Now I have lived here in the Chicagoland area for a bit shy of 8 years. Half of this time was spent within the city limits and the other half in the Fox Valley hub of Naperville/Aurora. If there is anything I can take away from my experience thus far, it is that we are a passionate bunch of people.
From sports to local politics, everything from how you wear your coat and scarf to what kind of sneakers you wear on the train, Chicagoans can talk your ear off, man. That is our charm. I tell ya, we sure can chat up a tourist into becoming a local in no-time. Mention the weather while waiting in line at Whole Foods Market, Mariano’s or Trader Joe’s or even at the bank and you are bound to get an earful for much longer than you anticipated.
So where does this all lead me to? Well my friends… food… duh?!
Pizza, to be more specific, is the one thing Chicagoans have in common and it is also the one thing that Chicagoans have uncommon.
Sure we all love pizza. (Love could be a right understatement of a word in this case). But what kind, what restaurant, what neighbourhood… it is endless. A few common establishments are the first few out of the mouths of city-dwellers. The likes of Gino’s East, Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s… Peoquod’s, Marcello’s Father & Son et cetera. Connie’s, Home Run Inn and Nancy’s for the suburbanites…
Then the crust… cornbread, flakey, thin, deep dish, cheese-crusted… these are all factors of which establishment you are going to decide to
have a baby gain a few pounds with. I have not even begun with the toppings and how you want it sliced. Oh brother…
Do not get me wrong folks. I have my go-to comfort pizza. You mention Gino’s East and I can throw-down a large Deep Dish with Four Cheeses like I was told this would be my final meal as a human being. That cornbread crust, those cheeses, that sauce… oh slap ya mama and call me Susan Sarandon. That deep dish is The Pizza to me.
With the exception of Peoquod’s in Lincoln Park, I have had the pleasure of trying out all the aforementioned pizza pies (Mmm… the thin crust from Marcello’s Father & Son… goodness). For the everyday, non-touristy, non-gut-busting pizza I would have to hand the trophy to Lou’s.
What it comes down to for me, is the simplicity. Mid-December, I met a good friend for dinner with her mother who was visiting from France. She is a family-friend and someone I regard as more of my sister here in Chicago. We decided to meet at Lou Malnati’s as we are both heavy foodies and I have not had a chance to try Lou’s out until that night. We ordered their Chicago Deep Dish with Tomato and Spinach in a sort of Margherita-style.
It was wonderful, it was simple, it was not heavy in the least bit. This pizza pie had the right amount of crust and filling for a dinner amongst family.
…and that is where I will leave you. When you have already found what sets the benchmark of pizzas, do not try to beat it. Try something outside the box, something less intimidating. You may get a surprise that earns a place in your list…. or stomach… or take-home bag for leftovers tomorrow.
But wait? What about the home chef? Well folks, at home I decided to take my pie tart shells out and stuff them with some pizza dough I picked up at my local Whole Foods Market. The toppings were inspired by my visit to Lou Malnati’s as well as flavours that my fiancé and I quite fancy in a pizza. One with mozzarella, tomato and basil and the other with some pesto, mozzarella, basil and feta cheese. Success.