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:


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gino's North [Meeting #79]

Gino's North [GoogleMaps]
1111 W. Granville Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660

CPC invaded Gino's North on 4/28/09.

Review submitted by Amanda

Gino's North is an Edgewater institution that does not look like much from the outside. The establishment has existed since the 1930s or 40s, but was a bar known as the "Snowdrop" back in those days. For years the bar existed as an Edgewater dive popular with locals. It's not clear when pizza became a feature, but around 30 years ago a woman named Peggy started working there and become known for her crust, lovingly featured on the restaurant's website as "Peggy's Famous Homemade Crust." The previous owners renamed the restaurant "Gino's North," and it is allegedly unconnected to the more famous "Gino's East." About three years ago the current owners bought the restaurant and invested in the interior, which features several half-moon booths and a long art deco style bar with a statue in the middle. Gino's North is not ideal for large groups, as CPC discovered when our gang of fourteen trickled in and waited for tables.

Because the restaurant is not set up in a way to accomodate large groups, we split into three tables and each table got to choose the toppings. Gino's North features deep dish and thin crust pies, each with Peggy's dough. My table ordered one deep dish with sausage, and one thin crust with pepperoni, artichoke, and sun-dried tomatoes. (I got a lot of ribbing for that last combination, but I was only trying to be creative). Our pizzas took over a half hour, perhaps even forty minutes before they came out. The Bulls/Celtics game provided some distraction, and we were concerned when a table that had ordered before us got there pizzas first. However, our pizzas arrived not long after that.

The deep dish arrived first. The deep dish is not like a traditional Chicago deep dish pizza. In my (albeit limited) experience, a real deep dish pizza has a thicker crust. This deep dish is almost like a pan pizza, but a very deep pan. Peggy deserves her local renown for the crust. Although the lighting was dark, we could tell the crust had a golden yellow hue indicative of corn flour, and perhaps olive oil. The crust was solid, with a nice crisp on the outer edges. Also noteworthy was the sauce, which was not very sweet, and nicely spiced. The distribution of sausage of evenly balanced, but not overpowering.

The thin crust was experimental in toppings. Artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and pepperonies, admittedly, do not go together intuitively. However, I liked it. They are all strong flavors, and there was something about the pepperoni that was really delightful -- it was almost like a salami. Like the deep dish, the thin crust had great flavor, and although I would have liked to see a little bit more of char to the edge, there was still a good crunch around the edges.

Overall, it's definitely worth a trip to Edgewater to try the pizza at Gino's North. If you see Peggy, a petite blonde in the back who looks like she knows what she's doing, tell her the CPC says, "Hey."

Overall, Gino's North is a solid neighborhood pizza place worth a visit if you're in the area, aren't with a big group, and aren't a stickler f0r extra-friendly service. If you meet those criteria, you're sure to enjoy it. 

Chicago Pizza Club gives Gino's North a 6.6.

Gino's North Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Monelli Trattoria Pizzeria [Meeting #78]

I Monelli Trattoria Pizzeria [GoogleMaps]
5019 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625

CPC invaded I Monelli Trattoria Pizzeria on 4/16/09.

Review submitted by Andrew

With another tax day safely behind us (and with hopefully all members in good standing with the IRS) the Chicago Pizza Club decided to hit up the North Side to try out I Monelli Trattoria Pizzeria. This neighborhood pizzeria is located in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood not too far from the Western Ave. Brown line stop.

Opened in April of 2008 by Marco Schiavoni (owner of the Pizza Metro restaurants in the East Village area) and chef Giovanni Carzedda (formerly of Pizza D.O.C. and Il Covo)—along with food importer Massimiliano Agostini—I Monelli (which roughly translates to "Those Rascals") serves up contemporary Roman-style pizza along with such other Italian fare as antipasti, salads, pasta, and paninis. But, as always, we came for the pizza... but oh, did I mention that the restaurant is BYOB? Fortunately some members of the CPC remembered to raid their liquor supplies before heading down.

The Roman-style pizza at I Monelli features a thick (thicker than a normal pie, but not as thick as a pan or a Sicillian-style pizza) hand-tossed crust, topped with olive oil before being cooked in a 400 degree pizza oven. Pizzas are square cut and topped with a sauce made from imported Italian tomatoes. There are are nine different topping combinations to choose from on the menu, and of course you can always build your own pie with the standard toppings.

The rectangular pies at I Monelli come in three sizes; 5", 9" (a half sheet) and 18" (a full sheet). On our trip the Chicago Pizza Club ordered five of their specialty pizzas and one custom pie:

  • Potate é Rosmarino (Potato & Rosemary)
  • Capricciosa (Artichoke, Ham & Black Olives)
  • Margherita (Fresh Tomato & Basil)
  • Rucola (Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula on White Pizza Dough)
  • Romana (Ham, Onions & Oregano)
  • Sausage, Garlic & Sauteed Mushrooms
All pizzas were ordered in the "half" size, which the waitress told us normally feeds about two people. The Pizza Club had 12 members tonight (with one late comer) and probably could've stood to order one more pie to share amongst us. Tthe pizzas came out promptly, I forget exactly how long, but I don't believe we waited more than 15 minutes after ordering.

The pizzas all shared the same signature crust along with a minimal amount of sauce with the Romana and Capricciosa pizzas having a little bit more. When the sauce did stand out though it made quite a difference. Toppings for the most part were all pretty generous (especially with the arugula), I felt that the Romana could've used more oregano since it was hardly noticeable on the pizza at all and since it was listed as one if the toppings it seemed like it should've stood out more.

Among the favorites were the Sausage, Mushroom and Garlic pizza, the Potato & Rosemary and the Margherita which had a bit more cheese than the others pizzas and was topped with very fresh basil. The mozzerella on the Margherita also stood out from the other pizzas tonight.

All in all, a solid outing. All of the pizzas were consistent. Unlike some other restaurants that the Chicago Pizza Club has been to lately, I Monelli knows what they do well and sticks to that style of pizza.

Chicago Pizza Club gives I Monelli a 5.62

I Monelli Trattoria Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

[Chicago Pizza News] Chicago Pizza Club Joins The Bite Against ALS

The Les Turner ALS Foundation has joined with some local restaurants to raise money for the foundation via restaurant purchases. During the month of May, diners at these restaurants can order a "Culinary Crusade Special" and a portion of the cost of this dish goes to the foundation. The Les Turner ALS Foundation supports medical research, clinical and support services for ALS patients, and dessemination of ALS information. If you are unfamiliar with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), then here are a few links about the disease and the baseball player whose name is also attached to it.

Participating restaurants include:
- Adobo Grill ( Wicker Park in Chicago )
- Bluegrass ( Highland Park )
- Graziano’s Brick Oven Pizza ( Niles )
- Ina’s (West Loop in Chicago )
- Tuscany (Oak Brook)
- Tuscany (Wheeling)
- Unrefined Café ( Valparaiso , Ind. )
- Vinci (Chicago)
- Wishbone (West Loop in Chicago )
- Wishbone (Lakeview in Chicago )

CPC has not yet been to Graziano's Brick Oven Pizza, but it has been added to our long list of places to visit. They feature a wood-burning oven and have been given a score of over 20 by Zagat. They are known for having a variety of toppings and an extensive menu and have been in their current location for over a decade. I don't have information on which menu item is the special at Graziano's, but a little birdie tells me it will most likely be wine.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

[Chicago Pizza News] Obama Officially Prefers St. Louis Pizzeria

Submitted by Marla Collins' Husband.

I previously wrote that the alleged Barack Obama love for Italian Fiesta Pizzeria was purely speculative and that only Obama known to actually like it is Michelle.

It turns out that the earlier story that Obama fell in love with a pizza he had in St. Louis during the campaign is definitely true. The White House has invited the owner and chef of Pi to come to Washington on Friday and cook some pizzas for President Obama and his staff.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

[Chicago Pizza News] Giordano's Scion Takes Interesting Path to Destiny as Restauranteur

The Chicago Tribune recently ran an article about Basil Apostolou, 27, one of the two sons of Giordano's kingpin John Apostolou, then man who bought the restaurant chain from Boglio brothers who founded the company in 1974. Basil and his younger brother George are both on their way to taking over the family business, with each of them already owning a Giordano's location (Basil's is downtown in Prudential Plaza).

It turns out that Basil is a bit of a free spirit who spends a lot of time traipsing around the world. His most recent trip, which apparently inspired the article, involved a week-long trip to a "shamanic workshop" in the Amazon rainforest. He tried a bunch of new foods along the way but, according to Basil, nothing he would consider bringing into the restaurant.

John Apostolou refused to comment for the article.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Annual State of the Chicago Pizza Club Meeting / Frozen Pizza Extravaganza [Meeting #77]

Frozen pizzas invaded the CPC on 4/4/09.

Review submitted by El Presidente.

This meeting had a dual purpose. It was primarily a meeting to discuss the future of the Chicago Pizza Club and how to improve it for you, our devoted readers. But it also gave us a reason to trash Dan's house and cook 10 frozen pizzas. These were all bought at Dominick's except for the Lou Malnati's pizza which I picked up from one of their pizzerias (Malnati's is not available in supermarkets). The total cost for these pizzas came out to $71. We cooked all of the pizzas as close to their indicated temperatures as we could, but a few were off by 25 degrees due to time and oven space constraints.

Here is the lineup:

Let's begin with the deep-dish pizzas. Going into the evening, I thought that these pizzas would be easier to replicate at home than thin crust pizzas. Deep dish pizzas cook for longer periods of time and the crust isn't necessarily as prominent as in a thin crust. The ice crystals that gather on a thin crust would lead me to believe those crusts will be soggy and that a deep dish can better accommodate the extra moisture. The Lou Malnati's had a ton of cheese. In fact, that was pretty much all I could taste. The dough was kind of chewy, perhaps due to slight undercooking on our part. The sauce, which was essentially tomato chunks, was just boring. To be fair to Lou, I should note that the instructions recommend thawing the Lou's for a few hours prior to cooking, but we just baked it right out of the freezer.

I thought the Gino's East pizza was terrible. It was just bland, which is NOT the case at the restaurant. The sauce was comparatively good and was a good counterpoint to the cornmeal crust. The Reggio's was a cheese pizza and this was a good thing. I found it to be so salty that any meat would have made it inedible for me. Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, and Reggio's are local Chicago restaurants that offer frozen versions of their products. I have only been to Lou's and Gino's and their frozen pizzas pale in comparison to the offerings at the restaurants, and I think it's an easy assumption that the same holds true for Reggio's. I thought they were all disappointing. The cook times for these three were 40 minutes, 35 minutes, and 30 minutes respectively.

Perhaps my favorite pizza of the night was a new product from Newman's Own (12 minutes). They have recently entered the frozen pizza business and they seem to know what they're doing. The crust was crisp, the cheese and sauce had a strong garlic component and a good distribution of toppings, including some really sorry-looking pepperoni. Say what you will about what most places offer at their restaurant, but this pepperoni (and all the other ones we had tonight) was chewy, too salty, and should not be put on any pizza. Palermo's pizza (20 minutes) is put out by the Milwaukee chain of the same name. This six cheese pizza had a great flavor - I thought it was the best topping of the night. I'm used to seeing 4 cheese pizzas, but these guys are clearly going for the glory with 6 cheeses. I felt the crust was too thick and spongy, but this was still one of the better pizzas. The DiGiorno pizza (12 minutes) had excellent toppings as well. The mushrooms tasted better than a lot of mushrooms you get at good pizzerias. I really thought the creme fraiche was unnecessary and just added a layer of flavorless glob underneath the great mushrooms. This was in the flatbread style and the crust was appropriately thin and crisp.

The biggest disappointment of the night for me was the Home Run Inn pizza (20 minutes). I am a big fan of their restaurant product and had fond memories of a few frozen pizzas in my childhood. Those memories are dashed thanks to a sauce that is so artificial I could taste the metal can it came in, cheap, rubbery meats, and a bland crust. Tombstone (17 minutes) needs no introduction. We've all had it, either at kitchenless bars, dorm rooms, or on lonely Saturday nights. This Wisconsin product had a great set of commercials a few decades ago and is probably the best-known frozen pizza. The deluxe had the worst meat of the night. It was just gross. The only positive I can say is that the crust was crisp and didn't let the toppings spill all over me. I was able to salvage it with lots of Tabasco sauce, but that's because all I could taste was the hot sauce. I'll at least commend them for being consistent. This pizza hasn't changed.

Even before this meeting, I already knew that I would hate California Pizza Kitchen (11 minutes). I hate it from every angle: I hate their stupid toppings, I hate their attempts at making pizza healthy, I hate California, and I hate people who tell me it's the greatest pizza they have ever had. This white pizza had chunks of spinach that were visually unappetizing because they were clumped and soggy. It was also very salty, but not in a good way. I think Phred may have ended up with the last bite of my piece. Freschetta (19 minutes) was in a tough spot. The 6-cheese pizza from before set the bar high and this 4-cheese Freschetta pizza was no comparison. It had a lot of sauce, but this was actually terrible since it made it hard for me to get the cheese combination flavors. The crust was light and fluffy with some decent chew, but it was drowned in the sea of terrible sauce.

The lesson here? When possible, go to the restaurant to eat pizza or at least get delivery - the frozen product does not compare. There were a few that put more attention into the quality of ingredients and this was evident. I would be happy to have those as a late night snack, but they're still nowhere near as good as any decent restaurant.