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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.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Gulliver's Pizza and Pub [Meeting #104]

Gulliver’s Pizza and Pub
2727 W Howard Ave [Google Maps]
Chicago, IL 60645
(773) 338-2166

CPC invaded GULLIVER’S Pizza and Pub on February 4, 2011.

According to El Presidente, Chicago Pizza Club meeting #3 was held at Gulliver’s way back in 2003, before the days of this blog. Thus, no review was ever written and no photos were ever taken. To rectify this, CPC members emerged from their snow-ridden homes, after having braved “Blizzaster 2011,” a.k.a. “Snowmaggedon,” and met up at Gulliver’s, in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood.

Gulliver’s was started in 1965 by Jerry Freeman and Burt Katz, claiming to offer the “North Side’s original pan pizza.” Shortly thereafter, Mr. Katz moved on to open Pequod’s and then Burt’s Place, while Mr. Freeman stayed on as proprietor until his death in 2006. Since opening in Chicago, Gulliver’s has expanded to two other Chicagoland locations, in Glenview and Oak Brook Terrace.

The d├ęcor here is something out of a Vincent Price movie. The dining areas are filled with an amber-colored light, emitted from an eclectic array of chandeliers, and absorbed by the dark wood trim, walls, and furniture. Carefully placed throughout the rooms are marble busts on columns and various photos and antiques hanging on the walls. Buttressed by the aroma of fresh pizza, this bizarre space is quite welcoming.

Gulliver’s offers three kinds of pizza: (1) pizza in the pan, (2) thin crust, and (3) stuffed. With a wide array of topping options, most everyone will find their usual or unusual combination. On this evening, CPC ordered one of each pie and took the following account:

  • Pizza in the pan, large (14”), with sausage and garlic
  • Thin crust, medium (12”), with artichoke and black olives
  • Stuffed, small (9”), with pepperoni and onions
The pizza in the pan is dense. On presentation, the pie looked very much like a Lou Malnati’s deep dish, in that the chunky tomato sauce, garlic, and sausage were all clearly visible on top, with the cheese embedded. However, where Lou’s crust is golden cornmeal yellow, this pie had a lighter biscuit-like shade.

On taste, the pie is a winner. The sauce was juicy and tangy with strong notes of oregano. The chunks of tomato give it texture. The garlic was chopped fine and was plentiful. The sausage portions were cut big and while they were meaty and flavorful, they were not very spiced, reminiscent of the sausage used at Lou Malnati’s. This reviewer prefers the fennel sausage Chi-town magic found at Sano’s. The crust was crispy at the edge and bready at the base, with hints of butter throughout. It is in the crust that I take some exception. Although well-made and pleasant, it was somewhat bland and unspectacular.

The thin crust was my least favorite. On presentation, it looks generic. The toppings held well in the cheese and the crust had no char. On taste, it skewed towards the toppings and lacked an overall point. The sauce was pasty, bearing little resemblance to the sauce in the other pies. The cheese was firm and had little oil. The crust was solid, but bland. As the sum of its parts, this pie had little to offer by way of flavor or inspiration. Go pan or stuffed.

The stuffed was totally unexpected. After having tried the pizza in the pan, I expected it to be two pan pizzas stuffed into one. As my last stuffed pizza experience ended with a frown, I had low expectations. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. This pie had a character all its own.

This pie has great finesse. Like an undersized defensive tackle, it does not overwhelm with mass, but wins with technique and elusiveness. For instance, the onions were substantial, but melted away in my mouth. The pepperoni gave the pie porky protein, but did not overwhelm. The pie was deep, but the crust was light. The amalgam of cheese, sauce, and toppings flowed, but maintained individual structural integrity. Some would call this pie, “stuffed light.” For many, including this reviews, that is just fine.

The bill for three pies, six bottles of Fat Tire, one pint of Guinness, and one side-salad was $87.00. With tip, it came out to $17.00 per person. Score!