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Monday, July 12, 2010

You Say Tomato, and I Say Gelato

Ever see the SNL skit in whcih Christopher Walken is dancing and singing in front of the camera reading the teleprompter as such?

You say Tah-May-Toe & I say Tah-May-Toe
You say Pah-Tay-Toe & I say Pah-Tay-Toe
Tah-May-Toe, Tah-May-Toe, Pah-Tay-Toe Pah-Tay-Toe


What was wrong with that? 
It is supposed to be Tah-May-Toe, Tah-Mah-Toe

Anyways that was a long intro but made me think of one of the quicker but certainly funnier skits on SNL involving the great Christopher Walken (who is quite the dancer as well)

Well I have incorporated that little song/saying into this blog post all about a local restaurant that is what I would consider a MUST visit for anyone looking for true Chicago Thin Crust Pizza


Started in 1966, the original location was in Berwyn.  They have however a dynamite location near the intersection of Grand & Ogden with parking (this is Chicago and that doesn't happen).  The owner's name is Pete and he is a soft spoken guy with a great attitude towards his pizzas.  I sat down and had lunch with him the other day and went through my usual schpeal of what does this pizza go through before it ends up on my table?

Of course it doesn't just get cooked and brought out by the waitress, there is a story behind it and for that I'm sorry but I am not disclosing too much on a blog, you'll have to take the tour!  What I can tell you is that Pete's philosophy doesn't dive into all the tricky physics of how a pizza needs to be specially treated in order for it to turn out right.  GAS OVENS... that was the big one he said.  "People talk about stone bottom this and clay encased that... give me my ingredients, my perfected recipe, and a stainless gas oven I can set to a certain temperature and slide that pizza in for set time.

Ok so the real secret here isn't in the technique so much as it is in the ingredients... I will need to get to the bottom of that but for now all you need to know is that the cheese gives off that nice burnt white and yellow look to it, the crust is EXTREMELY crispy with a bit of flakyness to it, almost like a pastry would have and the sauce... oh yeah the sauce, nice and sweet but not too liquidy.

Salerno's is churning out amazing thin crust Chicago style pizzas in the West Town neighborhood which makes it close to the United Center (Hawks/Bulls/Concerts) and a wonderful sit down meal.  But what about my title to this post you ask... oh yeah Gelato!

In order to exit Salerno's, you are forced to walk past this freezer housing fresh home made Gelato with flavors like Banana Split, Raspberry, Etc.  Good luck getting out in the summertime (or anytime really) without demanding a couple of scoops.

Salerno's Pizza
1201 W. Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60093
312-666-3444 (do I spy a 666 in their phone number?)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pucks, Parades, and Pizza

This was certainly the most anticlimactic overtime, sudden death, Stanley Cup with the winning shot coming from Patrick Kane's (Kaner) on the left wing but no one in Chicago cares how it happened because


49 years later, and the Chicago Blackhawks raise Lord Stanley's Cup in celebration.  Long overdue and for my compadres and I, it was more of a relief than a celebration at first.  Of course there is the jump up and scream, ITS IN ----- ITS OVER ----- STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS ----- but we needed to see that replay before the nerves settled and the celebration could begin, and celebrate this town will!

It's what Chicago does best, as pointed out by my wife earlier this week on Facebook... nothing brings people in Chicago together like Sports Championships and food (mainly pizza).  Friday 6/11 10:30 AM the celebratory ticket tape parade takes off from the intersection of Wacker & Washington.  They will head east down Washington until they get to Michigan Ave and travel north back up until they reach Wacker & Michigan where the rally and ceremony will take place.  Can't help but think of one of my favorite pizzerias just blocks away from that location but that is for another time...

In the midst of all this celebration, the adult beverages, and pizza will be flowing all weekend (with the weekend starting Weds night) and in light of all the contacts I've received lately through my Flickr account about some pizza pictures I have, I feel it is time to give a description of Nancy's Stuffed Pizza.

Normally, I am not a huge fan of Stuffed Pizza.  It is what New Yawwkers & other east coasters tend to stereotype Chicago pizza.  Referred to as "Casseroles not pizza".  However, there are a few places in Chicago that do it good enough to grab my attention and more importantly my orders.  Nancy's is definitely one of them, but before I go into why, let's take a moment to explain what stuffed pizza is and how it differs from the true Chicago deep dish pizza.

Stuffed pizza is really like the deep dishes younger brother that is twice his size.  You see deep dish was created in the early 40's at a pizzeria on the near north side at the corner of Wabash & Ohio which is now known as Pizzeria Uno.  Chicago stuffed pizza got onto the Chicago scene about 30 years later in the early 70's.  Nancy's claims to have been the first while Giordano's makes the same claim.  Chances are they are both right and I am not going to get to the bottom of who opened their doors first and served the deliciousness that is known as stuffed pizza because it doesn't matter.  Both restaurant owners got their pizza roots from the same region of Italy, Turin (Go 2006 Winter Olympics and Stuffed Pizza!).

For Nancy's, it was husband and wife team Nancy & Rocco Palese who made their way over from the Turin region with their 3 children in 1969.  They found work at a local pizza parlor named Guy's Pizza which specialized in serving traditional thin crust pizza.  {Yes, the traditional pizza in Chicago is thin crust, crispy, cracker crunch, tavern style pizza NOT deep dish or stuffed}

So about 2 years after working at Guy's, Nancy & Rocco opened up Nancy's Stuffed and served this

Ok, I think that these pictures help give you an idea of how truly massive this pie is.  I started to talk about the difference between Stuffed and Deep Dish and got off track so lets revisit that.

Stuffed = Crust #1, Cheese, Toppings, Crust #2, Sauce, Parmesan/Romano mix
Deep Dish = Crust (not nearly as thick), Cheese, Toppings, Sauce, Parmesan/Romano Mix

Doesn't seem like it is too much different but trust me it is... I mean a 2nd crust are you insane!  Not only are there 2 crusts in a stuffed pizza, but crust #1 is going to be thicker than the crust on a deep dish because they load the inside of that pizza and you need to contain those ingredients.  Good God see pic above for huge crust reference.  The deep dish your crust is relatively thin, and while the pizza looks similar to the stuffed from above, it is a much lighter version with that bottom crust acting like a pumpkin pie as opposed to the 2 crust apple pie.

Notice the color of that crust, nice golden yellow letting us know that there is some corn products used in the cooking of it, the crust has a great oil taste to it (not butter).  Crust makes me think of high prison walls designed to keep the tomatoes and cheese inside... although from picture #1 above I see quite a bit of cheese has made its way outside the walls!  Speaking of cheese, there is plenty of that fresh melted mozzarella, as well as a very sweet tomato sauce on top.  I am assuming these are vine ripened tomatoes that have more sweetness and less acidity to them but that is just my opinion.  Sometimes I pepper the take out guy at the register with questions like that and he usually doesn't have the answers anyways.  I NEVER get a pizza like this delivered.  If they tell me it will be ready in 35 minutes, I will be there in 25 minutes ready to get it as soon as it comes out of the oven and ask that they do not close the box because I don't need any of that steam and moisture compromise the taste of my pizza.  These are my issues that I have to deal with and let me tell you that there really isn't a solution and if there was I would have invented it already.

Ok, psychotic rambling up there but lets get back on track.  Don't expect to knock back more than a couple of pieces (unless you can really eat and are looking to spend the rest of the day or evening struggling to breathe on the couch).  Really 1 is all you need if you get your stuffed pizza the way I like it, loaded with veggies and sausage.  

In a perfect world my stuffed goes as follows:
Spinach, Sausage, Green Peppers, Onions

Nancy's is one of my favorites because it has not changed in 40 years, yeah so what?  Many places are like that.  True but this is a great one because of the BALANCE of everything within the pie.  You have to appreciate that out of a stuffed pie, the crust is so big, the tomatoes on top are so plenty, the cheese is oozing out the sides, yet somehow the mix of all these cancel each other out and that is what makes it perfect.  Most pizza snobs use the crust as their basis to judge a pizza and while I feel that is an enormously important part, it should not play an overpowering role in rating a pizza.  With these big pies it's all about the balance I mentioned, and I believe that if you take a bite and you can enjoy the totality of it (crust, cheese, toppings, tomatoes) all at the same time then you have a winner!  Of course it needs to taste good in addition to be balanced but do I really have to write about the taste when those pictures are worth a 1000 words?

Question - Why are their little craters on the outside of the crust
Answer - Pockets of air that burst while the dough cooks in the oven

Nancy's has locations throughout Illinois, dabble over the border into Indiana, and did I notice a couple of locations down in Georgia?  Nicely done Peach State, oh and in case you were wondering what happened to the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks in the beginning of this post, well the cup is now 36 lbs and Toews had no problem hoisting it... the equivalent to 6 Nancy's Large Pizzas, maybe I will take a pic of me hoisting 6 stuffed pies!

Nancy's Pizza
3970 N. Elston Ave
Chicago IL

Friday, May 21, 2010

Long Day At The Office

Normally when you tell someone that you worked from 8:30am til 9:30pm you are venting about how awful your day was.  This is NOT the case for me, as I recently had the pleasure of being a guest at the Travel Channel's Food Wars hosted by Camille Ford.  Cammy (as everyone called her on the set) was personable, and incredibly talented as I saw first hand how it cannot be easy to delivery your lines amidst an angry mob of foodies (wait til you see the scene on the double decker bus).

What was the food war you ask???  Deep dish pizza - what else!?!?!  Of course there was already an Italian Beef Food War in Chicago with Al's losing in a close battle to Mr. Beef, but this is a pizza blog, and in Chicago pizza is KING!  So deep dish pizza, who do they ask to represent, Pizzeria Uno -1st pic (I mean it is called Uno, right?) and Lou Malnati's - 2nd pic.

If you think I am going to tell you who won as a spoiler alert, guess again.  WATCH THE EPISODE!  

This post is going to be about my experience as this was one of my favorite pizza days ever!

8:30 AM - Work on Amex rewards program for card holders looking to take pizza tour
9:30 AM - Conversing with Zerve our ticketing company to implement 2 or 3 ticket deals for summer
10:15 AM - Facebooking and Tweeting to my Pizza Fans and Pizza Tweeps out in cyber
11:30 AM - Lunch in Elmhurst at a local pizza dive (more on them in another post)
1:00 PM - Pick up Chicago Pizza Tours promo items and gear up for the 4:00 PM shoot
3:30 PM - Check in with the wife and remind her that she is going to have to pick up the boy after work
4:00 PM - Brother and I are among the first ones to arrive at English and proceed to talk pizza with none other than Marc Malnati!!!!!!!!

Sidenote:  When I started Chicago Pizza Tours one of my goals was to meet Marc Malnati because he seems like the nicest guy on TV in all the pizza specials he has starred in and he is what I consider a pizza legend.


Honestly he was so outgoing and humble, it was such an opportunity for me to talk pizza with the legend!  Not to be outdone, was a picture with his brother Rick who I have spotted in plenty of Lou's YouTube videos

Another great guy who thought my sign was outstanding.  I love me some Pizzeria Uno as well, but when a Food War has been thrown down, you have to pick a side for the day!

4:30 PM - standing in the alley smelling all the pizzas from being cooked by Lou's and Uno's and that is the best that alley will ever smell.  EVER!
5:00 PM - After filming the walk down the alley segment and the double decker bus segment, it is time to head back into English and get the judging part taped
5:02 PM - Snag a quick pick with none other than Marc and Rick's mom, MRS. MALNATI!!!  Jean Jean Jean (how the cheers went)

5:15 - Race upstairs, get to your spot and chant for your team for Food Wars
6:00 - Realize that a sign you have been holding up correctly for 97% of the day, was upside down for about 1 minute during the filming (it is almost certain that it will be shown upside down when the show premiers)
7:30 - The judges have made a decision and it is time to announce a winner
7:45 - A celebration on both sides (in the end everyone wins as both are outstanding pizzas)
8:00 - I have the opportunity to eat a slice of each, much like the judges did

8:30 - Pizza talk and celebration leaves English and heads on over to the closest Lou Malnati's (1/3 of a block away) with members of both Uno's and Malnati's leading the charge for the celebration of pizza.

Did I mention that Marc announced to the crowd that Adult Beverages were on him?
They were, and not wanting to take too much of advantage of a dynamite offer like that, I went for a couple.  Such a great opportunity for me to discuss with both Lou's and Uno's the business of pizza in Chicago.   They both are masters of their trade and I have nothing but positive things to say about each.

*Another sidenote, I was at a wedding in November in the Quad Cities and April the star from Uno's was there as well and was introduced to my wife through mutual friends and I wasn't around... was I on the dance floor?  That happens.

So finally to wrap up the night I said my good byes and wished everyone the best, hopefully we will be in talks for more pizza promoting here soon!  Here is my final pic for evening at Lou Malnati's afterwards with both stars and their bosses (Marc's boss would be his wife).  I should mention that these are some of the nicest people you could ever come across, they are truly happy and it is contagious.

9:15 - my departure and racing home to tell my wife (who is really the brains behind our pizza tour) to tell her how amazing the whole experience was.

Normally when someone works that late into the evening they would be venting about how tired they are and how long their day went, but to me I was on cloud 9 (where the heck does that expression come from anyways, maybe wiki can answer.

An experience like that is just a great reminder to get up this morning and get to work on my pizza stuff because when you truly love doing your job, you never really notice when your work day begins or ends.

-Jonathan Porter

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chain, Chain, Chain...

Here in Chicago, we have over 2000 pizzerias and not of the major chain variety.  Don't get me wrong, there are chain pizza restaurants here too, they just aren't the majority.  In case you don't follow hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Pizza Hut sponsors some of the highlights during the breaks and it got me thinking about chains.  I'm not a pizza snob, I'll eat 'em all. Even though there are so many great independent pizzerias in Chicago doesn't mean I don't want a little Papa John's every now and then.  Gasp!  Papa John's?!  Yes, I went to college in a typical small midwestern town where Papa John's was king and it will always have a special place in my heart.  I could drink the garlic sauce still today.  So, let's see, we got Pizza Hut, Papa John's and let's not forget Domino's and Little Caesars.  Little Caesars!  Pizza Pizza!  Those are so hard to find around here!  I have a friend who will drive to the ends of the earth for crazy bread and I understand it.  Now, Domino's claims to have changed their recipe and made their pizza much better, but I haven't tried since and am not so sure I believe the hype and I may have to bite the bullet and check it out.  Anyone I'm missing?  I think the average person not living in Chicago, or even Illinois for that matter calls one of these four whenever deciding to eat pizza.  I wonder which one gets the most action - I think I've just given myself a homework assignment.  So which chain do you prefer if you go the chain route folks?  Papa John's Dominos', Little Caesars, or Pizza Hut?

Oh and if any of those non IL/non Chicago living folks come to town, I know a great way they can taste a lot of Chicago pizza!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Anichini, A Legend In Chicago Sausage

The 1986 John Hughes movie FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF starring Matthew Broderick made the name "Abe Froeman - The Sausage King Of Chicago" a household name.  Everyone took that little snippet of the film and made it into their own personal joke.  To think, a high school kid using The Sausage King Of Chicago's name to get a table at an over priced French restaurant (Chez Quis) and doing it successfully just brings a smile to anyone who has ever tried to pull a fast one.

What resonates with that joke though is that Chicago is so well known for being a sausage capital of the world.  It was a perfect fit for a Chicago based movie and probably caused a few people to wonder, was there really an Abe Froeman?  Here is what we know about him courtesy of Sloan Peterson Ferris' girlfriend:
  • wears a leather jacket
  • sweater vest
  • white t-shirt
  • devastatingly handsome
Ok all kidding aside, there is no Abe Froeman (sometimes also spelled Froman) but there have been sausage kings of Chicago.  The original would be Adolph Luetgert a German immigrant who traveled to Chicago in the 1870s to sell sausages.  He set up shop at Hermitage & Diversey in 1894 with his three story house located just next door to his sausage factory.  Success came early to Adolph and he soon married a petite woman named Louisa.  Without getting too much into it Adolph was pulling a "Tiger Woods" and wooing some women on the side.  Louisa, quite the tiny little firecracker would often get into very public fights with Adolph and never held back.  One night Louisa confronted Adolph inside the factory as workers were leaving for the night and the next day she was missing.  Without having to do too much investigative work, the Chicago police determined that Adolph did in fact murder her and probably decomposed her body using stuff in his own factory (acid, meat grinder etc.).

With overwhelming evidence against him, Adolph was convicted and sent to Joliet State Prison where Louisa would get the last laugh.  Adolph would beg and plead with the prison guards that he was being haunted by the ghost of Louisa who, according to his defense was alive and just ran off...  It drove Adolph insane for the rest of his life which was fitting.  Louisa's ghost was also spotted by the factory workers and neighbors of the Luetgerts so she has become famous as one of Chicago's ghosts.

Now, corresponding with the title of this post, Anichini Brothers are the current day sausage kings of Chicago.  Company slogan "Home of the sausage that made Chicago pizza famous" and that is pretty spot on.  Family owned and operated since 1925 located in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, Anichini Bros still to this day dominates the sausage market in Chicago.  It all started when Silvio and his brothers immigrated to Chicago from Lucca which is a small town in the Tuscan region of Italy.  First step for them was to open a grocery store, it was what they knew best.

After running the successful grocery store, Silvio's son-in-law Salvatore Gadinni decided to get into the meats and more importantly the sausage making.  They didn't just market their sausages to the consumer, they went right after the big restaurants (namely pizzerias) and why not... they were making the finest "blue ribbon" sausages in the land.

Over the years they have formed great partnerships with some of the cities best pizzerias.  It is no surprise for me at all to find out that Anichini supplies sausage to at least 3 of the 4 stops on my Chicago Pizza Tours company.  For this reason I anoint The Anichini Brothers Company the real Sausage King of Chicago, and give the consumer the inside scoop that if they are eating an awesome sausage pizza at a restaurant in Chicago... chances are it's Anichini's sausage!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Take me out to the ball game

Opening day is here for the south siders and White Sox Nation is up and excited to get underway for another season of:

A)  Good Baseball
B)  Bad Baseball
C)  Mediocre Baseball
D)  Both A & C
E)  Both B & C

Whatever type of baseball they play this year one thing will always remain a constant... THE FOOD AT US CELLULAR FIELD IS THE BEST IN ALL OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS!  I mean it, the product on the field can be hit or miss at each game (no pun intended) but the product on the concorse is always dynamite.

HOT DOGS!  HOT DOGS!  Surely anyone who has watched a game on TV has heard the voice of this boisterous hot dog vendor ruining the broadcast with his amplified call of HOT DOGS (sometimes later shouts out ICE CREAM post 7th inning) but he is doing it for good reason.  Those hot dogs are awesome!  For me I skip the traditional hot dog at the park and I do that for one reason and one reason only.

The Polish...  Cover that bad boy in mustard and extra onions, grilled onions that is and give me two of them.  Sure everyone likes to get to the parking lot and tailgate but I hold back so that I have plenty of room for my first and second polish of the season.  Made just down the road on Damen Ave in Lincoln Park, Vienna Beef seasons these just perfectly, the Sox staff gets the flat top grill covered in lard and starts grilling away the onions and polish sausages all together before placing on some nice, sugar refined enriched buns.  I didn't say it was healthy, but it is awesome.

Now it doesn't make much sense to be a pizza blog and start off talking about food other than pizza at the White Sox game, but there is a good reason for that.  The Pizza provided at US Cellular is Connie's Pizza located in Sections 122, 155 (Larussa's Pizza Stand), 163, 522, 544.  I am not going to give a review of Connie's Pizza in general, it has its loyal followers and is a big name but for as good as all the food prepared at the ball game is... I feel Connie's is lagging behind.

It might not be their fault, pizza is tempermental and mass cooking pizza & sliding it under hot lights isn't exactly the way to go but $$$wise that's where we are at with ballparks.  I understand it is probably just as important for them to have the cheese, sausage, and pepperoni pizzas race in the 5th inning as it is to sell at the ballgame.  That advertising alone helps subliminally drive business to their 7 locations.  It is at those 7 locations that you will find a much better brand of pizza as opposed to the ballpark, largely in part due to not having to serve it to the masses.

These days money is tight so when you spend it, make sure you spend it on something good and get yourself a polish or two.  There is plenty of other good food there but I would hardly know because when you have something that works stick with it.

Connie's Pizza
2373 S. Archer Avenue

Chicago, IL, 60616
(312) 326-3443

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I-290, I think we should see other people

So it turns out that this whole I-290 construction project isn't an April Fools Day joke haha, no it is going to be years of misery for anyone wishing to head out to the western suburbs of Chicago.  I mean sure they said "it will take 2 years" at first then they said "oh no 7 to 8 months", anyone else think the original 2 years sounds more accurate???  Why would I say that?  HELLO they pulled the same blabber with the Dan Ryan project and that ended up finishing in October of 2007... $975 Million and 2 years after they started.  Which brings me to my next question, where are they getting the money for this project?

Ok the seriousness of this post needs to stop and I need to get to the point soon because we are well into the second paragraph of this post and there is no mention of pizza.  Ah yes, this is a pizza blog but the 290 construction is important to this review because the cafe we blaahg about today is called Labriola Bakery & Cafe and it is located in the western suburb of Oak Brook, IL.

This place first caught my eye one Sunday morning watching the show Game Time Dine before a Bears game last season.  As assumed I live in Chicago and I am a HUGE BEARS FAN so of course I watch all pre and post game programming including that food critic show in which DC Crenshaw and Israel Idonije visit restaurants in Chicagoland and give their reviews.  The show romanced the restaurant pretty good and gave us the basics of true Neapolitan Pizza the way it was intended in Naples.  Lets review those steps

  • Wood burning brick oven (preferably made in Italy)
  • Sauce is made with San Marzano tomatoes and applied in circular motion from the middle
  • Water Buffalo mozzarella is the only cheese allowed
  • Hit that with some basil after it comes out of the oven

So check that Italian made wood burning brick oven off the list, and according to Game Time Dine, Labriola is using Buffalo mozzarella and I saw them apply the sauce in a circular motion.  So there we have it, a true Neapolitan pizza being cooked in Oak Brook.  When I found this out I jumped at the chance to head out there and give it a try.  Dragging a college friend of mine there for a lunch meeting was no problem, he is an even bigger Bears fan than I and just the mere mention that we are getting pizza and that Israel pimped it was enough for him.  I don't have a problem admitting that someone else is a bigger Bears fan than I, especially when his father was one of the super fans selected by McDonalds to be featured in a "tailgating" commercial in the Cade McNown era.

From the moment I walk in, I get the feeling I am in a Panera and for good reason, we are dealing with the same format.  Go ahead on up to the register and place your order, find a seat wherever you'd like and put up your number so they know where to bring your food.  I guess at Panera you have to go up to the counter when it's ready but this isn't much different.  Did I mention that I HATE HATE HATE Panera?!  So already we are off to a shaky start but looks can be deceiving because with me, it is really all about the pizza!  I ordered the Labriola Specialty Buffalo Mozzarella and got a seat right by the oven.  

Carefully watching them cook up our pizza and exchanging the latest family info with my friend we sat and waited for our pizza.  I think that is where the problem came in.  They used the right ingredients and techniques but when you are dealing with a Neapolitan pizza timing is just as important if not more important!  While the pizza photographed well, it looked better than it tasted.

Crust had a good chew to it, the buff mozz was mild and complimented the unmistakable San Marzano tomatoes & that shredded basil helped spread that basil flavor without having an overpowering taste that an entire leaf can tend to have.  Unfortunately being the pizza king, I was well aware that this pizza was past its prime, kind of like when the White Sox finally got Ken Griffey Jr. in 2008.  Get it to my table 4 minutes quicker and this might be an A review, but the collection of people that have nothing to do but crowd Labriola cackling and taking their sweet time to order make it a bit chaotic during lunch and henceforth hurting my experience.  I give it a B- at best and don't plan on making the trip anytime soon see above 290 project to rate it again.  

Labriola works for what it is, and I am sure most suburban families love the opportunity to dine at an upscale strip mall in Oak Brook, but for this city guy I am going to stay within the city limits for a while here... maybe venture up north or south, but as far as west goes... Eisenhower (290) it's not you, it's me.

Labriola Bakery Cafe
3021 Butterfield Rd
Oak Brook, IL  60523
(630) 574-2008

Monday, March 22, 2010

Deep Dish Pizza Instructions

If you are reading this, chances are you saw the video of how to make your very own deep dish pizza, if not don't worry check it out here.

Ok, so in the video you might have thought "That looks pretty simple" well it's the truth!!!  Let's take it step by step, first thing... Inventory

  1. Oven that gets up to at least 450
  2. Deep dish pizza pan
  3. Ladle 
  4. Brush
  5. Pizza Cutter
  6. Spatula 
Inventory check!  Now let's take stock of ingredients you are going to need
  1. Lou To Go Dough purchased from Peapod (Search Lou Malnati's)
  2. 16oz can of crushed tomatoes in puree (go with a brand you trust)
  3. Two Tomatoes
  4. 1/2 a pound of sliced mozzarella (not too thin)
  5. Olive oil
  6. Oregano (2 Tbsp)
  7. Sea Salt (2 Tsp)
  8. Sausage, taken out of the casing and rolled into balls (Nottoli)
  9. Parmesan & Romano cheese grated and mixed together 
Alright, first thing you do is defrost the dough.  Take it out of the freezer and set it on top of your refrigerator 18-24 hours prior to when you are going to use it.  Next step, drizzle some olive oil onto the deep dish pan and brush it around to cover the entire bottom.  This oil is going to heat up and help sear the bottom of that crust for you later.  Now it is time to go ahead and slap the dough into the middle of your pan and press it down.  Press it down so that it is just a thin layer on the bottom with no holes, and work it to the sides of your pan.  Once you get it to the edge, go ahead and pull it up a little more than 1/2 way to the top (it will rise a little once it cooks).  Good news, the toughest part is over, moving on we cover the entire bottom with slices of mozzarella.  Spread out 1/2 pound evenly over the crust.  Let's grab the sausage that is already rolled into little balls (remember I told you up top to take out of sausage casing and roll into balls) and distribute them as you see best on top of the cheese.  Hmm we are almost there, pour that crushed tomato puree and 2 chopped up tomatoes into a bowl, mix in 2 teaspoons of sea salt and 2 tablespoons of oregano.  Stir that up good and grab a ladle, use that ladle you just grabbed to cover the pie with your sauce.  Try and do it in a circular motion and mush everything around so that it is all smoothed out.  Drizzle on your Parmesan/Romano mix on the pie & PUT IN OVEN!  
  • 600 - 32 minutes
  • 500 - 39 minutes
  • 450 - 42 minutes
Whichever one of those applies to your oven, equipment varies... my oven tells me I can set it to 500 but I have a thermometer in there that tells me differently.  So when the time is up, grab that pie out of the oven, set it down and chop it up.  I like to use a dough cutter but whatever you have that works will do.  Grab a spatula and don't be afraid to scoop as fast as you can onto that plate.  Now go ahead and Dig On It!

6 pieces of equipment
9 ingredients
1 authentic Chicago Style deep dish pizza
-amateur video courtesy of Chicago Pizza Tours

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Pizza Travels

So, as recently posted I mentioned that I set out to visit the birthplace of pizza in America in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan... Lombardi's Pizzeria.  A normal person would wait until they had a reason to go to NY, and once there would probably go visit the restaurant but normal I am not!  Nope my love for pizza runs a little deeper than most and I don't think sitting down there for an hour to eat pizza would suffice.  I booked a ticket with Scott's Pizza Tours and got the full blown tour of pizzerias that I knew started at Lombardi's!

I have wanted to take Scott's tour for a while now, and since I am setting up Chicago Pizza Tours (coming soon) what better than to take a research trip.  I did the right thing and let Scott know ahead of time, I had to laugh he even asked me to bring a Lou Malnati's for him.  I wasn't able to, but promised to send him Lou's Dough To Go this week.  So here is the story of how the pizza tour went

10:00 AM walking thru Midtown and stopped at a Magnolia Cupcake for breakfast
10:15 AM say bye to wife and kid, have fun shopping I'm going to eat pizza all day
10:45 AM show up at Lombardi's and take lots of pictures, I got the chills and it wasn't just the crisp temps on a March morning
11:00 AM shake hands with Scott after a quick intro and head in before Lombardi's is open to public

Brief review of the history of the restaurant & the different pizzerias throughout NY that have roots starting from Lombardi's, then............
Now that is an oven.  This oven is HUGE!!!  Fits about 18 pizzas in there and I think the temps got up to 1000 degrees at some parts.  They keep it on constantly and in fact only turn it off for maintenance 1 day a year (actually 2 'cause it takes an entire day to cool down).  So far tour is off to a great start, but I'm hungry.

11:30 - Dig on that!  Awesome Margherita Pizza from Lombardi's.  They used fresh mozzarella San Marzano tomatoes for their sauce and shredded basil on top (add that after the pizza is out).  Flavor was outstanding the crust was crispy on the outside but at the same time chewy on the inside.  Coal oven pizza is one of my favorites because the flavor just gets embedded in the crust from the coal, people try to argue that a wood burning can do the same thing but I am here to tell you "NO IT CAN'T".  Ok so first pizzeria down 3 to go and I can check off 1st pizzeria in America right off my list.

To my left we have Luzzo's, 2nd stop on Scott's tour.  Now this is pizza the way Italians intended it and here is why.  Mozzarella made from the milk of water buffalos once again the San Marzano tomatoes which I neglected to mention are grown in the volcanic plains to the south of Mt Vesuvius.  Your super fine 00 flour is used (only the best use this type of flour and Luzzo's is considered one of them by Rachel Ray name dropping...) and the oven used to cook these pies is a wood burning oven.  It was wood burning but the oven as Scott pointed out was really a hybrid coal/wood burning oven that was only burning wood on that day for our true Neapolitan Margherita.  The pizza once again was outstanding, the sauce was a little soupy and full of natural tomato flavor.  The cheese was very mild in comparison to cow made mozzarella, it really takes a back seat to the tomato sauce and I am quite certain that is what they are going for.  Don't just grab this slice and guide it in all nonchalant NO you had better do the fold or my technique the 1/2 fold to get this bad boy in and don't be afraid to make a mess.  Remember this started out as a peasant food and as such is eaten with your hands.  See below
12:20 - Bathroom break, next up the Bensonhurst neighborhood in Brooklyn.
1:00 - Made it over the Manhattan bridge, learned plenty about Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana and all their rules for making real Italian Pizza and we mostly came to the conclusion that it s just the Italians way of marketing to ensure that their economy profits when pizza is involved.  Pizza can be made just about any way, and if it tastes good, then go for it you don't need certifications and what not to make something that tastes awesome!  Where was I, oh yeah it is 1:00 and this is what I am greeted with in Bensonhurst.

 J&V's home of the Jo Jo sandwich and an oven I will tell you more about.  Feeling right at home in Brooklyn with this Grandma Style (Sicilian Style) slice.  What we are dealing with is a crispy yellow crust with a good amount of grease on it, some great sticky cheese on top of that crispy crust, and a layer of sweet pizza sauce on top that made me think of a heartier Aurelio's sauce.  Needless to say, I did not savor this slice one bit... I demolished it in about a minute and had the pleasure of talking to the owner while the rest of the tourists enjoyed.  The owner told me no pictures of him, and I got my first official fughettaboutit in the first sentence (actually I got 3 in the first sentence).  This is the kind of place I would frequent quite often if I lived in Brooklyn, loved the wood paneling/mirrored, counter & booths atmosphere coupled with the NY style of friendliness "You like the slice?  Good, go on Yelp and review us fughettaboutit!"  Now the oven, this slice doesn't just magically come out looking like that.  It looks like a normal pizza oven, but when you open the door it is not.  There are trays inside of the oven that rotate and cook the pizza in a rotisserie style.  Different heat is applied at different parts of the rotation, and that credits the way that sauce is simmered perfectly on top of the pizza.  At this point in the tour I have had a NY coal fired slice, a true Italian Neapolitan slice, and now a Sicilian Grandma styled slice and I am starting to feel a little sleepy and full... but we get back on the big yellow pizza bus because we have 1 more stop in Brooklyn to try.

2:00 - Sam's Restaurant, I think they just added that little pizzeria to the sign recently.  You would never know that this is an establishment serving up great NY Style Pizza from passing by on the sidewalk.

I really enjoyed this place, the pizza was good mind you I am stuffed at this point but the stories were even better.  Lou the son of Sam (hence Sam's Rest) no disrespect of course... wowed us with his many stories of his cop buddies up in Long Island, and people that tell him to put Wifi in his restaurant.  "What so people can take their shoes off and sit in here browsing the internet all day ordering 1 cup of coffee!"  I feel at this point I am rambling one of the longest blog posts in the history of blogs but I will tell you what stuck out for me on this slice was the crust.  I could have eaten nothing but crusts... Brooklyn tap water I hear is the secret.  I appreciated getting a chance to see a place like this because in my mind it was definitely a local gem with great stories/history.

3:00 - back on the pizza bus and headed to Lombardi's our starting point.  The tour is over but at this point we discussed on the bus what we liked about each place, maybe what we weren't so much a fan of, and all this traffic to get back to Manhattan.

3:45 - Back at Lombardi's and I gotta say I am wiped out.  Well not totally, still had enough time to grab a beer with Scott and talk pizza biz at Gatsby's a bar down the street which just so happened to be the original location of Lombardi's back in 1905 (that story is another blog post).  Then later on that night I took my wife and son out to Max Brenner's Restaurant in midtown where the dessert was none other than... you guessed it Chocolate Pizza.  I am serious about pizza, if you think you love pizza more than I do I am happy for you, but chances are you are probably wrong... but hey why not enjoy some slices together if you're up for it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pizza Class

So, as many of you know I recently took a pizza-cation which basically consists of me taking a mini vacation for the sole purpose of eating tons of pizza. To conclude the pizza-cation though was a final stop at Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar in Chicago’s Roscoe Village. I’ll go into more of my pizza-cation in the next post but for now let’s focus on the pizza class.

Frasca literally meaning "branch" the frasca was identified by a wreath of branches hanging over a farmhouse door signifying the sale of food and wine within.  Frasca does a tremendous job of getting pizza lovers in for a wine sampling/pizza making class and they do this about every 3 months or so (join their mailing list on their website if you want the inside scoop).

The experience is great, first of all the wine is poured and people unwind and start to relax. Then Josh Rutherford (chef & 1 of the owners) takes you through the entire process of making the dough for your pizza. In my opinion the dough is the hardest part; it isn’t as simple as just adding some ingredients into a bowl and whipping up. I am not going to dive into how it is done, sign up for the class if you are interested… seriously it is worth it. After a demonstration of how the dough is made, they go ahead and pass out a little ball of dough along with pizza ingredients on a plate for you. You go ahead and work that dough thinning it out and getting it ready on to add the sauce and toppings. At Frasca, I recommend pepperoni. I know where they get their pepperoni from and it is by far the best pepperoni on the planet!!!

So I got my dough ready, spread the sauce on (circular motion starting at the center), and now I come to a decision that needs to be made. Do I go pepperoni first or cheese first? I went pepperoni and I will explain why. When you put down the pepperoni first and then layer the cheese on top of it, it tends to stay moist when the pizza has been cooked. If you put down the cheese first and then the pepperoni it tends to heat up a little more and is crispier like bacon (a lady at my table did both and I was jealous I didn’t think of that idea).

Well it came out of the wood burning domed oven and I got a major fail for the way I worked my dough… yes I let to much air get in or didn’t thin it out evenly because it popped up a little to high but fortunately the taste was still there. The combinations of sauce, pepperoni, cheese, and that still chewy crust was amazing even with the way I rolled out that dough. I guess that even I can’t mess up a good thing here at Frasca. I would recommend this place to anyone for dinner & another reason why is that when I tell people I’m going there I always get the same response “That is one of my favorite places in Chicago!”. Check them out for yourselves… there is a good chance The Chicago Pizza King might even be there too.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Start Spreading The News...

...I'm leaving Saturday, I can't wait to take part of it... Scott's Pizza Tours in NEW YORK!

Seriously folks, this is like Christmas for The Pizza King and let me tell you why.  First off, I am going to the Bulls game tomorrow night, and when I make a trip to the UC it is usually preceded with a trip to my favorite Chicago neapolitan pizza maker Coalfire.  Yes they were mentioned in here earlier, I truly do have a deep admiration for the pies they churn out and I can't stress this enough to people who have not tried.  Anyways so there it is Thursday evening pizza followed by Bulls basketball.

Then Friday will be your typical meatless lent Friday for this guy, my brother actually walked by my desk Tuesday and dropped off a $2 coupon to Nancy's Pizza and asked me if I would be interested in getting a stuffed spinach for lunch Friday.  Um YESSSS!  (Here's a clue, if anyone out there asks me if I want to have pizza, EVER... I will always say yes).

So there we go, Thursday night pizza, Friday afternoon pizza, then what to do this weekend???  Oh yeah right like the title and first part of this post, I'm heading to New York!  That's right, going to where the Italians first brought over the food I hold dearest, New York City.  I have been a fan of Scott's Pizza Tours for some time now, I just couldn't believe that there is a guy out there that is earning a living doing what I consider one of my favorite things of all time, introducing to people the very best pizza his city has to offer.  http://www.scottspizzatours.com/

I will give my full review of his tour when I get back, but for now lets get back to focusing on my excitement on my upcoming Pizza-cation.  I know that we are going to hit up Lombardi's on the tour which is the first place in America to serve pizza and I hear that it is still quite good.  I know that Patsy's will be a stop as well and if you know your history with that place it involves a lot of family and a lot of ugly battling through lawyers.... Yikes!  I am excited to hit up the real original Ray's as there are countless of impersonators in the town and I am sure Scott has some other awesome ones lined up as well.

So after the tour naturally I am taking my wife out for pizza at Max Brenner Chocolate Restaurant... home of the dessert pizza.  Some sort of marshmallows with peanut butter and chocolate etc. hmm... I am already getting pictures of that in my head and it looks delicious.  Check the flickr account http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagopizzatours for pictures of all these soon to be consumed pies!

After all that traveling, most people would like to relax but not me... this trip is going to be like energizing vitamins for my pizza passion.  Tuesday evening upon my return I can't wait to head up to Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar in Roscoe Village http://frascapizzeria.com/ and take a pizza cooking class hosted by none other than THE Josh Rutherford (could be a video on this, haven't planned it out yet though).  That will most likely conclude my pizza-cation Tuesday evening and I will get back to doing less tasting/research and work on more logistics for The Chicago Pizza Tours company that still is looking to ride in April 2010.

Until then, don't forget to follow me on twitter @chipizzatour

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Restaurant Week

Usually I spend Chicago Restaurant Week out and about getting a steak at Smith & Wollensky or grabbing a nice upscale pork dish from Frontera Grill.  Well not this year, I appreciate the deals, honestly restaurants... thanks for going out of your way to make sure that 2 people can enjoy a great meal for just under $100 as long as they limit their drinking.  However it is 2010 and may I remind you, I'm not looking to spend another Benjamin on a Tuesday night in Feb.

No this year, I even made that rez for S&W but canceled it today because I have something else in mind.  Da da da Daaaaaa!  Vito & Nick's Pizzeria!  What was I high when I made that reservation at S&W?!?!  Like any good citizen of Chicago when it comes tax season, I make an apointment to see my guy who happens to be the south side of Chicago.

How you know you are getting your taxes done by a true south sider
-he refers to your wife or his wife or any wife in general as "da bride"
-office is a little bigger than my closet and it is in the basement in the corner
-no one talking to me about the off season moves the Cubs have made
-his signature on the bottom of your form looks like this -----_
-you may hear "I gotta guy that does..." and it is usually some sort of cousin or inlaw of their kid

Ok, we got off track there for a little bit... I am heading to the south side, perfect afternoon trip to see how much taxes I paid last year and grab some of the best tavern style south side crispy cracker thin crust pizza.  That's right after my meeting, I will be grabbing Vito & Nick's and racing back home to dive in.  Who needs all the glitz and glam of a restaurant when you have the flavor of a pizzeria available for around $20.  All Picked up from a location that looks like this


Family owned, Vito & Nick's has been in business for almost 90 years, and just one crunchy bite and you will know why!  They were recently featured on Guy Fieri's show Diners Drive-Ins and Dives and then even brought back on an hour long special of Guy's favorites.  They have 2 locations, but for all intents and purposes I will be talking about the one located at 84th pl and Pulaski (please note, that 84th pl is different from 84th st).  Menu isn't much to look at and I love love love that, get in there and make a decision and don't weigh me down with questions like "should I get pineapple and ham, or tofu and chicken".  No when you go there you get cheese, pep, saus, beef, stuff like that...  They do however have 1 that steps a little outside the box, it is egg and that is only available on Friday so I don't even have to worry about that one.

Alright, taxes prepared heading North on Pulaski and pull over to this.  From the moment I walk in, I head right to the counter and order a small Italian beef and a small sausage.  I'm told it will take 30 minutes and I am fine with that kind of wait (pretty fast for a place that makes that many pizzas).  I belly up to the bar and observe the locals, White Sox hats and Miller Lites flow as people unwind after a tough day of work.  The juke box is playing some classic CD's including Blues Bros soundtrack and Journey.  30 minutes go by like that and I realize I had better get these pies home asap if I want to enjoy them as they intended here.  I may live in the south loop but I was surprised at how quickly I was able to make it back home even at 4:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday.  

Ok, take a look and tell me what you think... Here is the sausage and it is fresh out the oven, cut in squares and bubbling hot cheese.  First thing I notice when I bite into this one is how crispy that crust is.  Next thing I notice is how much seasoning has gone into the sausage, I can literally see nice chunks of oregano and other spices that just infuse the pie with maximum flavor.  They take the time to make sure the cheese is well done but not overdone and it is a gooey mess on top of a cracker crust.  Definitely in my top 5 of Chicago Tavern Style and such a treat for anyone that lives nearby or has the time to make the trip.  THEY DO NOT DELIVER, THEY DO NOT TAKE CREDIT CARDS OR CHECKS... BRING YOURSELF AND CASH!

Ok, so while my favorite pizza usually involves sausage or maybe green pepper with sausage (I really love sausage), to our left we have my new favorite pizza on the south side.  Yes this is it, the Italian beef pizza.  You are getting the same great crust, sauce and cheese that you would from any other pizza here at Vito & Nick's BUT... you are also getting extreme saltiness and flavor from Italian beef.  I saw how they make it on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives and they keep true to any other Italian beef maker in Chicago.  It is excellent, the only way I can really describe this is... it as if you are taking a bite of a Portillos beef at the same time you are taking a bite of V&N pizza.  The combination of those two flavors are beyond words and what ends up happening is that you just end up eating way too much of this.  Since it is cut into snack like squares that are extremely tiny you lose track very quickly how many slices you have had and you don't really seem to mind.  Did I have 10 slices?  12?  Whatever who cares this stuff is awesome and I have to continue.

Bottom line is that I can sit here and try to write up in this blog all these adjectives that highlight this pizza and its taste, but here is the cliff notes version - Cheese is prepared perfectly, sauce is well seasoned with great favor, the crust is extremely crispy even after a 20 minute ride (somehow the steam didn't soggy it), and the Italian beef and sausage keep true to the way they should taste in Chicago.  I can't give you any more advice to help you understand this pizza, the Pizza King recommends you just go there and give it a try!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday

  Only one thing comes to my mind when I think of Fat Tuesday... Stuffed pizza from Edwardo's!  It is the fattest pizza in a city known for fat pizza.  I'm not kidding people, I think of pizza on Fat Tuesday, that's just the kind of guy I am.  I mean sure getting some paczkis (polish doughnuts - trust me they are awesome) in Chicago is a pretty good and solid tradition but honestly the sweets aren't the way I roll and I'm not Polish so back to pizza we will go.

Edwardo's History - Started in 1978, hit it big when United Airlines decided to serve personal pan sizes on their domestic first class, coach and some select international flights.  They are well known for their stuffed spinach and their pizzas are made of all natural ingredients.  I've heard that they even used to grown their own vegetables back in the 70s and 80s.  Bored yet???


Seriously this is a picture of the stuffed pizza, this has not been enhanced in any way shape or form, people this is a type of pie that you should have before you fast... hence Fat Tuesday at Edwardo's.  This pizza takes over you the second you dig on it, seriously I don't care how macho you are.  You take your first bite and that gooey cheese slows you down and smacks you with the reality that the pie is in charge.  I love it, on this day I surrendered to the Stuffed Spinach (their specialty) it is unusually good and here are a few reasons why.

1.  It is all natural and honestly you can tell when eating it that these ingredients aren't enriched or refined
2.  Stuffed so full of veggies and cheese, the combo (great Chicago word Kahm-Bow) is awesome
3.  Golden crust... umm, laced with garlic flavor, seriously better than the best garlic breadstick ever
4.  Sauce doesn't over power the pizza the way, this is probably another nod back to the fresh ingredients
5.  You always have leftovers when you get a pie like this
6.  Look at that table cloth!  It should be a rule that whenever you eat stellar pizza it has to be served on the red & white checkered table cloth (when do I blog about the rules???)

All these reasons coupled with the fact that Edwardo's is just blocks away from my condo in the historic Printer's Row neighborhood makes this place a shoo-in for my dinner routine oh and my pizza tour company Chicago Pizza Tours.  I can't wait to see the look on people's face when they sit down and are served their first Stuffed Pizza from Edwardo's.  This place I have been enjoying since my high school days (yes after swim practice) and I plan on continuing to be a loyal customer for years to come.  Cheers to Edwardo's, the home of The Chicago Pizza King's favorite stuffed pizza!
Edwardo's has several locations in Chicago and suburbs so you can locate the closest one using

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents Day

We are in the midst of another celebrated federal holiday in the United States (although I suspect quite a few of you are at the office today)… Presidents Day! Yes Presidents day is observed on the 3rd Monday in February and is a tribute to our 1st president George Washington’s birthday. Why does this pertain to a Chicago Pizza Blog?...?...? Because Chicago’s very own Barack Obama 44th President of the United States is a huge fan of Chicago Style Pizza and most notably the Thin Crust Tavern Style from Italian Fiesta Pizzeria.

To get a better understanding of this hidden gem in Hyde Park, let’s review how their pizza got the presidential seal of approval. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Michelle Obama (Robinson) was introduced to Italian Fiesta Pizzeria by her family. They used it as an incentive for her getting good grades. I of all people can appreciate a pizza reward. Now let’s fast forward to the Obama’s living in Hyde Park with their daughters using the same report card incentive program.

11/4/08 Tuesday night in Chicago’s Grant Park the world witnesses Senator Barack Obama win the role of President of the United States and parties follow! Of all the parties, none are more important to Italian Fiesta Pizzeria than that of the inauguration which took place 1/21/09. Why was that so important to Italian Fiesta??? Because they had a delivery to make in Washington DC!!! That’s right, Patti Harris-Tubbs (co-owner) and her husband flew their ingredients out to Washington and set up with the Ritz Carlton to prepare their Presidential Pizza.

Now, you don’t have to go all the way to the White House to enjoy this Chicago Thin Crust Tavern Style Pie… just Hyde Park for pickup (they do have other locations as well). I sure did and I have been a fan ever since I made the short trip.

Italian Fiesta Pizzeria
1400 E. 47th Street
Chicago, IL 60653

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chicago Auto Show, it's all about Pizza in this town

Well it is official, the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place has kicked off and is now open to the public, the opening ceremonies for the winter olympics will take place tonight, and guys everywhere will be scrambling to get their last minute gift ideas finalized (Valentines Day).  In the midst of all this, I can't help but think of some awesome Chicago pizza.

With all the guests in town, be they from the suburbs to enjoy the show or out of town auto industry workers setting up and promoting their cars there will be a surge for Chicago pizza and here is why.  HELLO it's 2010 and everyone is feeling the affects of the recession.  No longer are the $1000+ dinners for a party of 4 at Joe's Stone Crab House, Keefers or The Chop House.  I'm sorry I love these places, but that is a terrific waste of money and can be spent better elsewhere.  Now while those types of places can provide an outstanding meal and experience, this is Chicago and you don't have to spend a lot to get the same enjoyable restaurant experience (listen up auto execs, spend smarter).

Gino's East... if you need to spend $1000+ on a meal for your corporate account (I get the whole use it or lose it concept) then take more than 3 clients out.  Get the group together and make it an experience, get down to talking business the Chicago way over a couple of pizzas and some vino.  While you are at it go ahead and leave your mark on the wall at Gino's East (I recommend using a sharpie).  Your money will go a lot further and because the atmosphere is relaxed, I find you get more real business done.

If deep dish isn't your thing and you are looking for a smaller more intimate gathering, well then I would recommend either Coalfire (neapolitan coal burning pizza) in the west town neighborhood or Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar (neapolitan wood burning pizza) in Roscoe Village.  Yes get out of the downtown area and visit a neighborhood!  These places do a fantastic job with the pizza and create an upscale but still casual atmosphere.

Families coming down for the show, please don't read above and think this is directed solely for the business men and women of the show, when I was a kid I loved that after a trip downtown, before we headed back, we stopped off for true Chicago pizza whether it was deep dish or thin crust.  It really is an experience and for a family to get out of the city spending under $75 on dinner these days is priceless.  Remember, bring a sharpie and leave your mark at Gino's... look for it the next time you go back, I can't stress this enough.

Bottom line, you don't have to spend a fortune to get that great Chicago experience, get out there and devour the best food that Chicago has to offer.  Pizza Pizza Pizza and enjoy your time here this weekend!