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:


Thursday, November 13, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Obama's Favorite Pizza Goes To Washington, Or Does It?

Hyde Park is home to many well-known pizzerias: the original Edwardo's, the oldest still-operational Giordano's, the original Medici, an outpost of Pizza Capri, and Caffe Florian. Hyde Park residents Barack and Michelle Obama bypass all of those places to satisfy their pizza cravings in favor of the pies from Italian Fiesta Pizzeria, which is in the strip mall at the corner of 47th and Lake Park.

And now, the Ritz-Carlton in Washington DC is hosting a Presidential Inauguration expo on November 20, and they have invited the owners of Italian Fiesta Pizzeria to come to DC to make pizza for the occasion.

However, it turns out that Italian Fiesta may be going to DC under false pretenses. While Michelle Obama is on record as saying how much she likes it (and the South Shore native did grow up near the oldest location), there is no evidence that Barack Obama has ever been inside the place. More importantly, Obama is on record as telling the owner of a Chicago-style pizzeria in St. Louis called Pi that that place serves up the best pizza he's ever had. Perhaps next summer the CPC will venture to St. Louis for a Cubs/Cardinals game and do some research on our President-Elect's pizza tastes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Connie's Pizza [Meeting #69; Meeting #16 Revisited]

Connie's Pizza [Map]
2373 S Archer Avenue
Chicago, IL
(312) CONNIES (266-6437)

CPC invaded Connie's Pizza on 11/10/08.

Most people think that U.S. Cellular Field (Comiskey Park) sits in Bridgeport; but they are mostly wrong. The original Comiskey Park (and the overwhelming majority of the current structure) actually sits in Armour Square, a long, skinny community area tucked between Bridgeport and Douglas. Armour Square gets its name from Armour Square Park, which was named after Chicago meat titan and philanthropist Philip Armour and designed by the Olmsted Brothers and Daniel H. Burnham and Co.

The Chicago Pizza Club was in Armour Square to satisfy a quest to find chorizo pizza, which allegedly exists at Fratellini Pizza & Pasta Inc. A person I spoke with at Fratellini, which has the wrong phone number listed on its website, assured me that they were open on Mondays (as their website indicates), but we arrived to a closed restaurant that has no sign indicating its hours of operation. I tried calling to find out what was going on, but the outgoing voice mail message offers nothing, not even the name of the restaurant. Odd.

Undeterred, the CPC immediately regrouped and headed to Connie's Pizza, which has been operating in the area for 50 years. In the 1950s, Raymond DeGrazia and his wife, Connie, opened a pizzeria in Bridgeport at 638 W. 26th Street. After tinkering with their pizza recipe by replacing provolone with mozzarella, Connie's pizzas quickly grew in popularity. In 1963, Jim Stolfe bought the restaurant and it has remained in the Stolfe family ever since (his son Marc now runs the company).

Forty-five years later, Connie's has established itself as one of Chicago's best-known pizzerias. In addition to the 6 Connie's restaurants and two Pazzini locations, Connie's pizza can be had at both baseball stadiums, Brookfield Zoo, and O'Hare Airport. And thanks to their fleet of ubiquitous pizza delivery trucks and frozen pizza business, Connie's can be had virtually anywhere in the City.

A couple of fun Connie's facts before getting to the pizza: Connie's allegedly paid the mob well over $100,000 in "street taxes." When Chicago passed its since-repealed foie gras ban, Connie's joined with dozens of other protesting restaurants by offering a foie gras pizza on the day the law went into effect.

The Chicago Pizza Club did not partake in foie gras pizza on this visit, but only because it was not on the menu. We did, however, have a couple of very unique pizzas. Connie's is currently running a special featuring three unique toppings that are served on a thin crust made with Old Style Beer. We opted for the chili cheese dog pizza, which includes chili con carne, slices of Vienna Beef hot dogs, mustard, shaved onion, sport peppers and both mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Perhaps it's because this pizza was served first, but it was inhaled by the CPC. Some of the slices were missing hot dog pieces, but other than that there were no complaints about that pie, and there were a couple of raves. The crust was a little firmer and thicker than traditional Chicago thin crusts, and it held up well to the generous portion of toppings piled on. I didn't taste much flavor from the beer, though though it did add a yellowish tint to the crust.

We were so enamored with the special toppings offered on the Old Style crust, that we opted for a second one - the Italian Beef pizza, but on the regular thin crust. Toppings on that pie included Italian Beef, hot giardinera, sweet peppers, sauce, and mozzarella and provolone cheese. The well-seasoned meat was not wet like most Italian Beef, but that was probably a good think as traditional Italian Beef would turn any crust into a soggy mess.

Up next was Connie's most famous pizza - a middleweight crust with sausage. This is the pizza that is sold at both baseball stadiums, the United Center, O'Hare Airport, Brookfield Zoo and every other non-pizzeria location I've seen Connie's. The crust is about half an inch thick and is more like bread than the kind of crust typically found on deep dish pizza. The pizza comes with a generous supply of sausage, which was had a pretty strong fennel flavor, but a texture that a couple of us noted screamed mass production.

On our deep dish pizza, we went for pepperoni. The deep dish crust is identical in texture to the middleweight, only it is about twice as thick. The pepperoni seemed to me to be a little thicker slices than is common, but other than that was indistinguishable from most pepperonis out there. The sauce on the deep dish and the middleweight was thick, but not chunky. It was neither noticeably tangy nor sweet, but rather a solid basic pizza sauce.

The final pizza we ordered was a very unique stuffed crust. Typically a stuffed pizza consists of a normal bottom crust about 1/4 inch thick and a paper thin top crust that is often indistinguishable from the thick layer of cheese it covers and unnoticeable due to the sauce that sits on top of it. Connie's top crust is just as thick as the bottom crust. They offer the stuffed pizza two different ways - with sauce on top as is done everywhere else, or what they call the "original 26th street style" with the sauce on the side. We opted for the latter, and we got it stuffed with ham, bacon, and cheddar cheese (in addition to, not instead of mozzarella).

The service we received was fantastic. Perhaps it's because Stelios blew our cover by announcing to the host when we got there that we are the Chicago Pizza Club and would be blogging about the meal, but the staff was incredibly attentive. There were twelve of us present and, unprompted, Connie's asked us if we wanted our pizzas cut into more than the normal 8 pieces so everyone could try each of them. I think that's the first time that has happened in the history of the CPC and it was much appreciated.

Petey Pizza gives Connie's a 5.37.

Hope we ordered enough...

The Sausage Pizza, as seen at many a sporting event and music festival...

The Stuffed Pizza with Ham, Bacon and Cheddar...

Italian Beef Pizza on an Old Style crust...

Deep Dish with Pepperoni...

The Chili Cheese Dog Pizza...

Italian Beef up close and personal...

The Chicago Pizza Club hard at work...

Where it went down...

Fred enjoys some leftovers...

Connie's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 07, 2008

[Special Report] Santarpio's Pizza

Santarpio's Pizza (GoogleMap)
111 Chelsea Street
East Boston, MA

While on a recent trip to Boston for a wedding, my food-loving friends and 2 members of CPC decided to make a trip to Santarpio's Pizza in East Boston near the airport. Prior to my trip to Boston, I had never given thought to their pizza culture. If I had, I likely would have suspected that the overwhelming number of Irish descendants in this city would make for poor fare. This was not the case: East Boston has historically been an enclave of Italian immigrants. In recent years it has become populated by Central American immigrants, but there are still many signs of the prior Italian majority. Santarpio's opened in 1933 and has regularly been listed as one of Boston's best pizzerias by local publications. Today, it still remains a family business and in its original building. Frank Santarpio would be proud.

This is obviously a small restaurant with a local and outsider following alike. We had no wait when we arrived, but when we left an hour later there was a line 15 people deep outside the restaurant. As you can see below, the menu is not comprehensive. They serve two items: pizza and skewered meat. We opted for both. The servers seem way too busy to chit-chat and they expect you to order as soon as you take your seat. We ordered one special pie with hot peppers, garlic, pepperoni and italian cheese and a combination of Italian sausage and lamb skewers served with peppers.

The skewers were variable. The lamb was slightly overcooked and the sausage was just right. There was nothing particularly unique about each one with regards to seasoning, but the peppers were outstanding. They were mildly hot and acidic and were an excellent counterpoint to the skewers. One note about the skewers; I'm not sure how well tended they are while they sit over the fire. As I hinted before, I think this might cause a lot of variability in how "done" your meats are when they arrive at your table.

The pizza was very good, much to my surprise. As I mentioned before, I wasn't expecting much. The crust was probably the best part of the pizza. It was thin and the edges held up very well. The center had lots of loose cheese and toppings and mine actually kind of fell apart. The edges that were not weighed down with ingredients were like very good bakery-fresh bread: light but with good chew and perfectly baked. The pepperoni was outshined by the garlic and hot peppers, but the real star was the sauce and crust anyways. The cheese was, I think, a mixture of two cheeses that I could not distinguish. The sauce was slightly spicy with good acidity to it and in abundant quantities. For the chunky sauce fans, sorry, this place was more of a paste. And lastly, I should mention the oven. It is a brick oven, but sadly I did not venture into the kitchen to photograph it.

I think that when I next go to Boston, I would be interested in checking out other pizza places that are reputed to be excellent. They may or not be as good as advertised. But I would be even more happy to grab a table at Santarpio's where I know the pizza is good, plus I can also get a lamb skewer with those delicious spherical peppers.

The Menu with a nice picture of Frank...

Umm... THAT'S not pizza...but check out those peppers!

Ok, that's more like it...

El Presidente goes in for the kill...

Kate and El Presidente look dazed in the afterglow...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

[Chicago Pizza News] Two New Pizzerias and an Additional Location for Another

Last week, Chicago Magazine's on-line "Dish" reported that Trattoria Trullo, formerly of Evanston and now in Lincoln Square (4767 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-506-0093), is adding a mini pizzeria on December 10 in the front of the restaurant. The owner says they will be offering pizza as it's made in his hometown of Puglia, Italy, which he says is thinner and crisper than Neapolitan pies.

The same article also reveals that My Pie has officially given up on finding a new Lincoln Park location, but will be opening a new location right by the Metra stop in Northbrook.

This week's Dish reports that the wood-burning Neapolitan pizza craze has grown again with the opening of Antica Pizzeria in Andersonville (5663 N. Clark St.; 773-944-1492). Mario Rapisarda, the Sicilian-born chef/owner, is a veteran of Spiaggia.