Screen Name: Jen
Real Name: Jennifer
Came out of the Oven: Born in Grand Rapids, MI, but Wisconsin is tattooed on my head. That probably comes off like I'm joking.
Favorite toppings: Jalapeños, giardiniera, garlic. Pizza sauce. MEAT. Most of all, MEAT. Pepperoni (and not that tasteless wax paper that comes on Pizza Hut), sausage, cow. I hope to someday see lamb on a pizza, and that it's as amazing as it is in my dreams.
First Pizza Club Meeting: December 11th, 2008 at Palermo's
Favorite Deep Dish Pizza: Pequod's. So far.
Favorite Thin Crust Pizza: I'm not really sure, but I probably made it.
Favorite Pizza outside of Chicago: Fetalicious from Glass Nickel in Madison, WI. Dipped in ranch. Word on the street is that their pizza isn't as great now that they are franchising, so this might be null.
Had Pizza in the Motherland? I wish!
What Do You Do When Not Eating Pizza? Program computers and play with dolls.
Personal Pizza Statement: Eating pizza is an important extension to my ongoing celebration of food and all the amazing things it has done for me. After a 13 year hiatus, I have resumed eating meat, and the Pizza Club has helped along that process gloriously. Joining has also helped me sharpen my palate for fine sausages and stuff cooked in fire, along with learning how to judge, sometimes harshly, all things pizza.
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:
Monday, January 26, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Last July 4, Air Force Sergeant Mark Evans and his son Kent sent 2,000 Lou Malnati's pizzas to the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last Friday, they did it again, this time for the Super Bowl, and this time accompanied with 6,000 bottles of Schlitz beer. Once again, DHL provided free shipping and Lou Malnati's provided free pizza. Pabst, which makes Schlitz, donated the beer. Chicago Bears Brad Maynard and Adrian Peterson helped load the trucks.
Evans' organization, Pizza 4 Patriots, has a website.
Friday, January 23, 2009
1935 W. Chicago Ave. (Map)
CPC invaded Cleos on 1/22/09.
Cleo's is a great Ukrainian Village bar with a nice selection of beer. A Bucktown location also opened a couple of years ago and it does a fine job of duplicating the original. Overall, both locations offer an above-average food menu, and their regular specials on drinks and food beat most deals in West Town.
And they serve pizza. On Thursday nights, they offer a deal on $4.99 12" pizzas. But don't go there just for the pizza. Go there, and if you get hungry while you are already there, and you're kind of in the mood for pizza, then maybe order a pizza. I followed this blueprint several times in the past, and always enjoyed both food and drink.
But you know what happens when the CPC busts into a joint with twelve members and eleven 12" pizza options on sale? We order them all. And then Cleo's pizza gets very redundant. The crust is dry and flavorless. The sauce is barely there, and when you do bite into it all you get is an unseasoned paste that sticks to your tongue. The cheese is bland and a bit rubbery once it starts to cool. Because these three foundational elements of the pizza are so banal, the relative success of each pie hinges on the tastiness of the toppings. In this respect, the only selection that utterly failed was the Shrimp and Pesto pizza, with the gummy, flavorless bits of shrimp. By contrast the Flamin' Chorizo was quite nice with its crumbled chorizo given a good kick by the sliced jalapenos. The milder the toppings, the less exciting the pizza.
This may sound like a harsh review of the pizza, but Cleo's is not a pizzeria. It is a great bar that wants to satisfy its hungry customers, and they have a good range of other menu items. They also have a free buffet at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday nights and a brunch on Sunday that features an excellent bloody mary bar. All this can be enjoyed in their dark, colorful space with a variety of seating that includes bar stools, high-top and regular tables, and some booths in the back. The candles and xmas lights gently reveal the vibrant murals and other colourful decor. When the weather is warm, there is also ample seating in the large beer garden at the Chicago Avenue location.
I should also add that Cleo's does not take reservations, but their managers were really friendly and accommodating when I called to ask about getting a table for our large group. The server and bouncer were a little less helpful about actually making that table available when we arrived as scheduled, but we eventually got enough tables and chairs together. Be warned that there is often only one server responsible for the entire restaurant, so the service can be spotty, but they are friendly and helpful whenever they do get to you.
Overall, I'll be back at Cleo's soon to order an Alpha King on tap and a grilled cheese with herbed shallot aioli.
Petey gives Cleo's 3.4/10.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Uno's, the creator of deep dish pizza, and now an international pizza chain based in Boston, made a few appearances in DC around the inauguration of Chicago's own Barack Obama. The Illinois State Society, which seems to be an organized devoted to Illinois' corporate interests, hosted a gala on the eve of the inauguration. The sold out event was one of DC's hottest parties that night and among the features was thirty different rooms with Chicago-related food. One of the rooms was hosted by Uno's. The event was, according to CPC sources in attendance, grossly overcrowded and the lines to get into every food room were obscenely long and slow-moving.
Washingtonian made it into the event and posted a picture, which is copied below. Uno's also catered a couple of private events.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Well, that's not exactly how they phrased it, but that's a clear message from Pizza Hut's recent announcement that the company has begun shifting to a menu of food made from all natural ingredients with no more artificial preservatives, colors and flavors. Among the list of changes: no more high-fructose corn syrup; no nitrites or nitrates in the pepperoni, no preservatives in the sausage, and 100% real beef with no fillers. This, of course, means that Pizza Hut had been serving sauce filled with corn syrup, artificially preserved pepperoni and sausage, and beef that has things other than cow in it.
Conspicuously absent from the announcement and from the page on the Pizza Hut website related to the all-natural theme is any mention of their cheese. Pizza Hut used to not use actual mozzarella, opting for a cheap imitation that has a chemical, Polymethylsiloxane, that was not approved by the FDA as a food ingredient. The omission of cheese from Pizza Hut's list of natural ingredients is glaring.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Cellar Rat Wine Shop, a Bucktown/Wicker Park wine shop that focuses on small wine producers, is hosting a Pizzariffic wine tasting this Saturday afternoon, January 17th, from 3:00 to 6:00.
As part of their "Real Wine for Real Food" series, Cellar Rat will offer FREE tastings of 8 wines, 4 reds and 4 whites, along with FREE pizza in an effort to determine which wines work best with pizza. Making the event even better is the fact that all 8 wines cost between $10 and $15 per bottle, so if you find one you like, you can buy a couple bottles and still be able to afford some pizza.
Hat tip to newest CPC member Jen for bringing this to my attention.
Monday, January 12, 2009
In July, the CPC received an email from Vito & Nick's, one of our favorite pizzerias, inviting us to head to the restaurant while they were filmed for an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives, the Food Network show hosted by Guy Fieri.
A handful of us headed down there with dreams of national television exposure for the Chicago Pizza Club dancing in our heads. It turned out that we were one of many, many, many invitees. We were able to squeeze into the last available table, but we had to wait an extraordinarily long time for our delicious pizzas and we only caught a glimpse of the overly exuberant host.
Tonight everyone can see what we missed when the episode airs on the Food Network at 9:00 Central and again at midnight.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Caponie's Trattoria [Map]
3350 N Harlem Ave
Chicago, IL 60634
CPC invaded Caponie's Trattoria on 1/6/09.
When most people think of Little Italy in Chicago, they think of the Tri-Taylor area around UIC, which is where the greatest numbers of Italian immigrants settled in the decades around the turn of the 20th century. Around World War II, a second, smaller Little Italy developed along a 2-mile stretch of Harlem Avenue that starts in Elmwood Park and goes north on the eastern edge of Belmont Heights in the heart of the Dunning Community Area on the northwest (emphasis on west) side of the city.
The Chicago Pizza Club kicked off 2009 in Littler Italy at Caponie's, which is home to one of the first wood-burning pizza ovens in Chicago (at least among current restaurants - presumably some turn of the century places in the original Little Italy were serving up some wood-oven pizzas). Established in 1996, Caponie's also sells deep dish and stuffed pies as well as panzerottis, which they describe as pizza turnovers.
As usual, the CPC tried every style of pizza on the menu. Up first were two thin-crust pies, one regular and one extra thin (the latter is not on the menu, but judging from our waitress' reaction, is not an uncommon request). For the regular thin crust, we got the Carne Innamorati, which features Italian sausage, bacon, pepperoni, and Canadian bacon. It came with a significant amount of mozzarella and a thin sauce that stood up pretty well to the salty meat. There was meat all over this pizza and no one dominated the others. The amount of toppings, cheese and sauce were a little more than the crust could comfortably handle, particularly those pieces from the middle of the pizza.
For the extra thin crust, we went with the White Pizza, which has mozzarella, fontina, ricotta, parmesan and pecorino romano cheeses, along with garlic and fresh (according to the menu) sauteed spinach. The menu suggests adding applewood smoked bacon to the White Pizza and we were happy to follow that direction. Other than the ricotta, there were very modest amounts of each cheese on the White Pizza. There was a very noticeable amount of garlic and more than one member noted that the spinach lacked flavor (a couple of people were convinced that it was previously frozen). The cracker crust held up this sauceless pie easily. Pizza Clubbers were divided as to whether the thin or extra thin crust was preferable, and the consensus was that both were good.
Up next were the two plain panzerottis, which are very similar to pizza puffs. They consisted of a thick circle of dough, folded in half and filled with mozzarella and a lightly sweetened marinara sauce. The whole thing is then deep fried (baked was an option, but when the CPC gets to pick between baked and fried, the choice is clear). We waited a few minutes after the panzerottis arrived before cutting into them, but that did not stop all of the flow of melted cheese out of the crust. The cheese on all of the pizzas was noticeably stringy. There were differing opinions as to whether the cheese was too tough, but it was unquestionably stretchy. Nowhere was that more noticeable than the panzerottis.
The stuffed pizza with spinach and eggplant was unique in a couple of ways. First, the eggplant topping was new to most of us and was very well-received. Second, the top crust was noticeably thicker than is common on a stuffed pizza. Usually, the top layer of crust on a stuffed pizza is so thin and soft that most people don't notice it's there. This one was thin, but it has some substance and chew to it. The chunky sauce was normal stuffed pizza sauce. This was one salty pizza, though there was some disagreement as to whether the extra salt was in the sauce, the crust or the cheese.
The deep dish sausage pizza had a higher cheese:crust ratio than is common among traditional deep dish sausage pizzas. There was a generous amount of fatty, crumbly sausage on there, but the cheese definitely dominated that pizza as well (though I may be biased as I ended up with a slice that inexplicably had no sauce on it at all). The thick crust was a bit softer than it standard on deep dish pizzas, but it was certainly sturdy enough to hold up the rest of the pie.
No review of Caponie's would be complete without mentioning the decor of the place. From the tagline ("The pizza you can't refuse") to the walls that are covered with pictures and posters from the first two Godfather movies and the Sopranos as well as virtually every well-known Italian-American entertainer, Caponie's is either having some fun playing with stereotypes or is a parody of an Italian restaurant. Either way, it is definitely some of the more eye-catching decor of any pizzeria the CPC has visited.
Petey Pizza gives Caponie's Trattoria a 6.4833.