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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Calo Ristorante [Meeting #55]

Calo Ristorante
5343 N. Clark St. (GoogleMaps)
(773) 271-7725

CPC invaded Calo Ristorante on 3/27/08.

Calo is a well-regarded Italian restaurant in Andersonville that has been around for 45 years. It is better known for its regular Italian fare, but the pizza has been embraced by many. According to the restaurant's website, in 2005, the Sun-Times identified Calo's as the place to go for Chicago pizza. The CPC had to do some fact-checking.

Eight members of the Chicago Pizza Club arrived at Calo on a sleet-filled evening, including three new members who are sure to debut on this site soon (or else they may quickly be former members). Calo has two large dining rooms, both of which had dimmed lights supplemented by candles on each table. The heavy wood tables, cloth napkins, painted murals on the wall, and framed photographs and sketches of Italy were all nice and made it clear that we were not in a typical pizzeria. Still, none of us were tempted by such menu items as Calo's famous gnocchi; we were there to try the pizza.

Calo offers three types of pie: thin, pan and stuffed pizza. We tried all three. At 7:58, we placed our order: a thin medium with goat cheese and onions, a thin medium with giardiniera, a large pan with canadian bacon and garlic, and a large stuffed with sausage. At 8:13, the stands to hold the pizzas were delivered. About 20 minutes later, four very attractive pizzas were placed before us.

The thin crust with goat cheese was very good. There was an ample supply of both toppings. The onions were particularly noteworthy as they were long thin strips of onion that had a slight sweetness to them that played well with the rich goat cheese. The sauce, which seemed a bit too sweet on the stuffed pizza, was fine on the goat cheese and onion pie. The crust was very thin, almost cracker-like. The taste of the crust was fine, though nothing special, but the texture of it held up well.

The thin pizza with giardiniera had the same sturdy, well-textured crust. The sauce and mozzarella were fine - there was plenty of both. But the crust, sauce and cheese were no match, flavor-wise, for the giardiniera. For those unfamiliar with Chicago-style giardiniera, know that it's not the same as the Italian antipasto. This is a much spicier local treat that is commonly put on Italian beef (another Chicago specialty), and occasionally offered as a pizza topping. I don't know if Calo makes there's or who they buy it from, but this was some spicy stuff. It was good, but it overwhelmed the pizza, which is probably not a good thing. However, the goat cheese on the other thin crust proved to be a very good follow-up to the giardiniera pie as it restored sensitivity to the taste buds.

The pan pizza, which came with garlic and canadian bacon, was another example of too much of a good thing. I love garlic. There was so much garlic on this pizza that I could not taste the canadian bacon. This was not garlic powder or minced garlic. This was a lot of coursely shopped garlic cloves on the pizza. The taste was very good - but I couldn't taste the bacon or the sauce - so basically this seemed like outstanding cheesy garlic bread. I would have been perfectly happy with that except the bread part, so essential to a pan pizza, was pretty much flavorless and fairly dry. It seems they use the exact same dough for the thin and thick crust, and that particular mixture of flower, egg, yeast and water works much better for the thin version.

The stuffed sausage pizza was very good. It has the same dry crust as the pan pizza, but that was less of a hindrance due to the amount of sauce. Speaking of the sauce, it was noticeably sweeter here than normal. It wasn't a bad thing, it was just different. The sausage, of which there was plenty, was very good. And while, as is always the case with stuffed pizza, there was a significant amount of cheese, this was definitely a very thin pizza by stuffed pizza standard - I'd guess about 3/4 of an inch thick.

Overall, I thought Calo's offered better than average pizzas. If I were to go back, I might get a thin crust pie to share as an appetizer, but I'd prefer to get something other than pizza as a main course. But if someone really wanted to just have Calo's pizza for dinner, I wouldn't complain.

Petey gives Calo Ristorante a 6.2/10.

Chicago Pizza Club and newbies...

Garlic and Canadian Bacon pan pizza...

Goat Cheese and Onions thin crust...

Sausage stuffed pizza...

Giardiniera thin crust...

Where it went down...

Calo Ristorante on Urbanspoon


  1. This pizza was pretty good, though it was not quite memorable enough to remove the stain of last week's Utter Crapulence meeting. They had a wide variety of toppings, all of which were spread generously on each pie. My favorite topping by far was the big chunks of garlic cloves in the pan pizza. I love garlic and whoever was chopping it up back in the kitchen clearly does, too. The goat cheese was nice, too. And while you expect giardiniera to be at least a little overwhelming, that pizza was a bit overladen with jalapenos for my taste. It was only my second time having this pizza on a topping, and I would have liked to have seen a little more carrot and onion as we had when we ordered this at Home Run Inn. The sauce was good, a bit sweet. The crust worked well with the thin crust, but was a bit too dry for the pan and stuffed pizzas. The cheese was fine but forgettable. 6.8.

  2. My comments are all in the main post. I give Calo a 6.5.

  3. I was present for the Pizza Bianco excursion, but this was my first official CPC meeting. I urge everyone to take my comments with a grain of salt, because that visit to Bianco seems to have nearly ruined most other pizza for me -- nothing compares, but that will be my cross to bear for a few months. That said, the CPC experience was a 9, but the pizza just wasn't very good. The goat cheese thin crust was mealy and fell apart too easily and had too much of a sweet taste. The onions were sliced too long, and were over- or under-cooked so they tasted like crunchy noodles. The pizza functioned mostly as a salve for the overly spiced giardiniera pizza, which I also felt was subpar -- too much tang and spice, not enough real flavor. The stuffed sausage was solid, though it probably could've used more cheese and more salt. In fact, when I think back to it, if I had smashed two slices of it together, it may have been truly great stuffed pizza. My favorite was definitely the garlic pan pizza -- I call it the garlic pan pizza and not the "garlic/canadian bacon pan pizza" because the garlic was so strong that I didn't even taste canadian bacon until I hit a big chunk of it on the last bite. Still, a very good pie. 5.7

  4. I give this place a solid 6. By far the thin crust with the goat cheese and onions was my favorite, though nowhere near as good of a thin crust pizza as Vito & Nick's, this pie was pretty impressive. I even enjoyed the giardiniera pizza, but was a little disappointed in the pan pizza, the garlic was just too strong. It was enjoyable for a bite or two, but after that it just became too much, and I was really disappointed that I couldn't taste the canadian bacon at all. The crust did hold up pretty well, but could've use a little more flavor, in the end it was just kind powdery and bland, especially on the edges of the pan pizza where it got a little overcooked. So overall, not a bad experience but far from a mind-blowing one as well. I would definitely eat their pizza again (at least the goat-cheese and onion one) but would probably be more inclined to try out their Italian fare in the future.

  5. The place itself gave off a dark yet romantic vibe. It would be a great date place but I'm not sure if I would strongly suggest stopping by for some pizza. The deep dish was by far the thinist deep dish I have seen; which in and of itself is not a bad thing. The sausage was bland and the sauce had little flavor. The crust I thought was pretty good. I do not like overly thick crust (which this was not) and enjoyed the fact that the crust did not fall appart once the slice was picked up. The thin crusts pizzas were pretty good, but I was well overcome by the presence of jalapenos. That did not stop me from having the majority of that pizza though as I love spicy things. (I was hurtin' in the mornin' the though). The pan pizza was full of garlic which is great, but it obsured the canadian bacon which must have left its flavor in Canada cuz I did could not find it. Lastly the goat cheese and onion pizza was a popular one at the table and it has two of my favorite ingredients but I was not a fan of the stringy white onion. the crust on the thin pizza was good. Not cracker like but could stand on its own if picked up by hand. The cheese on all the pizzas was nice and gouey but was not anything special. Not bad, but could do better. Overall I give Calo's a 6/10.

  6. Couldn't go so my scores don't mean anything, but I did have leftovers of the garlic and canadian bacon thick and the jalapeno thin and goat cheese thin.

    Since I seemed to get all jalapeno slices, i can assume these were left over and no one wanted them. For good reason. All I tasted was jalapenos.

    The goat cheese pizza was ok, but again, when reheated all i tasted was goat cheese. Better than only tasting jalapenos, but still too one-dimensional.

    And finally, the thick pizza was all dough. I didn't even know there was canadian bacon until i got so tired of eating bad dough that I lifted the cheese drape off and saw the bacon. Again, my taste buds only detected garlic and undercooked dough.

    I guess that if I had to be working during a meeting, this was a good one to choose.

  7. I liked this place. I was a little thrown off by the atmosphere. It is an actual restaurant. People can go on dates there. People don't go to Albano's on dates. So, having 8 of us show up in our super hot CPC T-shirts ready for some pizza might have thrown the place and some of its patrons off a bit. Oh well. We had a job to do!

    GARLIC = YUM. It was fabulous. They weren't kidding around with that garlic. I found whole cloves on mine. This pizza is a true garlic lover's delight! The crazy giardiniera pizza had me seriously guessing the credibility of our club and why we would order such a thing. I hope we've learned our lesson. It was nasty. BUT, a good follow up to the nasty pepper pizza was the goat cheese. It was a sure palate cleanser. ...but again, you better like goat cheese, and lots of it! The stuffed was great too, and the only one that wasn't overwhelmed with delish toppings!

    The toppings really stole the show at Calo. Atmosphere was a nice plus, but we only judge the pizza up in here, so I gotta give this place a 6.8.