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