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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Art of Pizza [Meeting #72]

Art of Pizza [Map]
3033 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60657-3035
(773) 327-5600

CPC invaded Art of Pizza on 12/19/08.

At our last meeting, the members of the Chicago Pizza Club came to the realization that our social lives were no longer so exciting that the unofficial ban on weekend pizza club meetings needed to remain. Rather than being depressed about the realization that our post-college social peaks are behind us, we embraced it and immediately scheduled a Friday night meeting.

And so it was that we ended up at Art of Pizza last night. In 2001, Phil Vettel and a team of about three dozen reporters and editors from the Chicago Tribune tried deep dish and stuffed pizzas from more than 100 different Chicago area restaurants and determined that Art of Pizza has the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. Now, given that #2 was awarded to the Hyde Park location of Pizza Capri, and that both Chicago's and Exchequer were given Honorable Mention (which puts them in the top 13), it is clear that this team would not fit in well with the Chicago Pizza Club. Still, some of us knew Art of Pizza to offer a quality pie, and any place that gets high praise from Phil Vettel and thousands of pizza-eating Chicagoans is more than worthy of a visit from the CPC. And any place that is BYOB and charges no corkage fee is worthy of a visit on a Friday night.

Art of Pizza offers stuffed, pan, and thin crust pies. The nine of us split three large pizzas, one of each variety. Up first was the thin crust pizza which we got with sausage on the whole thing and giardinera on half of it (to accommodate those members with sensitive stomachs and palates). The sausage had some fennel and a noticeable amount of garlic. Texturally, it had some nice chew, but was definitely not rubbery. The giardinera, as is typically the case, was strong. Unfortunately, the giardinera overpowered the sausage, a problem that could have been fixed with either more sausage or less giardinera. The sauce, which was a little sparse on the thin crust, was well-seasoned - I'd call it zesty - and the cheese, which was generously applied, seemed to be a decent quality mozzarella.

The pan pizza arrived next. For that pizza, we went with Art's Meaty Delight, which includes sausage, bacon, ground beef, pepperoni and sliced beef. Like many pan pizzas in Chicago, this is essentially a deep dish pizza that has cheese on top instead of sauce as it comes with a crust that's at least half an inch thick. And what a crust it was. The thick, crisp, light crust at Art of Pizza is full of herbs that are not overwhelming, but are strong enough to stand up the substantial amounts of cheese, tangy sauce and, in this case, five kinds of meat. Speaking of the meats, they were all generously applied on the pizza, and while that made for a good deal of salt, the cheese and sauce were sufficient to balance things out.

Our stuffed pizza was Art's Vegetarian, which comes with mushrooms, onions, green peppers, tomato slices, broccoli and spinach. The bottom crust was almost as thick (maybe as thick) as the crust on the pan pizza, which is unique for a stuffed pizza. Given the amount of toppings that were stuffed inside this pie and the moisture that is inevitable when that many fresh vegetables are involved, that thick crust may have been necessary to prevent the pie from devolving into a wet mess. Necessary or not, the crust, which had the same herbs (and maybe oil?) as the pan pizza, was a welcome inclusion. By virtue of it being on top of the pizza and the fact that vegetables don't have as strong flavors as meat, the stuffed pizza was the one where we were most able to taste the chunky, flavorful sauce.

A couple of final notes worth mentioning. Art of Pizza gives out free liters of pop to anyone who spends over $11 pre-tax, and 2 liters for orders over $22. However, that offer is limited to take out and delivery orders. While we were disappointed by the policy, the wine we brought (BYOB!) more than made up for it. Also, Art of Pizza has a full menu beyond pizza, though I didn't notice anyone eating anything other than pizza and salad. They have lunch and dinner specials every day, but oddly for a pizzeria, not a single special involves pizza.

Petey gives Art of Pizza a 7.60625.

Art of Pizza on Urbanspoon


  1. Our Winter Party was awesome. There was pizza and lots of wine.

    The herbed crust deserves some mention. I'm not sure exactly what is in it, but the rosemary is the most prominent component. It really does make a great difference to add a touch of spices to the crust. This was on both the deep-dish and stuffed pizzas, but you can taste it much more prominently in the deep-dish.

    The thin-crust was adequate. The sauce was generally passable without any real distinction except that it was tart. The sausage was reminiscent of the stuff you got on your 5th grade pizza party pizzas. The cheese is standard low-fat mozzarella, which was fine by me.

    The deep dish was loaded with Art's Meaty Delight (a name that needs to be used in more situations). The quality of all the meats was so-so, but the combination was great. As mentioned before, the salt load did not overcome either the crust or the sauce. In addition to the herbs, the crust was well-cooked and light. I wish I had a side of sauce to dip my crust end into at the end of my slice.

    The stuffed, surprisingly, was quite good. Despite the melange of vegetable they used, I could taste the broccoli and spinach only. The crust may have been slightly undercooked, but not in a critical sense. As you might imagine, the crust was a great compliment to the ingredients here. The pizza came with plenty of vegetables but I never felt as if I were eating a salad - the amounts were good.

    The thin was my least favorite, but I felt the excellent deep-dish and stuffed made up for it. The topping quality was not superior, but it was acceptable. Still, I wonder if I'm losing my penchant for stuffed pizza these days. I only had one slice of the stuffed even though I had some more room in the tank.

    Art of Pizza gets a 7.3

  2. The crust on the deep dish and stuffed pizzas is some of the best in the city. The sauce was very well-seasoned and the cheese was nice and gooey, but not too chewy. The sliced beef was the meat highlight of on the Art's Meaty Delight; the sausage was okay - could have used more seasoning.

    The thin crust was less exciting. I didn't notice the herbs in the crust and it seemed to be a little dry. The thin also suffered because it was adorned by the aforementioned mediocre sausage that really couldn't be tasted when put up against the giardinera.

    I'd be more than happy to eat at Art of Pizza every week, though I'd pass on the thin crust. It gets an 8 from me.

  3. THIN CRUST: I hate stupid giardinera. Whenever we get it, you can't ever taste anything else on the pizza. The crust was crisp but I have no idea what it tasted like. I saw sausage on the pizza, but it was really hard to pick out any flavors besides that damn pepper. Oh well!

    DEEP DISH: Yum. The crust was amazing. I'm typically not a huge meat-lovers pizza kind of girl, so I was happy that the combo of meats was not as overwhelming as I thought it was going to be. It wasn't a huge pool of grease either, which was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, I had a really hard time picking out any bacon, but the combo of meat on the pizza was delish!

    STUFFED: Wow. Out of the three pizzas, I thought this one had the most depth/layers of flavors and was therefore the most interesting to me. The crust and sauce were herbalicious and the veggies added the perfect crunch to each bite.

    I'll give Art of Pizza a 7.5/10.

    Side notes that cannot and were not factored into the pizza score: Good find on the BYOB with no corkage fee! UP TOP MCH! Too bad we got a huge dorkage fee for drinking the vino out of styrofoam cups. Classy. Only the best for CPC! We should definitely make the holiday party an annual event. Happy Holidays everyone!

  4. This was some decent pizza... the multi-meated pizza being my favorite, and the herbed crust was definitely the best part of the pizzas (besides all the meats), but I thought the sauce and cheese were just pretty so-so... I would definitely eat here again, but don't think I'd go out of my way to do so. 6.5

  5. Art of Pizza. Yum. The stuffed veggie was definitely the best and most delicious (tasty) of the three we ordered. They make very good stuffed, pan, deep dish pies here. So quality wise, the pan meat lovers was second best. Although personally, I enjoyed the half giardiniera thin more than the meat because I thought all the meat was too much and I didn’t think the meat was as flavorful as any of the other ingredients in all the pies. The giardiniera worked well, it gave a nice spicy zing flavor, but not too much. I give Art of Pizza an 8.5.

  6. When I say that I don't really care for deep dish, it's mostly because I a) still have flashbacks of pizza hut and b) rarely get served a slice like one from Art of Pizza. This was so close to perfect. First of all, the crust is admittedly what really sets it apart, but it's really how all of the elements worked together that impressed me. The crust, as mentioned in other reviews, was cooked perfectly with delicious herbs that really added flavor to the pizza. The meats were fantastic, but if I was going to complain, it would be that the meat wasn't evenly distributed. I didn't detect any bacon on my slice and very little ground beef. The sliced beef, however, made up for that discrepancy. Although “Art's Meaty Delight” is enjoyable to say, next time I order a deep dish from here I will probably select my own toppings.

    I was honestly really surprised how great the veggie stuffed was. After having the first two, I didn't think it'd be possible to deliver the same level of perfection on a stuffed, especially after being blown away by the deep dish. First off, what I really loved was that the veggie didn't just have what default vegetarian pizzas usually do (mushrooms, onions, peppers) and that it wasn't just spinach. I know some of my co-diners weren't as thrilled with the consistency of the crust, but I really appreciated it. For me there was just the right amount of crunchy cooked and gooey uncooked.

    I loved the thin crust, so much that it might have been my favorite even in competition with the thick crust. I crust was just thick enough, the cheese was plentiful but not too much, and the toppings were great. I have always held back on ordering gardinara on pizza because it often adds either too much grease or mediocre canned flavor. This was not the case at Art. The gardinera gave the pizza just enough heat and didn't overpower the rest of the flavors. Maybe I'm still new to meat (and I am sill new to meat) but I though the sausage had plenty of flavor to stand up to it. If it wasn't for the fact that I still had two more pizzas left to try, I would have happily eaten the thin crust we ordered until completely stuffed.

    Overall, I loved Art of Pizza and have already recommended it to friends. You might be drinking your byob out of syrafoam cups, but stemware would be out of place and I will probably opt for beer next time I go anyways. I give it 8.75.

  7. Before I start the review, I feel its only fair to mention that I didn't try the veggie pizza, which may have been very good. That being said, my favorite was the deep dish, as all the meats were tasty, particularly the sliced beef and the bacon. Also impressive was the fact that the tastes didn't just meld together and cancel each other out. The crust had a little bit of a salty, buttery taste, which I also liked. However, I wasn't as impressed with the thin crust pizza. Nothing really stood out, sauce wise, cheese wise or topping (sausage) wise. Nothing tasted bad, but, to be honest, I can't remember particularly liking it, either. The giardinera may have given it an extra kick, but I didn't try any pieces with that on, since I'm not a big fan of spicy foods. Anyway, in grunge terms, Art of Pizza isn't Nirvana, but they aren't Seven Mary Three, either. I'd say they're like Candlebox and give them a 6.5

  8. Art of pizza serves up some solid pizza pies. I LOVED the stuffed pizza, which surprised me as much as the others because stuffed pizza often disappoints. The crust on the stuffed and deep dish were fantastic in flavor, consistency, lightness. Perfectly cooked. The stuffed was my favorite because it was such an excellent balance of flavors and textures. No individual component overwhelmed any other. The modestly seasoned sauce, gooey cheese, and mix of finely diced vegetables were great in every bite, sitting atop a bed of the delicious herbed crust. I also liked the deep dish, but did not think that the meat toppings were as balanced with each other, perhaps just because of distribution. The thin crust was just so-so, as I found it a bit dry and was unimpressed with the sausage. I would gladly eat at Art of Pizza again, and would probably try a mix of my own toppings with just one or two of the meats.