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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Barraco's [Meeting #64; Meeting #17 revisited]

3701 W 95th Street (GoogleMaps)
Evergreen Park, IL

CPC invaded Barraco's on 8/26/08.

The CPC was supposed to go to Roseangela's, a longstanding Southside pizzeria in Evergreen Park. Unfortunately, when the first members arrived, they discovered that Roseangela's is not open on Tuesday's. I probably should have asked about that when I called, but in my defense, they were open on Monday and I've never heard of a pizza place that was open on Monday and closed on Tuesday; that's just weird.

Anyhow, those first arrivals' devotion to pizza was unwavering and they realized that Barraco's was just a mile down the street, so the CPC was still able to enjoy some Southside thin crust pizza.

Barraco's was started in 1980 by members of the Barraco's family. Last time we were at Vito and Nick's, a customer there confidently told us that the Barraco who started Barraco's is cousins with Nick Barraco of Vito & Nick's. I don't know if that's true, but the two restaurants have little in common.

CPC typically goes to the original location of each restaurant it invades. The original Barraco's was so successful that it had to shut down and move to a new location, which is where we went. Since then, Barraco's has added six more locations.

While most Barraco's locations are pizzerias, the one we went to is billed as Barraco's Italian Ristorante. Indeed, the flower beds outside, and cloth tablecloths and napkins inside were not typical of a pizzeria. The Barraco's menu includes typical Italian entrees, pastas, barbecue, fish (halibut at a pizzeria?), sandwiches and hamburgers (including a pizza burger that we did not try).

The last page of the menu featured Barraco's wide variety of pizzas. Like Vito & Nick's, Barraco's served a very thin crust pizza. In fact, they serve a thin and an extra thin. But unlike V & N, Barraco's also has a deep dish, a stuffed, and a Sicilian. And of course, we tried all five varieties.

The pizzas were not all served at once, instead coming out in the order of how long it takes to cook each one. Up first was the Nicky's Special, which comes with an extra thin crust and lite cheese. We opted for garlic as the only topping. The crust was extremely thin and very firm, but it was not crisp. Biting into it did not cause a snap like it does at Pat's or Vito & Nick's. The texture is actually hard to describe - it wasn't soggy, crisp, crunchy or chewy - the only thing I've ever had close to it is a Carr's Table Water Cracker that had some moisture in it.

The second pizza was the regular thin crust, which was slightly thicker than the extra thin, and had the same texture. The thin crust did not come with light cheese and we ordered onions and green peppers. I did not notice the onions on that pie, but was happy to see the green peppers diced. On a pizza that thin, large chunks of green peppers would have completely overwhelmed the rest of the pizza. Both thin pies only had a thin layer of sauce on them, though the regular thin had noticeably more than the extra thin.

The third pizza to arrive was the deep dish sausage pizza. The first thing I noticed about that pie was that it looked nothing like any deep dish pizza that I have ever seen. The bottom crust was not thick at all. Usually, I think of the difference between a deep dish and a pan pizza as being the pan pizza has a thin crust. Not thin like Barraco's thin crust, but thin like a Giordano's thin crust or a New York-style thin crust.

But I wouldn't call this pizza a pan pizza, because the outer crust was among the thickest I have ever seen. Also, while the bottom crust was thin in the middle, it did get a little thicker towards the outside. The thick part of the crust at the back tasted very similar to the rolls they gave us when we sat down. Like an Italian bread roll, it has a relatively thick and crispy outer shell, with soft bread inside.

Like any respectable deep dish slice, this one came with a lot of sauce, a lot of cheese and a lot of toppings, in this case sausage. The sauce did not have much seasoning and was neither sweet nor tangy. It was chunky, and seemed like little more than crushed tomatoes. The sausage was heavily seasoned with anise and fennel.

The next pizza was the stuffed pie. We got the Mama Barraco's Stuffed Pizza, which comes with spinach and ricotta as well as mozzarella. As with the deep dish, this one came with a lot of toppings, which was particularly good in terms of the ricotta which often can barely be tasted on a thick pizza. The spinach was fresh and was quite good.

The final pizza was what they called a Sicilian, but was unlike any Sicilian pizza I've ever seen. Typically, a Sicilian pie consists of at least an inch thick piece of crust that has the consistency of dense bread, like a focaccia. A Sicilian is usually cooked in a rectangular pan and the pieces are rectangles. The Barraco's version of a Sicilian is a circular pizza with a regular crust (thickness-wise). In other words, it is not a Sicilian pizza.

That said, the Sicilian had my personal favorite crust of the night. The crust was both crunchy and chewy, and it had enough substance to stand up to the significant amount of cheese, sauce and toppings, in this case roast beef. The amount of cheese and toppings is actually another way this pizza was different from normal Sicilian pizzas - they usually only have a thin layer of cheese and toppings, and sometimes have no sauce at all. While I appreciated the amount of roast beef, I did not appreciate that it was listed on the menu as Italian beef. Now, roast beef and Italian beef come from the same cut of meat, but Italian beef is seasoned for hours. If this meat was seasoned at all, I did not taste it.

Barraco's is a favorite of many Southsiders and I'm glad the CPC got to return there, even if it was only possible because of Roseangela's odd policy of being closed on Tuesday and my failure to figure that out beforehand. My only regret is that we all ate too much to head over to Rainbow Cone afterwards.

The CPC gives Barraco's 6.75/10.

The Thin Crust with Garlic...

Green Peppers and Onions...


Some Tasty Sausage...

The Pizza Club in Action...

Kelly on the other side of the camera for once...

Where it went down...

Barraco's on Urbanspoon


  1. This is a place I was introduced to many years ago by the infamous Karl Max Grinnell of Chicago via Seattle. In one of our excursions from The Enclave (Hyde Park), he suggested we go out for a nice Italian meal and chauffeured a group of us in his small hatchback to this establishment for some great food and underage drinking.

    When I formed CPC, one of the first places the original incarnation visited was Barraco's. Looking now at my trusty notebook, it was actually meeting #17. Back then I noted that the stuffed pizza really impressed me with their ricotta and basil mixed in with the spinach. I also complained a bit that the deep dish, despite being more than passable, had a bland tasting sausage with great aromatics and too much crust.

    I mention this because it shows that this pizzeria has been remarkably consistent. I still feel pretty much the same about these pizzas as I did back then. The stuffed was superior to the deep-dish and the thin pizzas had a nice tart sauce with a semi-crunchy crust. Like Dan, I think my favorite of the night was the Sicilian Pizza. I don't at all care about the semantic discussion of what is and isn't a Sicilian pizza because I've never actually been in Sicily to compare. But I can say that I loved the crust on this pizza. It was almost like a great piece of bread. Not Italian bread, which can have too much mass, but a nice, light French loaf. The beef was tender and plentiful, but it needed any kind of seasoning to it. Once I added some red pepper, it really took off, but I shouldn't have to finish the job of seasoning the meat for them.

    We ordered 5 styles of pizza and they were all average or above at worst. When I look back at the night I really only think of the stuffed and Sicilian pies though and my score is weighted to reflect them. I enjoyed both thin crusts pizza, felt the deep-dish was the worst of the bunch, and thought the stuffed and Sicilian were very, very good. Too bad we ordered the deep-dish or my score would be higher. I would definitely eat the other styles regularly if I were a local.

    My score for Barraco's is 8.0

  2. These were all pretty good pizzas, wouldn't say that any of them were exceptional though. The stuffed with spinache and ricotta chesse was pretty tasty, but I got to it late and it had kinda cooled by then, the pan pizza with sausage was nothing exceptional. I was a little let down by the Sicilian pizza, nothing like any other Sicilian crust I'd had before and I thought the beef was just a little bland, though I did appreciate the quantity. My two favorites were the two thin crusts, I probably enjoyed the thinner crust with garlic a little more, the green pepper and onions regular thin crust was okay, but I could've done without the green peppers, I just don't think they belong on a pizza... hence my dislike of the standard "special" pizza that most restaurants offer. The decor of the restaurant was real nice, and a nice large photograph of the Chairman of the Board kept vigil over us as we ate, and I always appreciate the knowing glance of Frank Sinatra as I eat... all in all though, I enjoyed the pizza but I didn't think it was anything above and beyond. The style thin crust was unlike anything I'd had before (very corn-mealy) and I liked it, it's just very far from being as good as the thin crust at Vito & Nicks... so in the end, I give this Barraco's a 6.5

  3. So far as a pizza club member I’ve been to two “road trip” meetings (places that are farther than 5 miles from my apartment): Burt’s and La Villa. The former is a place that I’d like to go to again. The later made me want to kick myself as we passed a number of better places on the ride home.

    Barraco’s was my third “road trip” meeting, and while I probably won’t make a special trip down there, it’s somewhere that I’d suggest if I was in the area.

    I liked the thin crust pepper/onion and the stuffed ricotta cheese/spinach pizzas the best. As Dan stated, the diced peppers worked really well and none of the ingredients overwhelmed the whole thing. The stuffed ricotta/spinach pizza was also very good. There was a nice, salty taste of the ricotta in almost every bite and, even though there was a ton of cheese, it never felt like too much. Also, I enjoyed the crust on that pizza. I didn’t get to try the Sicilian pizza, although it seems like I should have. I was pretty full by the time it came out as I filled up on the bread beforehand, which, it’s only fair to mention, was really good.

    All in all, I can’t name any specific faults for Barraco’s. It seems like a dependable, better than average pizza. Still, nothing struck me as outstanding, so I’ll give it a 7.0

  4. I forgot to leave add a score. I thought the pizza was fine overall - not good, not bad. If I wanted thin crust on the far south side, I would never go here unless Vito & Nick's burned down. There are innumerable better deep dish options. The abundance of ricotta and fresh spinach made the stuffed pizza very enjoyable, and the crust on the Sicilian was different from any pizza I've had and was quite good.

    I'd give the Sicilian a 7.5 (higher if the meat had had flavor), the thin crust a 5 and the others somewhere in between. Overall, Baracco's fits the definition of a 6.

  5. I thought the best pizza was the garlic and cheese thin crust. I could have eaten about 20 of those little slices instead of the 2 I had. The crust was not soggy at all and the aroma was a perfect combo of cheese sauce and garlic. I was not a fan of the Sicilian as I prefer my roast bee in a bun not on my pizza. The ricota and spinach was quite good though a bit light on the sauce. The deep dish sausage smelled great but the sausage did not live up to its aroma. Overall a good place a decent 7/10.

  6. You guys should try Fox's next time you go out to Beverly/South Side. It is on 99th and Western. Very good thin crust sausage pizza.

  7. I was surprised to enjoy the deep dish and the stuffed as much as I did...they were definitely unorthodox versions of their types, as Dan mentioned. The sausage was just OK, the texture of the sauce (very chunky tomatoes) was better than the taste, though. I normally don't like Sicilian pizzas, because they're too dense and starchy, but this "thin sicilian" was less of a mouthful. The thin and especially the extra thin pizzas were a little bland, though that may have been because of poor strategic ordering (*just* garlic?). This place was reasonable, but clearly not good enough to be worth a trip this far south. I give it a 6.

  8. I was excited to head back to Barraco's because it was the site of my first CPC meeting 4 years ago, and I've not since met the match of that Spinach and Ricotta stuffed pizza. It was even better than I remembered it. The spinach is lovely and fresh, and the generous amounts of ricotta allow for a less dense version of this pie than what you find most other places. This is one of the few places where I'm actually excited to order stuffed pizza. I also really enjoyed the thin crust. No, it's not as good as Vito & Nick's, but I liked the breadier ways of the crust. And I happen to love garlic as the lone topping on thin crust pizza, including these. I agree with comments above that the thin dice of the green peppers allowed for better integration of this topping than the big chunks you find at most places. I usually avoid green peppers but would get it again in this style. The deep dish was okay. I liked the Sicilian, though the beef was not as flavorful as I expected. And I guess it was not typical insofar as it was round and the crust was quite thin in the center, as it approached the outer edges it got the thickness and texture usually associated with Sicilian. I should add I don't usually care for the thick breadiness and sparse sauce/toppings of Sicilian, so the variation made this pizza more enjoyable than the norm. Overall, it was all pretty good. The thin was not the best but it beats out most places, and the spinach & ricotta will take me back there again. I give Barraco's 7.8.

  9. First of all, hats off to El Presidente for suggesting such a phenomenal pizza place on the fly. Secondly, I thought that 'Petey's' review was supposed to be an unbiased recollection of the meeting's events. I feel that 'Petey's' post, although accurate in several respects, had too much of a negative overtone. Turns out I'm not the only one that noticed the negative 'tude. I recently met a big CPC fan at the Windy City Wine Festival, we'll call her ML, that gave me crap for all of the biased comments on such a wonderful place. I told ML I thought Barraco's was awesome and that the review was written by a crotchety old man that was sore about his pizza place being closed on a Tuesday. Since ML is a true southsider, she will probably hunt MCH down and beat him to a pulp.

    Anywho, Barraco's was fantastic. The thin crust was crisp without being burnt. I'm not sure I've ever had Sicilian pizza before, but I can't wait to have it again. The crust was very bread-like and perfectly chewy. Same with the deep and stuffed crusts, and I loved every minute of it. Well, except for eating the sausage pizza. It was a bit over-fennelly for my liking. Every other topping was plentiful and delicious. Although I love garlic and was ecstatic at the opportunity to have it as the only topping on a thin crust, I was absolutely blown away by the spinach and ricotta pizza (and I'm not usually a big spinach fan). I thought it was a fabulous combination.

    I really liked Barraco's and can't wait to hit it up again (especially if ever someone tries to call a CPC meeting at a southside pizzeria that's closed on a Tuesday). I would eat Barraco's regularly, and therefore give it a solid 8.0/10. Too bad its so far away:(

  10. Since we've all given our profiles and started writing much more elaborate comments, Petey has retired from reviewing and only gives the scores.

    If ML has a problem, I'm not hiding. She can bring it whenever she wants.