Friday, September 10, 2010

Deep Dish Done Right

Pizano’s Pizza
864 North State St.
Chicago, IL
Visited August 19, 2010

Beer Selection: Peroni, Old Style and 312 are the only interesting selections you can’t find at home

Food: Quintessential Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

An overflow crowd of people at a joint can mean the food is really good.

Or it can just mean you’re at Applebee’s on kids-eat-free night.

Definitely NOT good.

I thought about this nuance as I approached the Rush Street version of Giordano’s, one of Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza chains.

Just trying to get in the door to talk to the hostess was like enduring a trip to the DMV on the 30th of the month.

As I waited on the Rush Street sidewalk in the line out the revolving door for the privilege of finding out from the hostess how long the wait will be for a the privilege of sitting down (turns out, one and a half hours), I tried to recollect another Chicago pizza joint I had patronized a few years earlier.

I didn’t remember the name, the location or even which street it was on, but after enduring the tourist-crazed soccer-hooligan-like mob scene in the foyer of Giordano’s, I set out to find it.

Sure enough, a few wrong turns and a bit of aimless wandering paid off as I spotted the green and red sign down State Street.


This was the place.

If Giordano’s was like feeding time at the Cook County Jail, Pizano’s was like dining in Tony Soprano’s grandmother’s family room.

It’s a down-right cozy place with a lively bar stacked with locals cheering on the White Sox on the flat screen TVs, surrounded by four or five small tables up front. The back room was just a quiet nook with five small tables dimly lit by votive candles.

A mural of Chicago street scenes along with happy little tomatoes, green peppers and garlic decorated the back wall.

Sure, there was a 45 minute wait here too, but at least you don’t feel like cattle in a pen at feeding time.

Pizano’s has won awards for the best thin crust pizza in the city. But it is owned by Rudy Malnati, Jr.

You see, Rudy Malnati, Sr. is the guy credited with inventing Chicago-style deep dish pizza in 1943 at Pizzeria Uno.

So there was no question what I was ordering.

Deep dish, baby. With pepperoni, onion and Italian sausage. And about three or four long neck Old Styles.

While Chicago-style pizza has its detractors (I believe SuitOchoCinco called it poorly constructed meat lasagna poured over cardboard), those curmudgeons need to try Pizano’s before rendering a final verdict on Chicago’s second most famous export. (At least deep dish pizza isn’t going to bankrupt the country.)

Pizano’s version is the way deep dish pizza should be. Crispy toasted pepperoni discs, diced onions, thick spicy chunks of sausage under a blanket of lots and lots of mozzarella and tomato.

But it’s Pizano’s crust that proves that deep dish doesn’t have to mean a mouthful of undercooked dough. Pizano’s is crisp, buttery and – dare I say – delicate.

Delicate? On a deep dish pizza?

Yeah. The crust ends up being the perfect compliment to all that deliciousness piled on top, rather than the distraction it so often becomes in the hands of an amateur -- or a pro with a three block waiting list.

And as “delicate” in texture as it is, the crust still manages to serve its primary function of maintaining the structural integrity of the pizza. After the first bite or two, you can actually put your knife and fork down and pick the pizza up – just like God intended.

Just try and do something like that with one of those tourist Chicago pizzas! You’d be wearing it on your suit.

And I believe that is the key to what makes Pizano’s pizza so good. You can tell they actually take pride in crafting it.

This place isn’t about feeding a mob of sweaty, hungry tourists.

It’s a more personalized and serene way to enjoy one of Chicago’s great traditions -- like being invited over to some Italian grandmother’s home for Sunday dinner.

And just think, when you come to Pizano’s, you don’t even have to write a thank you note.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!
Pizano's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

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