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Friday, September 25, 2009

Ian's Pizza [Meeting #85]

Ian's Pizza [GoogleMaps]
3463 N. Clark Avenue
Chicago, IL

CPC invaded Ian's Pizza on 9/24/09.

Ian's Pizza is a sensation sweeping the nation. Well, Madison and now Chicago. But they do have plans to expand to Milwaukee in the near future and possibly Colorado and additional stores in Wisconsin and Illinois. If they made a game of Risk using only the continental USA, I think it's obvious that the key is controlling Wisconsin and Illinois.

Ian's pizza was founded by the eponymous Ian, who was inspired by famous Massachusetts pizzeria Antonio's. After deciding on Madison as having the right atmosphere for a pizzeria that emphasized quality ingredient, no-frills service with low overhead, and reasonable prices he opened his first restaurant at 319 N Frances St in 2001 on Halloween. Ian's makes their own sauce, dough, and does not use or canned vegetables except for their pineapples and tomato paste. They use no frozen products; they don't keep freezers in their restaurants. They do contract out their sausage and pepperoni to small facilities and get them delivered fresh as needed. Cindy Gross, their Head Chef for all locations, estimates that over 90% of their products as made in-house.

We pre-ordered their special S'Mores pizza (which should be done 24 hours ahead of time) and sat down to try the following pizzas:

  • Mac and Cheese Special (Asiago, Pecorino, Gruyere)
  • Pesto and Portabello
  • Sausage
  • Cordon Bleu
  • Philly Cheese Steak
  • S'mores
Ian's typically sells their pizza by the slice, although you can order either a 12" or 20" pie as well. The Chicago location is small, having maybe 8 tables that can be rearranged as needed to accommodate your group. The dining area is small and comfortable, but nothing extraordinary. They are currently BYOB and they sell Gale Gand's root beer, which I tried and thought was great. We ordered either full pizzas of the above-mentioned toppings or went half and half. The s'mores pizza must be ordered ahead of time by calling in.

The crust at Ian's was well-cooked. Despite coming right out of the oven loaded with toppings, it only seemed to buckle under the weight of the mac and cheese pizza. They make their own dough using high-gluten flour and I thought it had a great flavor that didn't try to compete with the flavor toppings. I've had too many salty crusts lately and thankfully Ian's didn't replicate what I consider to be a terrible pizza sin. The toppings, in general, were pretty good. I'm not a fan of the weird and zany toppings and I firmly believe chicken should be fried and eaten with hot sauce and not put on my pizza. Ian's is challenging my axiom with really good combinations such as the ones listed above. You clearly get the flavor of the toppings, but I never found myself wishing I were eating a cheese steak sandwich as opposed to the pizza like I usually do when I eat pizza with these unconventional toppings. Their staple is the mac and cheese pizza, but we were lucky and their pizza special was a mac and cheese with additional cheeses that were appreciated. The sausage was cut into slices like you might see on the East Coast, but thankfully was of Midwestern quality. It was moist, had good pepper content, and contains a big hit of fennel. Some thought the S'mores pizza crust was soggy, a finding I disagree with. My piece held up well and the melted chocolate and marshmallows were still nice and warm and started blending in with crust to make a really great combination. Finally, as with all pizza, it's a good idea to let it cool for a few minutes when it comes out so you don't end up with a soupy meal.

Ian's Pizza - breaking the laws of pizza and making it tasty. Ian's had a brisk business while we were there, which is fortunate for them. Unfortunately for me, I rarely ever venture into Lakeview for any reason. If I did, I would eat at Ian's again and I recommend it to anyone that enjoys esoteric toppings, but I personally felt that the traditional toppings were their best offerings though other members in the club differ. The majority favored the mac and cheese pizza that has made Ian's famous.

Ian's Pizza By the Slice on Urbanspoon