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:


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

La Madia [Meeting #66]

La Madia
59 W. Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60610

CPC invaded La Madia on 9/23/08.

Oh God. Not again. Another place that insists on making traditional Neapolitan-influenced pizza? Like many other notable new pizzerias in town, La Madia presents itself as a slight update to the Neapolitan method of pizza-making. Where it detours from Spacca Napoli and Coalfire is in its swanky decor and River North location (former site of the excellent Jazz Showcase) and its aim to be a hip restaurant where you can expect excellent wine during and after your meal when lounging and looking cool. It manages to do all of these things in a fairly relaxed atmosphere to the credit of its staff. They look better than you, but don't make you feel too bad about it. Self-consciously, I did end up wearing a collared shirt to try and fit in.

Chef Johnathan Fox opened up his new restaurant after working for the Maggiano's chain in an executive position and it quickly gained good press and word of mouth. Like all good pizza chefs, he roamed the world tasting and analyzing, experimenting and perfecting his craft. The staples of any good pizza are the focus here: freshness, quality ingredients, and homemade sauces and dough along with some creative combinations. Digging deeper than the Neo-Nea pizza overlay reveals a full restaurant that has already impressed us once before with its Monthly (now bimonthly due to demand) Chef's Table a few months ago. But this is Chicago Pizza Club, damn it, and while I like scallops as much as the next guy, now we're ready to talk about some pie! As you might expect, there is no stuffed or pan pizza here. Chef Fox makes up for it by unwittingly disguising a pan pizza as a calzone. However, this great treat was not on the dinner menu. We requested one anyways, but were informed this was not a possibility. Not wanting to leave his customers less than fully satisfied, Fox produced a free pepperoni pizza for us and personally brought it to our table. The restaurant was busy, but certainly not at full capacity. We were somewhat surprised that our pizza took 28 minutes to come out considering how little cooking time they require. This is slower than many thin crust pizzas around town by 10 minutes, but ended up being a minor point in the end even if half of our members were gnawing on their napkins.

We ordered 6 pizzas and received a bonus one from the chef:

  • Triple Pepperoni, Tomato Sauce & Mozzarella Cheese, finished with White Truffle Oil
  • House-Made Fennel Sausage, Tomato Sauce with Mozzarella Cheese
  • Roasted Asparagus, Sweet Onions, Pecorino Toscano & Oregano
  • White Clams with Sweet Chili Peppers, Fresh Herbs
  • Seasonal Wild Mushrooms, Pecorino
  • Taleggio and Vin Santo Roasted Grapes
  • Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Tomato Sauce & Torn Basil
There's a lot to talk about here because these weren't all pizzas that have the same sauce, crust, and cheese with the only variation coming in the form of toppings. I don't think the crust ever changes, but some pies have sauce and some have none, mozzarella is not the only cheese used, and this isn't a simple topping change from mushrooms to onions. The multiple toppings on each pizza are designed to complement each other.

The crust is artfully cooked and there's not much to say. There is the background of appropriately charred bitterness in the flavor profile and the combination of chewiness and crispness is really well-balanced and was reproduced throughout all our pizza. The sauce is similarly well-balanced, fresh, and colorful when present. I think many of us would love to have this sauce present in greater quantity on the pizzas, but I wonder if the crust could support more. As a broad overview of toppings, I'll say that all of them were top-notch and that the pairings were in harmony. I will comment on the excellent sausage made at La Madia. If the over-powering fennel flavor in many sausages turns you off, this may be where you should turn. Although there is fennel in his sausage, and a good amount of garlic, it doesn't hijack the great natural flavor of the pork, which is the real highlight. The pork manages to be both meaty and fatty without giving that uncomfortable feeling of chewing on a piece of gristle. I can only assume this is from purchasing better quality meat to use in making sausage. Whatever you may think of pepperoni, it's undeniable that in the great majority of pizzerias you would be hard-pressed to distinguish between their pepperoni, likely because they use the same product. This one is very salty (in a great way) and has enough spice to never let your tongue relax. You have to like pepperoni to order this pizza here because it has LOTS of pepperoni and it will dominate your palate. I'll leave discussion of the rest of the toppings to members' comments.

All in all, I wish we had more members at this meeting so we could have ordered every single pizza because it was just that good. We were all very satisfied and left feeling uncomfortable with our waistbands, a surefire sign of satisfied clientele. Don't wince when you see La Madia is a take on Neapolitan pizza - just sit down and prepare to enjoy it.

Petey Pizza gives La Madia a 9.03.

The Chicago Pizza Club enjoying the ambience...

Hard at work in the kitchen...

Oh... Sausage!

Wild Mushrooms...

Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Tomato Sauce & Torn Basil...

Taleggio and Vin Santo Roasted Grapes...

Kelly shows off the White Clams with Sweet Chili Peppers, Fresh Herbs Pizza...

Roasted Asparagus, Sweet Onions, Pecorino Toscano & Oregano...

Missy has something in her teeth...

How much Pepperoni? Triple Pepperoni!

Where it went down...

La Madia on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 21, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Greatest Pizza Delivery Movie Scenes

This post was found and brought to our attention by Chicago Pizza Clubber (and photographer extraordinaire) Kelly;

You can view the original post here.

10. Mystic Pizza (1988) This film is one of Julia Roberts' first films. She plays a waitress at Mystic Pizza, a restaurant in Mystic, Connecticut.

9. Firewall (2006) Harrison Ford stars as Jack Stanfield, a bank security expert in this thriller. His family has ordered pizza but when the pizza guy arrives, it is really the bad guys who kidnap Stanfield's family and hold them hostage.

8. Spiderman 2 (2004) - Peter Parker has a job as a pizza delivery driver, which he gets fired from for showing up late.

7. Man Of The House (2005) Tommy Lee Jones plays Ronald Sharp, a Texas Ranger guarding a group of cheerleaders who are witnesses to a crime. In one hilarious scene, Sharp searches the pizza guy for weapons before tipping him a quarter. He teases the girls but does not share his pizza. Later, while Sharp is on the phone, the pizza guy returns with more food and this time the girls intercept it.

6. Do The Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee plays Mookie, a pizza delivery boy in this movie about bigotry and racial conflict set in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn.

5. Mr. Deeds (2002) Adam Sandler plays Longfellow Deeds, a smalltown pizzeria owner who inherits $40 billion, and must go to the big city to claim his fortune. In one memorable scene, Deeds says to Crazy Eyes (Steve Buscemi) "Hey Crazy Eyes, I got your pizza just how you like it." and Crazy Eyes replies "French Fries and Oreos you know me too well Deeds."

4. There's Something About Mary (1998) In this boxoffice hit starring Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz, Lee Evans plays Tucker, a pizza delivery guy who masquerades as an architect to win Mary's approval.

3. Toy Story (1995) - Buzz and Woody are accidentally left behind at a gas station and catch a ride on a Pizza Planet delivery truck to catch up with Andy and his family. Also, in Toy Story 2, Buzz and the gang actually drive the Pizza Planet truck to the airport to rescue Woody.

2. Home Alone (1990) - Kevin is stuck home alone without his family. He orders pizza delivered but instead of answering the door himself (and revealing that he is alone), he plays a scene from the gangster movie "Angels With Filthy Souls". This is not a real movie but was inspired by the 1938 Oscar nominated film, "Angels With Dirty Faces" starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. The scene ends with one of the gangsters firing a machine gun and then saying "Keep the change, ya filthy animal."

1. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) - who can forget the classic scene where Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) orders pizza delivered to him in school during Mr. Hand's class.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Chicago Heath Department Shuts Down South Side Little Caesar's

The CPC has listed Little Caesar's in the Pies We've Tried So You Don't Have To category, but the Little Caesar's restaurant in Beverly has achieved a new low for the company that needs to be discussed.

The restaurant at 102nd and Western was shut down recently.

Inspectors found more than 100 live drain flies on the premises, including on unbaked pizzas, bread sticks and in pizza dough. Inspectors ordered Little Caesars management to discard nine pizzas, six bread sticks and pizza dough.

The restaurant was also cited for not providing soap in the employee bathrooms.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Aurelio's [Meeting #65; Meeting #8 Revisited]

Aurelios's Pizza
18162 Harwood Ave
Homewood, IL 60430

CPC invaded Aurelio's on 9/17/08.

Aurelio's Pizza is a local favorite of the south suburbs of Chicago. It has been so successful that it has spawned many franchises in six states scattered throughout the Midwest. The original building is no more, but the current one in Homewood is just down the street from the original. It was moved to the current cavernous location because they needed more space to seat their large customer base. Joe Aurelio opened the original in 1959 and rapidly outgrew his 4 table operation. They claim on their website that their 12,000 square foot restaurant is the largest pizzeria in the world. I was unable to substantiate that claim, but suffice it to say that it is very large. Although they have over 40 franchises, the flagship location in Homewood is still owned by the descendants of Joe Aurelio. It took 20 minutes from the time we ordered for our pizzas to start trickling onto our table.

We ordered:

  • Medium thin with onions, garlic, and meatballs
  • Medium thin with pepperoni and canadian bacon
  • Lil taco
  • Medium stuffed with sausage
Aurelio's is best known for its sweet sauce on thin crust pizza. They use a party cut and a metal rack to hold the pizza. I forgot to ask if the pizza is cooked on a rack or not, but I doubt it. There would be no way to cut a pizza on a rack. I'm not sure if the function of this rack is to allow the pizza to cool or to allow any grease to drip off to keep the crust dry and crisp. I had fond memories of the sauce at Aurelio's over any other specific part of the pizza and it remains on the sweeter end of the spectrum. Luckily, they don't skimp on the quantity the place on their pizza either.

Of the pizzas we ordered, the general consensus was that the onion pizza was the best. The onion opened up the full profile of the sauce and the meatball. I did not remember that Aurelio's made a stuffed pizza until we got to the restaurant. This is a true stuffed pizza - the top layer of crust is more substantial than you normally find. It might be more accurate to call it a calzone with a layer of sauce on top. The thin crust, whether aided or not by the rack, was crisp and held up well to the toppings. It was a medium thickness flour crust. No cracker, cornmeal, or buttery crust here.

Aurelio's bills itself as a family pizzeria and we were willing to see what they could offer us. After the meal, we spent some time playing their carnival games and one member managed to win the claw game and fish out a patriotic and needy teddy bear. Score! We also certainly appreciated the proximity to the award-winning and just flat out excellent product at Flossmoor Station Brewery. We headed over afterwards to let the pizza settle and play with our new toys before making the trek back into town.

Petey gives Aurelio's a 7.625

The sign doesn't lie...

Bosco Sticks!

The Meatball, Garlic and Onion thin crust...

The 'Lil Taco!

The Pepperoni and Canadian Bacon thin crust...

El Presidente orders me to document the meatball...

The Stuffed Pizza with Sausage...

We work hard and we play hard...

Where it went down...

Aurelio's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 11, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Feds Nail Bacci Pizza Owner for Burning His Own Building

Robert Didiana, owner of the 14-location Bacci Pizza chain, was arrested last week for hiring gang members to burn down a building he owned in Little Italy.

Didiana had collected $250,000 from the insurance company after the building was destroyed in late 2000.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Man Busted for Stealing Thousands of Frozen Pizzas

Anthony Lee was hired by Schaumburg-based Nation Pizza to drive more than 13 tons of frozen pizza to Springville, Utah. The pizzas were Stouffer's Pizzas, which Nestle contracts Nation to make.

On his way to Utah, Lee had trouble with his truck and realized he was not going to make his delivery date. At least that's his story for now. Rather than let the pizzas go to waste (and rather than return them to Nation Pizza), Lee decided he would try to sell the 26,652 pounds of pizza.

He tried to sell them to Transportation Salvage of Rockford, Ill., but the good people there thought there was something odd about a truck driver trying to sell over $40,000 worth of frozen pizza and they contacted the police, who arrested Lee.

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

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Still Time To Trade Soul For Pizza at Purgatory Pizza

A while ago, I posted that Purgatory Pizza would be offering a free slice of pizza to anyone who traded in their soul.

I went in yesterday and offered up my soul for a big slice of pizza that I will not review until CPC goes. I learned a couple of things. First, the report that one had to trade in their soul on September 1 was false. People have until November 2, All Souls Day, to make the swap. Second, Purgatory Pizza has a special from 11 AM - 3 PM where people get unlimited pizza and beer for $13. That's a pretty good deal.

The Contract...

Mmmm... soul pizza...

[Chicago Pizza News] Environmentally Sound Pizza Chain Coming to Naperville

Fort Lauderdale-based Pizza Fusion, which bills itself as an environmentally friendly pizzeria, is coming to Naperville .

Established in 2006, there are currently 7 locations, 5 in Florida and one each in California and Pennsylvania. The locations page of the company's website indicates that locations in 11 additional states, including Illinois, are coming soon. Pizza Fusion does not intend to stop there - the planned expansion includes 40 locations in Chicagoland over the next five years.

Using organic ingredients in their food and hybrid cars to deliver them are just a couple of the ways that Pizza Fusion is setting itself apart from other pizzerias. The company also offsets 100% of its power consumption with renewable energy certificates, and it builds LEED-certified restaurants.

The company's website and press clippings say far less about the quality of the pizza than the environmental impact of the restaurants. They are oval-shaped thin crust pies that use almost all organic ingredients, and the meat toppings are either free range or, in the case of lobster and shrimp, caught in the wild. They also offer a couple of vegan pizzas and a gluten free pizza.