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Monday, March 30, 2009

Armand's Pizzeria [Meeting #76]

Armand's Pizzeria [GoogleMaps]
7400 W. Grand Avenue
Elmwood Park, IL 60707

CPC invaded Armand's Pizzeria on 3/25/09.

So, after our plans for eating at Freddy's were foiled by their horribly early 7 PM closing time we made alternate plans to go to Armand's instead. Armand's is a family owned restaurant that has been in Elmwood Park for over 50 years now. You're quickly greeted by a friendly staff and handed menus to review. They can be chatty or business-like depending on your preference and they're not intrusive. It's clear that this staff has been working together for a while and that they have a solid base of returning customers. We saw multiple families having dinner and a few people on awkward dates.

On a trip to the bathroom, I took a detour into the kitchen and found it to be clean and orderly. They use gas ovens for their pizzas here and can clearly accommodate large orders with the number of ovens I saw.

We had a small group for this outing, but the hunger was strong. Along with three or four pitchers of reasonably priced beer, our order consisted of:

  • Thin crust with sausage and garlic as toppings, with the arrabiata sauce in place of the traditional marinara
  • Pizza Nova carbonara - mozzarella, basil, garlic and capicola
  • Pizza Nova signature - artichoke hearts, fontinella, red roasted peppers, and basil
  • Pizza Nova di gio - roast beef, giardiniera, and green peppers
We broke with the usual CPC tradition of ordering every style of pizza that a restaurant makes. We avoided the pan pizza here due to the reputation the restaurant has for good thin crust pizza. Whether that was a mistake or not is hard to say; we didn't see anyone else ordering it either. Hopefully some readers can chime in about this pizza.

The thin crust was a fine example of the Chicago tavern-style pizza. The sausage was really plentiful and the cheese was browned all over. Some people think this is burned cheese, but I find it to be perfect for this style of pizza. We decided to try the arrabiata sauce instead of the traditional sauce on this pizza and I'm glad we did. It truly was an arrabiata sauce worthy of the name and this pizza was likely the first one finished despite it being the largest one. The crust was crisp despite heavy toppings, plentiful cheese, and a lot of sauce. It had a particularly satisfying "bready" flavor to it that was a welcome change from some bland crusts that we've had recently. The Pizza Nova style is their modified Neapolitan-meets-Chicago take on traditional pizza. It is cooked in a gas oven like the rest of the pizza and has a thinner crust with more esoteric toppings. It lacks the char and pull of a hotter wood-burning oven crust, but it doesn't affect the toppings or cheese. I'll leave more specifics thoughts on the Nova pies to the comments, but I'd like to make a few points. The carbonara was delicious, largely due to the capicola. It didn't taste like any other capicola I have tried. It almost tasted smoked, which I don't believe is how capicola is traditionally made. I really enjoyed this pie. The signature was heavy on the artichoke and not particularly balanced. Depending on your esteem for artichokes this can be excellent or disappointing. The Di Gio had nice giardiniera, but the beef was like many beefs on pizzas in the city - dry, relatively flavorless, and forgettable.

I keep getting to these meetings so early because they're in the suburbs. Although it's true I live further west than most of my friends, I'm still surprised at how accessible some of these near-West suburban pizzerias are to city dwellers. From accounts I have found on the internet, we showed up on a relatively quiet night. I'm sure the rest of the Italian menu is above average and some of the pizzas were very good. They have three locations now, all in the West suburbs. For anyone living in these parts, I feel confident you have already heard of Armand's if not actually eaten here. For city dwellers looking for a good tavern pizza, it's not as far as you think.

Chicago Pizza Club gives Armand's Pizzeria a 7.1

Armand's Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon