This is the blog and public record of the Chicago Pizza Club. We eat a lot of pizza and share our thoughts on it as well as post any relevant pizza news we come across.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Trattoria Roma [Meeting #44]

Trattoria Roma
1535 N. Wells St. (GoogleMaps)
(312) 664-7907

CPC invaded Trattoria Roma on 8/06/07.

The Pizza Club had gone dark for nearly a month when an email went out on August 5, 2007 announcing a meeting the very next night at Trattoria Roma. Pizza Clubbers responded well and an official meeting convened on a rainy Monday evening in Old Town.

Trattoria Roma came highly recommended by the website, 10best.com, which listed it among the top 10 pizza restaurants in Chicago. After the Pizza Club meeting was over, I cannot disagree with that assessment – the place definitely did not disappoint.

Trattoria Roma is a small, crowded restaurant that would probably bring back memories of a neighborhood restaurant in Rome if I had ever been to such a place. The one time I was in Rome, I spent most of my limited budget on gelato and museums/ruins, and I visited no residential neighborhoods aside from the one where the youth hostel was located. I digress.

The restaurant had our table waiting and upon being seated, we noticed pizzas on a nearby table and decided we would have to get one pizza per person as each pie is about 9 inches across. We got a Margherita, a Quattro Formaggi (blue, swiss, mascarpone and mozzarella), a Pizza della Casa (sausage, onion and mascarpone), and 2 Quattro Stagione (prosciutto, artichoke, mushroom, olive and egg). We also had a couple of bottles of tasty red wine (all wine is half price on Mondays and Tuesdays).

All pizzas are on a delicious thin crust. As cooky-monster states in the notes, the crust is thicker than traditional gourmet pizzas. Given the flavorful toppings, the extra dough in the crust creates a nice balance.

The Margherita was unlike any margherita pizza that any of the members had ever had. It tasted like a cheese pizza. It was good; it just wasn’t a margherita – too much cheese. As we would soon find out, the pizza chef loves cheese.

We ordered two Quattro Stagiones because we wanted to make sure that people got to try more than one topping. A quattro stagione, Italian for four seasons, typically is divided into quarters with each quarter having a single different topping. Trattoria Roma’s version had five toppings and they were all mixed together. That the egg was raw was a pit of a surprise, but good ingredients, good cheese, and a good crust made a delicious pizza.

I thought the Quattro Formaggi was excellent, but the combination of the chef’s love of quantities of cheese and the fact that two of the four cheeses (blue and mascarpone) are particularly heavy, made the pizza a challenge for some to enjoy. Personally, I share the chef’s apparent belief that there really is no such thing as too much cheese.

The Pizza della Casa was Trattoria Roma at its peak. The dollops of moscarpone balanced the delicious sausage and an outstanding crust ably supported the flavorful combination. I really liked all of the pizzas, but I thought this one was unquestionably the best.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of pizza at Trattoria Roma. I am predisposed to assuming the worst about Old Town restaurants, but since this place predates the Disnefication of the neighborhood, I should have held no such bias. Regardless, the service was good, the pizza was excellent (a new addition to my personal list of top pies in the city), and the prices were right (about $10 each). I will return again soon and hopefully get to taste some of the ricotta cheesecake made by the owner's grandmother (in very limited quantities).

Petey gives Trattoria Roma a 7.7/10.

Quattro Stagione

Pizza della Casa

Some stragglers...

A sad sight...

Where it went down...

Trattoria Roma on Urbanspoon

Gino's East [Meeting #43]

Gino's East
162 E. Superior St. (GoogleMaps)
(312) 266-3337

CPC invaded Gino's East on 7/11/07.

We made our way to this Chicago Pizza Establishment on a balmy July day and found a line that stretched out to the street. We chuckled at the suggestion of having to wait and walked towards the hostess to inform her that the Chicago Pizza Club was present and ready to be seated. The line moved pretty quickly and waiting let us get our thoughts together anyways.

Gino's was started in 1966 in its original location downtown. It was started by a group of friend's, none of whom were named Gino's. It moved to a new location in 2000 before moving back to its original location in 2006. Apparently, the stench of failure from the Planet Hollywood that occupied the temporary location was strong enough to drive them back home after some reconstruction on the site. To be fair, the River North location remains open for business and it retains the 40 years of graffiti covered booth and walls that were transplanted with the move. It is too big to have the same feel as the "new" original location and we elected to meet at the "new" original location. This chain of pizzerias is not to be confused with The Original Gino's which was on Rush street before finally closing.

OK, on to the pizza. We ordered the following:

  • Deep dish Supreme which includes sausage, onions, peppers, and mushrooms
  • Thin crust vegetarian with asparagus, mushrooms, onions, squash, zucchini, red and green peppers
Prior the arrival of our pizza, we ordered some bruschetta. It was nothing special, but the sauce was nice and chunky and was a sign of things to come. The pizzas took the standard 45 minute time to cook and arrive. The thin crust pizza was overloaded with ingredients. While a vegetarian may enjoy the pizza, I thought it was way too busy with all the toppings and lacked some salt. Additionally, the bounty of high-water content vegetables soaked the crust and made it soggy. Face it, we were all here to sample the big boy - the Deep Dish Supreme. It did not disappoint. It was similarly overloaded with ingredients, but these toppings were on a pie whose crust was able to support them. The sauce was chunky and fresh and the cheese wasn't out of proportion as we have seen in previous outings (thank you, Exchequer). The sausage, crumbled in this case, was very tasty and the crust was made from cornmeal and it held up under the weight of the ingredients. Really, I've always felt that Gino's is the baseline for a true deep dish pizza. The ingredients are fresh, it's a simple design, and I've never had one that is undercooked - it accomplishes its goal of a meal in a slice quite well.

Petey gives Gino's East a score of 7/10.

Deep Dish!

Francisco sportin' a brand new shirt...

For the vegetarians

Where it went down...

Original Gino's East on Urbanspoon