hit or miss too. Some would be downrigh crisp and tasty while others just didn't seem to measure up.

    I wanted to like this place more for it's location and quaint interior (good for taking a date as one fellow Pizza Clubber pointed out), but the pizza in the end just didn't measure up. I give Pizza Art Cafe a 5.5… not quite a "good" pizza, but not as bad as being just "tolerable" either.

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  2. Pizza Art Cafe lacks consistancy, but when done right, offers up a delicious pizza pie. I was very excited to eat here last night because of my previous experience with Diavola. It didn't let me down the second time around, but there is room for improvement specifically with the crispyness of the crust.

    I happily ate all varieties that were ordered; Some stood out more than others. First, the Margherita was extremely cheesy as Andrew (aka Stu) mentioned, but the basil was present and pleasing. Next up was the Funghi. I am not a fan of mushrooms, but this pie was full of garlic (good) and the fungus wasn't particularly flavorful so I didn't mind it. They were fresh mushrooms too so the texture was nice...not mushy and wet. I guess I wouldn't suggest ordering it if you love mushrooms because they weren't potent. When the Siciliana arrived, our waiter spoke very highly of this pie, stating that it is their best seller and his personal favorite. I wouldn't back that up...it was just ok. I was looking for a lot of beefy flavor and I didn't get it. Pizza Lasagna is a strange concept. There was a hunk of ricotta in the center of the pie and one piece of meat hidden under the cheese. It was awkward to eat and just tasted like a cheese pizza with some ricotta...which I love, but would rather have it dispersed somewhat evenly on the entire slice with bits of meat throughout. Pizza Art was interesting...I removed the shrimp because I'm not a fan, so I can't comment on how the shrimp worked with the yogurt based sauce...tadziki some would say. However, I did enjoy eating this pie sans shrimp and would be good with some lamb kebab. Lastly, I was reunited with Diavola. The salame and hot peppers are like a celebration in my mouth and make me very happy. I'd eat this regularly.

    All of the ingredients are fresh and of quality grade. Since we were sharing the pizzas, I was able to choose slices without black crust, which was noticeable on a few of them. This is a negative point in my mind, so I suggest Pizza Art Cafe puts some more effort into perfecting the cooking of the crust. My slices didn't fall apart in my hands, but I would've appreciated a firmer foundation.

    Pizza Art Cafe gets an 8.

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  3. This is a nice neighborhood place. Someone suggested bringing a date here. Not a bad idea but I would probably get something besides the pizza. I thought all the pizzas were mediocre at best. The best thing about the pizzas was the toppings. I liked the smoked beef the best. I happen to like wood smoked beef and it was pretty potent on the pizza. I thought the crusts tasted like something like Tombstone pizza crust or something I pulled out of the microwave. The sauce was nothing special if not boring. I did like the ricotta cheese on the Lasagna pizza, but not the rest of the pizza. If you like garlic the Funghi is for you as the smell was pretty overwhelming (rethink getting this on date-night). The salami was also very good on the Diavola pizza. I did not sample the shrimp pizza. Again this place ahs some great toppings but now needs to put it together with better ingredients for their pizza. I give Pizza Art Café a 4.5/10.

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  4. As previous reviewers have suggested, this place has good ambiance for a date. It's an intimate interior with low lighting in a cozy part of the neighborhood. I felt the pizzas were decent but lacked a wow factor. The crusts had a crisp yet chewy texture. The best pizzas were the Margherita, Diavola and Lasagna. However, on the ones with meat, I thought they didn't have enough. Especially the Lasagna, where there was just one thin slice of ham on the edges with ricotta, so it was just a bite, with the rest regular cheese pizza. The Funghi pizza was not flavorful enough, though I might have gotten a piece with less garlic. The Siciliana was decent but too smokey. The Pizza Art has potential, but instead of shrimp with tzaziki-like sauce, why not go all the way with gyros-lamb? Hey I'm onto something here... gyros pizza!

    Overall, a decent place to take your date if you're in the area- get a combo of pizza with their other items.

    6.0

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  5. For the most part, I liked the pizzas other than the inconsistent and often floppy, chewy crust. I thought the sauce was light and fresh and a good base for the toppings. There was a lot of cheese, but it was good cheese and I love cheese. I was not a big fan of the Pizza Art or the raw garlic on the Funghi, but I loved the Margherita and thought the ham and salame were tasty. The smoked meat was too dry for me. If they could do a better job with the crust, which seems like the main point when you have a wood-fired oven, I would definitely try it again.

    6.7

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  6. At any Neapolitan pizzeria the basic Margherita pizza should be treated as the baseline by which all other pies are judged. Unfortunately for Pizza Art Cafe that baseline was set pretty darn low. I'm definitely not a fan of copious amounts of cheese on any pizza and the Margherita lost some points off the bat for being simply loaded with fresh mozzarella. Looking beyond the cheese I found it very hard to find any redeeming qualities in this pie; the sauce tasted like tomato paste and the crust was equally lackluster.

    The Funghi was the second pizza to come out and I must say that the crust was improved over the Margherita. I'm a huge fan of garlic and thought the raw garlic added a nice bite to the Funghi. The mushrooms on the other hand, although very fresh, were just too plentiful for me to enjoy.

    If I were to declare a winner out of the 6 pies we tried, the Diavola would win hands down. Unfortunately the Diavola was one of the pies that had a bad crust but the mix of flavors the toppings provided was enough to overlook the poor execution. The acidic taste of the juice from the hot green peppers blended outstandingly with the salami. This pie is on my list to try to recreate at home, truly a standout.

    Neapolitan pizza is far from easy to make. Pizza Art Cafe does have a nice ambiance, is BYOB and has good service but their pies just don't make the cut. I almost ordered desert in an attempt to get the taste out of my mouth.

    4.0

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  7. So, sure it's a cute place. But...I was disappointed by the pizza. The crust was a yo-yo all night. Some was fine (but never great) and some was poor. I wonder if this has anything to do with their small oven. It looks like maybe they can fit one or two pizzas in there at a time because we got our meal piece-wise the whole night. Maybe they were trying to rush a bit, but honestly, why would you rush anything that already takes a few minutes or less to cook?

    There was a lot of cheese on the pizzas, usually a great thing. However, things were not going right for Pizza Art Cafe this night because the cheese just overwhelmed their consistently poor crust on every pie it was present on. I usually gripe about Neapolitan pizza's poor topping distribution. Here, they overwhelmed the crust with way too much cheese, meat, and other toppings on all their pizzas. It was a sloppy mess.

    The margherita was my favorite pizza, even though it rarely is at other pizzerias. The meat was kind of a let-down throughout the night so something that featured their best component (sauce) was the standout for me.

    I did not enjoy the smoked beef. I usually love anything that is smoked, but this meat tasted purely of smoke and salt. It was cured meat that also received some time in a smoker. It could have been leather. I didn't get any of the beef characteristics in my bite.

    Sadly, I was really unsatisfied with this meal for various reasons. I don't think I could recommend this place to anyone.

    4.0

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  8. Pizza Art Cafe to me is probably one of the most romantic pizza places in the city, if not the most. Located right next to a truly charming Brown Line stop, it's convenient; and it begs to host first dates time and again. The candlelit ambiance and BYOB are sure-fire means to impress and to woo... unless your date is a pizza snob -- then you might be screwed.

    I was really hoping to enjoy the pizza more than I did, but as other reviewers mentioned it was too hit-or-miss. There were a few slices that really did delight me; I loved the Diavola and will probably end up getting it again in the future. Salame and hot peppers are amazing on pizza, and I especially appreciated the tastiness of the salame. I actually really liked the funghi pizza; I thought the freshness of the mushrooms was, well, refreshing, and I love raw garlic and so welcomed its relative overserving. I liked the ham on the lasagna piece, but thought that the ricotta was awkward and not a necessary addition to the pizza. That said, the biggest miss for me was the namesake pizza, which is particularly unfortunate. I'm open to different sauces on pizza, but I could have told anyone that tzatziki on pizza is a bad idea, and it certainly was vile in execution.

    Overall, it's not the pizza but the ambiance that will have me returning to Pizza Art Cafe. I do hope that they continue to improve on their pies and topping combinations. As it is, I give the pizza a 5.75.

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