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Friday, August 08, 2008

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


  1. I went to Renaldi's expecting bad pizza. When that happens, it opens the door for an easy pleasant surprise since when I expect bad and get average, the average seems good.

    Renaldi's was bad.

    They don't advertise their crust as charred, so I'm going to have to call the crust on the artichoke pie burned. Didn't really matter since there was so much salt in that pizza, that that was the only flavor I got out of it. The texture of that pizza - airy and crispy - was good.

    The stuffed sausage has raw sausage. Raw pork is decidedly not cool. In addition to the potentially deadly topping, the stuffed pie suffered from way too much moisture, which turned the pizza into slop.

    The meatball pan pizza was fine. The topping, texture, and flavor were the best of the bunch.

    The two thin crust pies may as well be evaluated together since they were cheese pizzas that had toppings put on after the pies were done cooking. The "very finest capicollo" was only the very finest to people who don't like any flavor at all in their capicollo. The zucchini was fresh, which was nice. And the onions were actually under the cheese and cooked which was cool because toppings are supposed to be cooked.

    This pizza was not tolerable; it was bad. I never add any condiments to my pizza - I eat it as it's intended. But by the end of the night, I was pouring Tabasco on this stuff just to get some enjoyment out of it. I will never eat there again.

    I award this place a 2 and nominate it to join the Pies We've Tried So You Don't Have To section of this site.

  2. The good thing about pizza club is that you normally never get a bad meal, simply because pizza is pretty hard to get wrong. I think that applies to Renaldi's. The taste of the toppings wasn't very pronounced, the crust wasn't as crunchy as I would've liked, and, as stated, the sausage was undercooked (although, like the sausage, I'm guessing this occurrence is pretty rare).

    Still, I liked the pan pizza that we got (meatball), and I liked that the pizza tasted kind of salty. It wasn't great, so I wouldn't take friends visiting from out of town there, but it wasn't horrible, so I'd probably order from there on the weekend sometime if it were close to my place.

    All in all, I'll give it a 5.5

  3. I didn't really think there was anything bad or good about the pizza at first, but then we discovered that some of the larger pieces of sausage on the pan pizza were raw in the center. I don't think I got any of it because my little slice had very small bits of sausage, but it certainly put me off the restaurant.

    A more mundane problem was that the Sicilian pizza was burnt black on the bottom, making for a very unpleasant taste. The thin crust pizzas were better than the rest, though the Capicola was utterly tasteless. I was wary of the zucchini when it came out in big mostly raw chunks, but it was surprisingly tasty and greatly helped by the onions. As for the basics: crust has no flavor; sauce has only faint flavor and there is not enough on the thin; cheese is okay.

    I don't know how to rate this place, because at first glance it was merely a forgettable attempt at New York style thin crust, with some pan and stuffed options thrown in, but I just won't go back after the raw sausage experience. And we don't normally factor service into the score, but I was just shocked when our server initially told us the manager had refused to take the half-eaten raw sausage pizza off our bill. Our server was nice and attentive enough, but the faceless manager overseeing the production of raw meat and burnt pizza is sinking this ship.

    I don't want to let the raw sausage take over my score completely, so I'll give this place a 3.1, but if I had to eat it again, it would be a vegetarian thin crust option.

  4. After consulting the ratings guidelines I have to give this place a lukewarm 4.0.

    My thoughts on this visit can pretty much be summed up in one word; "meh."

  5. The pan pizza crust was spongy-crispy like a breadstick, but that was not enough to save it from just about everything else. Some of the cheese was decent but it came out looking soupy. Raw sausage is inexcusable. If that wasn't enough, we had to lobby to get them to take it off the bill. I'd second the nomination to put Renaldi's on "Pies We've Tried So You Don't Have To".


  6. So, I was suffering from a head cold when we went and I haven't tasted anything in almost a week. Therefore, I'm not going to give this pizza a score because it might have been great and I would have missed it.

    My remaining sensory perception informed me that while I did enjoy the crust ends, the crust with toppings on it caved and flopped like a standard NYC street piece. I folded my pizza several times, each time unsuccessfully. It's a shock to the system to have to fold your food.

    I couldn't tell the difference between the stuffed and pan and this is not because I'm dumb, it's because there was none. Their special Sicilian pie had a thicker crust and was square. Similarly boring. From what taste I could get, the onions and zucchini were the best toppings. The onions gave the sauce some real flavor. Anyways, not particularly informative from me - sorry. I couldn't taste. But it looks like it was just as well.

    The undercooked sausage and their reticence to remove it from our bill needs no further elaboration. It was just poor service.

  7. This was worse than those national pizza chains because at least they have a formula that is consistent and mostly edible.

    The artichoke pan pizza was tasteless except for the burned crust and the salt overwhelming any other possible flavors. The texture was nice, but I'd rather have plain bread.

    Surprisingly, the most adventurous toppings ordered (zucchini and spanish onions) was the best pizza of the evening. The zucchini was nicely steamed by the heat of the pizza and the onions were sauteed giving every bite pleasant flavor.

    Despite that, I wouldn't go there for pizza again. After such a bad experience, I noticed on our way out that no one dining there had ordered pizza. Go figure.

    Renaldi's get a 2.

  8. This was my first pizza outing. I was excited by the big circle table and lazy susan. I didn't know I was supposed to remember things about each pizza, so this is all I've got:

    artichoke-super salty, but I like salt, so it was an average pizza.
    meatball-tasted like a sausage pizza.
    sausage-couldn't tell the difference from this stuffed crust and the pan crust.
    capicola-didn't taste like a whole lot of anything.
    zucchini-i liked the fresh zucchini on top.

    The sausage pizza was undercooked and I can't believe the manager/owner didn't stop by the table and apologize and immediately take it off the bill. The server did everything he was supposed to and was attentive. All in all I give Renaldi's a 4.

  9. That pizza looked terrible I think i would of walked out without even tring it.

  10. First time going to Renaldi's, I had settled on cheese raviolis with meat sauce. Coming from Brooklyn, I know better than to expect anywhere else to outside of New York City to best New York pizza. That's not an exaggerated bias either. I must admit that I loved Chicago deep dish, primarily from Giordano's, when I first moved to Chicago. But it got to be old hand after a couple of years.

    I have not heard many rave reviews about Renaldi's pizza and to be honest, it reminds me of slices of Sbarro's quick-serve pizza. That may be why I have always resorted to their pastas instead of being adventurous with their pizzas. It is unfortunate that the experience you had at Renaldi's was not a favourable one.