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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tocco Pizza e Arte [Meeting #110]

Tocco Pizza e Arte
1266 North Milwaukee Avenue (Map)
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 687-8895

CPC invaded the patio at Tocco on July 30, 2012.


From the time of unification until the 1970s, the Italian government maintained a monopoly on salt.  The government was so devoted to retaining that power that, at least in the 1890s, it actually restricted how much ocean water people could take to their house because they might use the small number of crystals that would be left behind days later when the water evaporated rather than buy more of the heavily-taxed, government-controlled product. While I highly doubt the intent at Tocco is to create a tribute to those oppressive days in Italy, I did find the pizzas to be the most underseasoned ones I can remember eating.

Five members of the Chicago Pizza Club headed to Tocco on a surprisingly mild Tuesday night. The wall of windows was wide open, giving those of us who took our place on the patio several steps off of a largely ungentrified stretch of Milwaukee Avenue a clear look at one of the more stylish interiors the Chicago Pizza Club has encountered. We ordered five pizzas:

  • Margherita
  • Casarecci (white pizza with mozzarella, gorgonzola, fresh tomatoes and mushrooms)
  • Soppressata
  • Milanese (mozzarella, prosciutto and fresh arugula)
  • Red pizza with zucchini, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms (name not on the website and therefore lost to history)
These pizzas, which ranged from $12 - $18 and are intended as a meal for one person, were not very good. The crust on each pie, which looked pretty enough thanks to some nice charring in spots, was dry and had no real flavor. The cracker-like texture was fine, but that just made it a cracker crust, not a good crust. The sauce, which was present on three of the pizzas, and which was presumably made from canned San Marzano or some other type of Roma tomato, tasted like, well, tomatoes. Like the crust, there was no noticeable salt. And these tomatoes were not particularly bright; not bad, but not that good. Another note about the sauce - there were seeds in it. They were soft seeds and I probably wouldn't have noticed them had I not looked closely at the sauce, but it's just lazy to leave them in.

There were a couple of highlights. Actually, there was one. The soppressata itself was actually good cured meat that packed a little heat. The pizza was simple and, other than the crust, not particularly flawed. The Margherita was also pretty good, but the cheese, like the sauce, brought nothing that made it stand out at all. It looked like fresh mozzarella, but wasn't the creamiest version out there.

The other three pizzas had significant problems. The Casarecci and the red pizza with the unknown name, suffered not only from the lack of salt that was a theme of the night, but also from decidedly unimpressive ingredients. Every single vegetable tasted like one of the cooks walked to the nearby Jewel and picked up whatever was on sale. It's the middle of summer; there's no excuse for using vegetables with this little flavor.

The Milanese might have been the worst offender of the evening. The prosciutto, which was far too thick and chewy, was a virtual salt lick. The meat was so oversalted that if someone in the kitchen could have figured out a way to extract the salt from the prosciutto and distribute it across the other four bland pizzas, then it's possible the tenor of this review would be entirely different. But that science doesn't exist and we were left with an unsatisfactory pizza meal. The arugula on the Milanese was good, but sandwiched between that prosciutto and a dose of Parmesan that looked and tasted like it came from a green shaker, it wasn't going to save the pizza.

All that said, we at the Chicago Pizza Club are troopers. We ate almost everything so Tocco's pizza at least had a little going for it. But I'll be surprised if any of us go back there again.

Petey Pizza gives Tocco Pizza e Arte a 4.9.

5 comments:

  1. I was starving when I got to Tocco and was fine with the first few bites, but the more I ate, the less I liked the pizza. For that reason and those in the review, I give Tocco a 3. I have no interest in eating it again.

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  2. For the type of pizza Tocco serves, I've had much better. I still more or less enjoyed it, and will touch on the salient points.

    The good: interesting options on the menu; pleasant, tangy-but-mild-enough sauce; good service (not factored into pizza score); deeeelicious salami!!!

    The bad: extremely limp crust; off-color prosciutto (too salty); veggie pizza seemed bland - veggies didn't 'pop'

    I probably wouldn't go back, but that's not because I hated the pizza - more because it was a bit pricey and the pizza wasn't up to par with price based on other similar options in Chicago. My score or 6 only reflects pizza quality.

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  3. I can appreciate the owner's effort on the trendy italian decor, though it's slightly out of place for Wicker Park. There seemed to be an decent variety of pizzas and ingredients. The crust was above average and had decent crispness for that style. However, as we made our way through the pizzas, the blandness and lack of salt on most pizzas except the Milanese (which was too salty) was what stood out the most. Considering the price and competition, I'd rather take a short walk to better pizzerias in the area.

    5.0

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  4. This pizza wasn't particularly bad or good. The lack of salt or other seasoning was the main problem. The pizza tasted fine at the beginning while I was hungry and it was hot, but as my belly started to fill and the pizza started to cool, the blandness became more apparent and eating it became a bit of a chore. I agree the prosciutto was too salty, but arugula was abundant and delicious, so it did not bother me as much as others. I give Tocco a 5.0.

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  5. I've been interested in trying Tocco since it opened, so this pizza meeting was well appreciated. I ate all of the pizzas except for the Soppressata and the Milanese (not sure why other than the veggie was in front of me and wasn't in demand so I consumed most of it), and agree that they could've used some more salt. However, the crust pleased me. I found it to hold up to the toppings just fine...maybe until the pizza cooled and the sauce made it soggy. Overall, the pizza was light, which I enjoyed that summer evening. The toppings didn't blow me away, but they weren't bad at all. In a nutshell, the cost is too high for the inconsistency discussed, but I wouldn't say that I'd never eat it again...it's just not high on my list. I did enjoy the al fresco dining and the video wall of random Italian scenes (golf courses, shoreline, etc).

    Tocco gets a 5.5.

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