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.

We invite you to post any comments on anywhere you have eaten under our review of that establishment. If you have any questions, please read the FAQs on the sidebar first to see if it has already been answered. Please note that we are at capacity and are not seeking new members. And finally, if you have a place you think we should try, have some other inquiry, or want to send us love/hatemail then please contact us at:


Sunday, August 31, 2008

[Chicago Pizza Interview] Burt Katz

Burt Katz is an icon in the Chicago pizza world. He has owned four different pizzerias: Inferno (RIP), Gulliver's, Pequod's, and the eponymous Burt's Place. When the CPC invaded Burt's Place on July 23, 2008, I had a chance to briefly talk to the man himself.

Burt was not much on pontificating on the meaning of pizza or his place in the pizza world, and he was unwilling to give up any secrets at all.

His most famous contribution to pizzaology was the invention of the caramelized crust. I asked him what gave him the idea, and he shrugged and said something about kids not eating their crust and that their parents would eat the crust with the cheese. If that seems confusing, it is, since the parents ate the crusts without cheese as well. He did confirm that the cheese for caramelization goes on before the pizza is put in the oven, so I got that nugget.

He was even less forthcoming about the ingredients in his pies, answering my question about his sausage supplier with, "Why should I tell you that?" He did say that he goes to a market every morning to buy the vegetables he will cut himself and use on the day's pizzas. He also said he gets his sausage from a small butcher and that the sausage is expensive. When he found the butcher (which he had to do after his previous sausage supplier retired), he told him to make his best sausage and not worry about the price. Katz repeatedly emphasized that his goal was not to make as much money as possible.

That was actually a theme he repeated when discussing what he pays for ingredients, how much he charges for pizza, and why there is only one Burt's place. Both Burt and his wife Sharon told me separately that they have had numerous offers from investors who wanted to franchise Burt's, but he stressed that he makes enough money and that he didn't want to have to worry about monitoring the quality of other peoples' work.

Burt offers fewer toppings than most people and responded to my question about it by rhetorically asking how many toppings people need. He also said that he's told regular customers who ask for different toppings that if they bring the toppings in, he'll put them on a pizza. He even stores jars of artichoke hearts for one customer and puts them on his pizzas.

As for eating pizzas, Burt says he almost never does; not his own and not anybody else's. Sharon eats Burt's pies a couple of times a week, and that's the only pizza she eats.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Home Run Inn Issues YouTube Challenge

Home Run Inn is offering $2500 and various Halloween related prizes to whoever produces the best 90-second YouTube video of a horror film that features Home Run Inn pizza.

The contest lasts from September 1 until October 10.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Lou Malnati's, Second City and Ryan Dempster Join Forces to Fight Cancer

On Monday, September 16, Lou Malnati's will host its 38th Annual Cancer Benefit.

The event, which will be held at Malnati's corporate offices in Northbrook, includes a private show by the funny people at The Second City, featuring Chicago Cubs All-Star pitcher Ryan Dempster.

Tickets, which cost $150 per person, are available here.

[Chicago Pizza News] Uno's On the Way to Bankruptcy?

The parent company of Boston-based Uno's Chicago Grill is going to miss an interest payment this week on some bonds. That is not a good thing. S&P, which has already lowered Uno's bond rating will lower it again to "default" if Uno's goes through with it's plan.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Tragedy Strikes Chicago Pizzeria

Nonna's Italian Pizzeria, the newish Old Town pizzeria that took top honors in two categories at the Chicago Pizza Fest earlier this summer, was hit by tragedy over the weekend.

Jason Mueller, 29, was the manager at Nonna's and helped open the establishment. Early Sunday morning/very late Saturday night, Mueller drove a friend home in her car to the Near West Side and was killed while trying to hail a cab on Grand Ave.

[Chicago Pizza News] Free Pizza*

Purgatory Pizza is offering the world a great deal. On September 1, if you go to the Wrigleyville eatery and sign over your soul, the good people at Purgatory Pizza will give you a free slice!

Personally, my soul is worth less than a slice, so I'll make the exchange without hesitation. But for those who are hesitant, know that anyone who signs over their soul on September 1 can get it back if they buy a slice on November 2.

Here's to hoping the unclaimed souls are offered up as toppings on November 3.

[Special Event] Chef's Table at La Madia

The CPC will make an official visit to La Madia soon to review its pizza offerings, but 4 members recently attended the first of a new monthly Chef's Table series. It ended up being such a nice time that I almost hesitate to share the details of future meetings with you given the space limitations, but alas CPC is bigger than me.

La Madia
59 W. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 329-0400

Members of the CPC visited the Chef's Table at La Madia on 8/06/08.

At La Madia, Chef Jonathan Fox has quickly become known for serving wood-fired pizza in a stylish setting. On August 6, 2008, he kicked off a monthly Chef's Table series that will take place at 7:00 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month for the very reasonable cost of $25 per person. The Chef's Table showcases La Madia's pizza and non-pizza offerings in a series of fixed courses, paired with wines and explained by the Chef himself.

The 12 lucky people with reservations for the Chef's Table seat themselves at the Pizza Bar towards the back of the restaurant, where they can look through the glass divider to observe the prep work and watch the pizzas as they bubble in the oven. The August Chef's Table offered 7 courses, some of which were on the current menu and some of which were not. After Chef Fox introduced himself and served some sparkling white wine, we enjoyed the following courses:

  • Locally grown cantelope melon and prosciutto di Parma, served with Pisoni, Lucy, Rosé of Pinot Noir '07
  • Toasted bruschetta of wild mushrooms & sweet onions (recipe)
  • Heirloom Beet Salad, with watercress, salt-roasted almonds, & Gorgonzola, served with Cambria, Chardonnay '05
  • Shaved artichoke pizza with Reggiano Parmesan & garlic
  • Diver Sea Scallops with fingerling potatoes & sweet corn, served with Roco, Pinot Noir '05
  • Triple pepperoni pizza
  • Chocolate Tortino, served with Lindemans Framboise Lambic Ale
This was a lot of quality food and drink for $25. It is clear that care is taken to seek out fresh, high-quality ingredients and put them together in a way that reveals the depth of their flavors. La Madia serves only the best when it comes to Italian staples such as prosciutto and Parmesan. The mushrooms and onions on the bruschetta were great, sitting on a thin layer of whipped ricotta cheese. My favorite dish was the scallop, which was cooked perfectly and went really well with the sweetness of the cooked cherry tomatoes, balanced out with the potatoes and corn.

Obviously, our main overall focus was the pizza. We'll do an official review soon, but the artichoke and pepperoni pizzas included in the chef's menu were great. The shaved artichoke went really well with the shaved Parmesan, and the pepperoni heaped on the pizza was nice and spicy. After dinner, when Fox talked to us about his pizza and noticed us salivating at his description of the house-made fennel sausage, he very generously whipped up a sausage pizza for us on the house. Readers, we can be bought, but when I say the sausage pizza was fantastic, it is not just a reflection of the chef's generosity.

I'm glad we had a chance to try the sausage pizza because I think it gave us a better sense of what La Madia pizza is all about, since the artichoke pizza does not have tomato sauce, and the triple pepperoni is so dominated by the pepperoni. As you can see in the photos, the pizza dough is covered with a very thin layer of sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. The cheese is spread out very generously, and then the toppings are added evenly before it all goes into the oven for about 3 minutes. We noticed that the pie-makers would lift each pepperoni-topped pizza up and hold it close to the top of the oven before removing it, giving it a nice crispness without burning it. The crust is evenly cooked and it is soft rather than stiff, but it does not get soggy. Or at least we we did not leave it on the plate long enough for that to happen.

Chef Fox and his business partner, Tony, were very friendly and took time to explain how they came up with the concept for their restaurant. They met while they were both involved in the business side of the restaurant industry, and Fox's background as a chef and long-standing passion for Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza led to the creation of La Madia. Fox shared that his favorite pizza outside Chicago is Da Michele in Naples, and La Madia is clearly inspired by the Neopolitan basics, though with less sauce and more toppings.

Overall, we enjoyed the Chef's Table and left the restaurant thinking about making reservations for the September event. But for now, we're looking forward to returning and trying the rest of the pizza.

The Chef's Table with a view of the kitchen

Chef Jonathan Fox prepares the first course: Cantelope and Prosciutto di Parma

Toasted Bruschetta of Wild Mushrooms

Shaved Artichoke Pizza with Shaved Parmesan

Diver Sea Scallop with Fingerling Potatoes and Sweet Corn

The dough is covered in a thin layer of sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes

Triple Pepperoni Pizza

Chocolate Tortino and Framboise Lambic Ale

Bonus Pizza! with House-Made Fennel Sausage

Pizzas are prepared for other diners in the restaurant

The oven

La Madia on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Suggestions Map

Chicago Pizza Club Suggestions Map

Here is where you can submit your recommendations for pizza places the Chicago Pizza Club should visit. Place a comment at the bottom with the pizzeria's name, location, website, your endorsement, and the type of pizza you typically order. Members may also submit places that they have read or heard about that they think should be reviewed.

The google map is open to anyone. You can add a pin to the map by clicking here or on the title above.

View Larger Map

Friday, August 08, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Come for the Pizza, Stay for the Gambling

Salerno-Pincente Ristorante opened in December, but since it's in Hodgkins, word did not reach Chicago until today. The restaurant, which was opened by relatives of the owners of Salerno's, offers pizza as well as a full Italian menu.

What makes this place special is that under the same roof, but accessible through a separate entrance, is Trackside OTB, an off-track betting facility. There, you can order pizza while watching horsies run fast on the 60 high definition televisions. So if you know your ponies, or have good luck, you can easily win enough money to cover the cost of your pizza.

Renaldi's Pizza [Meeting #63]

Renaldi's Pizza (map)
2827 North Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657

CPC invaded Renaldi's on 8/7/08.

I remember hearing from the NYC types that I went to college with that since the pizza in this cow-town was so bad, they had given up eating it. A few of the more resourceful ones, and by that I mean financially, were able to drive around to get out of Hyde Park and discovered Renaldi's pizzeria. They claimed this was as close to a true NYC slice as they could find in town. And for more authenticity, it was even on Broadway!!

10 years later, I finally got around to trying this place with CPC. I have had many pizzas in New York and a good number have been outstanding. I was hoping Renaldi's could stay in the same league as some of the better ones I had tried. Renaldi's is a small storefront along a busy and bustling section of Broadway. It has a few tables available for outdoor seating, but most of the seating is inside. When you first arrive, you notice a counter where you can order pizza by the slice. Past this is the seating for people that prefer to eat a whole pizza or Renaldi's non-pizza offerings.

I don't want to give too much away, but the highlight was sitting at the center circular table with a lazy Susan on it. The server came by and we quickly ordered the following 5 pies:

  • Thin crust with zucchini and onions
  • Thin with capicola
  • Pan pizza with meatballs
  • Stuffed pizza with sausage
  • Sicilian Spingione with artichokes
The pies came out in a reverse order, with the thin crust pies coming last. The Sicilian Spingione pizza was cooked in a pan, but square-shaped. It was a little denser than their "fluffy" description, but I really had a hard time telling much of a difference between it and both the pan and stuffed. The pan pizza crust was lighter than most crusts and had a nice char on some pieces and just flat out burned areas on others. The stuffed was not truly stuffed. It had a very small cheese layer on top. What was readily apparent to us was that the sausage and capicola were poor products. I thought the meatball had the best flavor of our meat toppings and most people agreed. The anticipated NYC thin crust pizza was a huge disappointment. The crust was the best part, it had the same lightness as the other pies and had a nice texture. The sauce and toppings were so bland that I'll let the members post their thoughts on them. I just don't want to open up my thesaurus and look synonyms of bland and boring.

Dan pointed out that the sausage was undercooked throughout the pizza. We pointed this out to the server who said he could offer the table one free beer for our inconvenience. When we told him this was unacceptable, he went back to the manager who took it off our bill. Needless to say, there were leftovers and we left them there but took the bad taste in our mouths with us.

Petey gives Renaldi's a 3.2/10

Chand hangs on Dan's every word...

The Meatball pizza...

Piping hot...

Beware the sausage...

The Capicola up close...

Zuchinni Pizza...

El Presidente models his new t-shirt...

Where it went down...

Renaldi's Pizza Pub on Urbanspoon