After spending many hours in the kitchen this week, Chicago-area residents are undoubtedly ready to kick back and order pizzas this weekend, and NBC 5’s Food Guy Steve Dolinsky has a quartet of suggestions.
All four serve up thin-crust pizzas, with two located within Chicago’s city limits and two others in the western suburbs.
New options for tavern-style thing crust are popping up around town, but now there’s a new Neapolitan-inspired spot out west, where they’re making their mozzarella in-house, plus a New York style slice joint that will satisfy even the most jaded ex-pat from Brooklyn.
Middlebrow Bungalow (tavern style only on Tuesdays)
2840 W. Armitage Ave.
If it’s a Tuesday night in Logan Square, that means thin and crispy tavern style pies at Bungalow by Middlebrow – a well-regarded micro-brewery that also makes terrific artisan pies the rest of the week. The owners’ love of tavern thin got to the point where they had to offer the pies – cut into smaller-than-normal squares, but oh-so perfect with a housemade beer.
3037 N. Clark St.
In Lake View, Zazas is one of the latest – and best examples – of a New York style slice joint.
“I really enjoyed the thin, light, airy texture. I just thought the culture was cool and the pizza is delicious, so why not start messing around with this style,” said owner Brett Nemec.
Grandma-style pies – a crispier, thinner version of a Sicilian – are rarely seen in Chicago, but are executed with confidence. The regular slices are presented in the case, then reheated to order just like on the East Coast. But Nemec brushes the edges with olive oil and sprinkles them with sea salt for an extra flavor boost.
207 N. Cass Ave., Westmont
Fried Chicken Ice Cream Pizza
964 W. 31stst St.
In Westmont, Uncle Pete’s is now Kim’s Uncle – the next chapter from the team behind Bridgeport’s Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream. But this tavern style differs slightly from their version in the city.
“We just brought our recipe down from Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream; pretty much the same recipe, the only difference is the oven,” said owner Bradley Shorten.
There are less than a dozen Faulds ovens in the region, and Shorten says it makes a huge difference, creating a crispy crust that reminds him of his childhood, eating pizzas in the neighborhood.
“I think it cooks better. I think that’s one of the big reasons we wanted this place, was the Faulds oven, this is like the little gem here, it’s perfect,” he said.
Lantern Pizza Co.
1420 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove
Neo-Neapolitan pizzas are baked in less than two minutes in the gas-fired oven at the new Lantern Pizza Company in Downers Grove, the brainchild of a former McDonald’s corporate chef who fell in love with the style in Italy.
“The dough comes out, you stretch the dough, you top the dough. You cook it in an oven for two minutes and it’s out immediately,” said owner Dan Coudreaut.
Coudreaut goes several steps beyond the average joint, making fresh mozzarella by heating curds with water, then hand pulling and stretching until they form stark white blocks. Sometimes he even smokes them.
“In order to have that freshness, I knew we had to make it in-house,” he said.
Homemade pesto is added to his tomato sauce and the dough is fermented a bit longer than the average wood fired pie. The result is an evenly blistered pizza with a simultaneous burst of acidity and richness.
“I think the best experience is coming out, right at the table with you, but 50% of our business, people do take it to go,” said Coudreaut.
To cap off, a recommendation: you can get any of these pizzas to-go, but please, please, for the sake of the pizza and to truly understand and appreciate what the pizzamaker went through to create it, Dolinsky urges you to eat it immediately, as it was intended, just a few minutes out of the oven. The difference in quality is massive.