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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ranalli's [Meeting #60]

Ranalli's on Clark
2301 N. Clark St. Map
(773) 244-2300

CPC invaded Ranalli's on 6/25/08.

Ranalli's is a family-owned Italian restaurant that first opened on Lincoln Avenue in the 1970s. In addition to the current Lincoln Park location on Clark that we visited, Ranalli's also has restaurants in Andersonville and on Montrose. Each location offers a variety of pizza styles in addition to standard Italian fare, with a few Mexicanish staples mixed in.

The indoor dining room of the Clark Street location seats about 100 and is set up as a typical Lincoln Park bar/restaurant. Because our visit took place on a lovely summer evening, we elected to dine on the outdoor patio facing Clark to accommodate member Fred. We were joined by enough others to order all five styles of pizza on Ranalli's menu. We also took advantage of a couple of notable offers. With respect to the pizza, you can order any number of toppings and all the toppings after the fourth are free. You can also get a bucket of six beers for the price of five, which were priced pretty reasonably even without the bucket.

We ordered the following pies:

  • Super thin wheat crust pizza with mozzarella, cheddar, swiss, provolone
  • Thin crust I Heart Mexico pizza
  • Pan pizza with capicola, mortadella, genoa salami
  • Stuffed pizza with basil and tomatoes
  • Double Decker pizza with sausage, bacon, garlic, tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms, onions
Our server brought out all the pies at the same time, about 45 minutes after we placed our order. No one noticed a difference between the thin and the super thin, or between the regular crust and the wheat crust. The crust on the thin and the thicker varieties was crisp and very dry. It had very little flavor but did its job holding all the other elements together. The sauce was very basic tomato sauce. The mozzarella on the pan and stuffed pizzas was gooey and melty similar to fresh mozzarella, though not as flavorful.

Although the reviews reflect fairly divergent opinions among our members as to whether the pizza as a whole passed muster, most agreed that the toppings made Ranalli's stand out a bit. The variety was excellent, and most of the toppings themselves were pretty good. The various pork products we tried won't be mistaken for having come from your favorite Italian deli, but pork is pork, and pork tastes good.

The thin, pan, and stuffed pizzas are in line with what you typically find at a pedestrian Chicago pizza place, but I was not sure what to expect from the Double Decker. It is, in fact, exactly what it sounds like: a thin layer of crust topped with sauce/cheese/toppings, followed by another thin layer of crust topped with sauce/cheese/toppings. It also had a very thick circle of bread/crust around the edges. The crust was no more remarkable than with any of the other pizzas, but we were impressed that the layer of crust in the middle of the pizza stayed crispy. And the wild toppings party ordered up for the Double Decker made each bite more interesting than most of the other pies.

The Mexican pizza was different from taco pizzas we have tried in the past. This pizza seemed to have more beans than usual, and it had no tomatoes or lettuce. Or sauce, as far as I could tell. Also, don't order it if you're not willing to get three to four jalapenos in every bite.

The cost came out to $13/person for those abstaining from fun, I mean beverages, and $16/person for the rest of us. Note that Ranalli's will validate your parking in the adjacent pay lot for up to 90 minutes.

Overall, I'm not sure why some of our harsher judges were so disappointed. I did not think any aspect of any pizza stood out as bad, though the failure of the crust, sauce, and most of the cheese to stand out at all is why I found the pizza a bit humdrum. Kate-D. gives Ranalli's a 5.5.

Petey gives Ranalli's 4.9375 / 10.

Dan and Fred enjoying their post-pizza afterglow...

Where it went down...

Ranalli's on Urbanspoon


  1. I hadn't been to Ranalli's since high school and tonight's meal reminded me why. The crust was dry and devoid of flavor and the sauce was way too sweet. The toppings were fine, though the sausage had a bit too much fennel for my liking. I did like the texture of the double decker. We overloaded it with toppings and the moisture from the toppings and sauce actually balanced the dry crust well. The four cheese pizza was good, but that's because it had a lot of cheese and a thin crust and little to no sauce.

    I give it a 4 thanks to the toppings.

  2. Most people associate Ranalli's with late-night delivery and the pizza would've definitely tasted better being drunk at 3am. What stood out was that each pizza lacked enough sauce or the sauce had dried. The crust was typical low-grade--heavy, dry, and a cardboard-like texture. The meats in the genoa salami, capiocolla and bologna deep dish were indistinguishable. The mexican pizza as usual disappoints, this time because there was scant salsa and the spicy jalepenos dominated. The double decker had a better texture but I was unable to notice two pizzas in it. I suppose they get some points for being better late-night pizza than Pizza Metro. Ranalli's is yet another example why you shouldn't expect a place that offers everything from chicken fajita omelets to baby-back ribs to have high quality pizza.


  3. I'm kinda suprised by the low scores so far (but on the other hand, Dan does make out with dogs, so there's no accounting for his tastes...), I, for one, enjoyed this pizza. The Double Decker pizza was a nice concept and the ingredients were all tasty, the thin crust pizza was average but the four cheese combination was quite tangy and delicious. I also enjoyed the stuffed and pan pizzas, the crust was (as noted elsewhere) a little bland and the cheese was average (except on the four cheese pizza) but the sauce and toppings were pretty solid in my opinion. I give this place a 6.

  4. I'm surprised by the low ratings too. I liked the sauce, and although the crust wasn't amazing, the thin crusts did not get soggy, even in the middle. I liked the Italian meats on the stuffed pizza. The I <3 Mexico pizza had a nice kick to it, thanks to the jalapenos. I give this place a 6.0.

  5. First of all, no one yells at El Presidente!

    On to the pizza, put me in the group that's slightly surprised by some of the lower scores. Ranalli's is not world class pizza but it's decent.

    The double decker pizza, with two layers of crust, was my favorite pie. The layers of crust were distinct and gave it a nice crunchiness in the middle with plenty of cheese. We took advantage of their offer to give you free ingredients after the fourth one. We lacked the courage to just flat out order an"everything" pizza, but looking back at it it would have tasted horribly.

    The thin pizzas were fine - average. The four cheese was tangy and I'm not really sure where that came from. The mexican pizza was dominated by the jalapenos to its detriment.

    The mortadella, capicolla, salami stuffed pie was just an orgy of meat. I disagree with some members that felt they could not distinguish the different meats. They were easily distinguishable, of mediocre quality, and pig products makes any pizza better. It had a lot of cheese, but that's what you expect from a stuffed pie.

    Overall, it's above average. My final score is 5.5

  6. I should have known when I first bit into my pizza and burned the roof of my mouth that it was going to go downhill from there. But I was so hungry after waiting about an hour I would've eaten anything...

    As the vegetarian of the group, I partook in the mozzarella, tomato and basil (caprese) pizza and the four cheese pizza with cheddar, swiss, provolone and mozzarella. The combination of those four cheeses on a pizza made for something unique and interesting on the palette. The strong cheese flavor with tomato and crispy thin crust felt like a big open faced grilled cheese sandwich.
    I have to admit, the four cheese pizza tasted good until I realized that it was low quality cheese and nothing special. After two pieces, I began to feel sick.

    The "caprese" pizza we ordered was a pan version. It had a rather pretty and thick crust, the Ranalli's famous folded one, but it left very little room for pizza. The crust lacked character and flavor. If you're going to have so much crust, why not make it really good?

    Overall, my rating is a solid 4. It was tolerable and wouldn't eat it again unless I was hungry.

  7. I agree with the general sentiment that the sauce was too sweet and one dimensional. The crust on the pan pizza fared better. Despite not having much flavor, the semi- dry biscuit consistency of the crust was enhanced by its warm pizza sauce filling. The sweet sauce with its chunks of garlic transformed an otherwise bland crust, into a sufficiently moist and satisfyingly wholesome, inside/out breadstick experience. Another classic example of two losers making a winner.

    A 5, courtesy of this awkward, yet successful, pas de deux.

  8. It's hard for me to assess this pizza, given that it took so long for them to bring it out, I was basically starving when I took my first bite. I started with the double-decker, which had great texture and some very fresh toppings, though slightly rubbery cheese. The crust was too bulky, almost like a stale croissant. Pretty flavorful, though. After eating that huge slice, I was in my right mind again and able to assess quality. The stuffed meat pizza was just OK. The meats were salty, but the sauce tasted like the dipping sauce you get when you order Little Caesar's crazy bread. The Mexican was terrible, so jalapeno-centric that I couldn't taste anything. I enjoyed the veggie pan pizza, nice fresh tomatoes, though again rubbery cheese and french bread-thick crust. The four-cheese was tasty, but not good enough to draw me back to this place. The outdoor seating area was nice and the place has a good vibe. But I give the pizza itself a 5.