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Monday, November 23, 2009

Marcello's [Meeting #88]

645 North Ave [GoogleMaps]
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 645-2550

CPC invaded Marcello's on 11/23/09.

Marcello’s has been serving their signature thin & crispy pizza in Chicago since 1947. There are 2 locations in the city; one in Lincoln Park and the other in Logan Square. Two years ago they opened a third restaurant in the northern suburb Northbrook. For this meeting the Chicago Pizza Club converged upon the Lincoln Park/ Old Town location at 645 W. North Ave. The restaurant anchors the west side of a strip mall that bears a large sign advertising Father & Son plaza (before changing their name to Marcello’s the pizzerias were known as Father & Son). The North Ave location has a large dining room, banquet hall, bar and an attached bakery. In addition to the pizza, Marcello’s has a full menu with entrees ranging from Italian food to BBQ ribs.

All of their pizzas are available on three different types of crust; thin & crispy, N.Y. and whole wheat. In addition to the crusts listed, gluten free is an option available in limited sizes. The thin & crispy “tavern style” crust is what Marcello’s is known for and was chosen for all the pizzas ordered for the review. Four 14” pies proved to be just enough for the crew of eight. As a special treat, 2 desert pizzas were ordered in addition to the four main ones. The six pizzas were:

  • Four Cheese & Plum Tomato — plum tomatoes, mozzarella, parmesan, romano and fontinella cheese with fresh basil & olive oil sauce
  • Thai Chicken — ground chicken breast, spicy peanut sauce, mozzarella cheese, green onions & shredded carrots
  • Sausage and Garlic — sausage, garlic
  • Margarita — whole mozzarella, plum tomatoes and roasted garlic with fresh basil & olive oil sauce
  • Very Berry Dessert Pizza – blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, custard
  • Hot Toffee Apple Pizza – apples, cream cheese

With an unusual, but delicious peanut sauce base the Thai Chicken pizza seemed to be a surprise hit for the group. The plum tomatoes were a real stand-out on both the Margarita and the Four Cheese pizzas although the addition of the pesto base on the Four Cheese seemed to put it a notch ahead. Sausage and garlic worked fine as toppings on the fourth pie but when put up against the other three it seemed to lack any particular outstanding quality. The apple desert pizza had a wonderful buttery crust layered with cinnamon, apples and a streusel topping. A berry desert pizza was also ordered and although good, a strong tart flavor from the cranberries took away from the otherwise sweet pie.

Of the four dinner pizzas ordered all of them managed to come out with same high level of consistency. Marcello’s has an obvious interest in quality as was evident by the special pizza pan used for serving so that crusts don’t get soggy. With a solid tavern-style pizza and some surprisingly delicious and innovative topping combinations, Marcello’s might well be the best pizza in Old Town.

The CPC gives Marcello's an average score of 6.8 / 10.0.

Marcello's Father & Son on Urbanspoon


  1. Well, Neil beat me to the punch on choosing this as a meeting venue - Marcello's/Father & Son pizza is very highly regarded (in a visceral sense) in my book, and I was thrilled to finally have a reason to go there in person, since I've only ordered in the past (scads of times).

    The first piece I ate was the sausage and garlic, which was placed right in front of me by our server. I thought the sausage was pretty good - not out of the ordinary - and it sure did have a good serving of garlic! I'd call it "solid" - good, basic super-thin crust pizza.

    Next for me was the Thai chicken pizza. This is a pretty good pie, due in large part to the incredible chicken they use (I shared my theory of how they get such tender, well-seasoned chicken with the crew: it's as if they carefully select choice cuts, tenderize the hell out of them, and then brine them in basil and garlic). The peanut sauce (yes, peanut sauce) on the pizza was delicious - not too sweet, as one might assume.

    It's a good thing the four-cheese plum tomato pizza wasn't put in front of me, for it would have indelibly remained there until I single-handedly ate the entire thing. This is one of my favorite pizzas, and as my third slice of the evening, it was just as good in-house as it is when it's delivered (it travels well). I dream about the super crispy, thin crust that is completely impregnated with olive oil from the pesto sauce they apply in copious amounts. The tomatoes may or may not be canned - I am not the guy to ask - but they taste great and have a wonderful firmness that suggests they were purposely drained of moisture to avoid waterlogging the pie. The amount of basil flavor on this pizza is of epic proportions, so be warned.

    The last dinner pizza slice I tried was the margherrita, which was admittedly lackluster after the four-cheese plum tomato (4cpt) - this is primarily because there was not enough to differentiate it from its neighbors, and by a simple list of ingredients, was fairly similar to the 4cpt, but not as tasty. Not bad pizza, though.

    After our dinner adventure, the group agreed to try the two dessert pizzas Marcello's cooks up. Of the two, I declare the apple pizza to be the clear winner. The berry pizza was good, too, but included cranberries which I found to be a skosh too tart.

    7.9 out of 10.

  2. I found Marcello's to be a pleasant suprise. As we went with four thin crust pizzas on this trip I was very happy to find all the crusts very thin, and very crispy with a nice flavor. The toppings were more or less pretty standard, save for the Thai Chicken Pizza. I didn't ever think I'd have a pizza with peanut sauce, but Marcello's served it up and it was quite good. Definitely a pizza to be shared though, I think a few small slices of this unusual pizza combination went quite a long way.

    And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the dessert pizzas. Both were quite excellent, though Adam is correct in that the berry pizza was a touch too tart in certain bites due to the cranberries. And I was a little saddened to hear our server mention that these pies were premade, and not made to order… which leads me to believe that perhaps they'd been frozen?

    All in all, a good pizza experience and definitely someplace I would wish to return to in the future. 7 out of 10.

  3. The crust is definitely the best component of Marcello's thin crust pies. I am normally not a fan of thin crust. However, this particular crust possessed a soft-layered texture, quasi mille-feuille and the crust was baked medium well, which are both qualities I enjoy in any crust thinner than pan.

    The Thai Chicken pizza was dominated by the sweet peanut sauce. I do not recall what kind of cheese was used or the quality of the chicken ... but I do vividly remember the thick sticky tangy sauce. The peanut sauce was definitely mixed with hoisin to give it that syrupy and shiny quality. As a smaller portion, this concept would do great as a bastardized Thai appetizer.

    More successful were the dessert pies and specifically, my favorite pizza of the night, the apple dessert pizza. The crust was buttery-rich and baked with cinammon. The apple-toppings tasted more like warm apple-filling and the pizza really presented itself like an open-faced apple pie. Highly recommended.

    6.5 out of 10.

  4. I quite enjoyed these pizzas. The Thai Chicken Pizza was exactly what you would expect: chicken, peanut sauce, ginger. Kind of like pad thai on pizza. It was a little odd, but really not bad.

    My favorites were the margerita and the four cheese with plum tomoato. Although there was no sauce, the cheese was flavorful and the tomatoes were plentiful and plump, although they were probably canned.

    My least favorite was the sausage pie which is highly unusual because sausage is generally my favorite. I think this pizza suffered the most from a lack of sauce. I think some tomato sauce would have balanced it out.

    Definitely try the apple dessert pizza -- it is significantly better than the berry.

    Overall I give Marcello's a 7.0.

  5. Marcello's offers many options to the pizza lover, but doesn't excel in quality. Severely thin and crispy pizzas are not my favorite, because I like some chew in my crust. However, Marcello's version was adequate. It served its purpose and provided nice flavor and crunch.

    My favorite pizza of the night was the Thai chicken. Peanuts rarely let me down, and the chicken was deliciously seasoned. Add some carrots and scallions for good measure and there you have it! Second in line was the sausage and garlic. This is the only crust that I found to be a little soft, but in a good way. Maybe it was just my center piece selection. Sausage wasn't particularly awesome, but combined with garlic it was pleasing. My least favorites were the Margherita and the Four Cheese/Plum Tomato. The pesto topping was robust and enjoyable, but any pizza that features tomato as a topping should not be canned. I expect fresh tomato if its purpose isn't to be sauced, so I was disappointed. Also, these pizzas tasted too similar.

    If you're ordering dessert, get the apple pizza. As mentioned by other clubbers, the crust is buttery and chewy, and the apples have a nice hint of cinnamon.

    Marcello's gets a 5.5.

  6. Marcello's pizza crust has some unique attributes. The flaky texture was like a pastry. When you bit into it it sounded like a croissant. The Thai chicken pizza was the first of it's type I tried and I thought it went well. The carrot shavings, scallions and peanut sauce with chicken resembled pad-thai, and the taste was similar. I wouldn't eat too many slices, but it was a good novelty pizza. The other three pizzas were decent but not as memorable. The sausage wasn't that flavorful, and the four cheese and margherita pizzas tasted similar. However, I would pick the margherita over the four cheese. The main pizzas are pretty good, perhaps they would be better if they used a little less oil, outside of the pesto. At the end we had apple and mixed berry dessert pizzas which were surprisingly good. Apple was definitely the best with what I think was a cheese-cream sauce.

    Overall, Marcello's is a nice family restaurant where it wouldn't be hard to develop a particular fondness for their style of pizza.


  7. Marcello’s ranks as my current favorite pizza place in Old Town. It is very rare that I venture into some of the more exotic gourmet pizzas like the Thai chicken but the crispy thin crust from Marcello’s almost begs for it. Although the Thai chicken pizza is delicious it doesn’t fulfill my craving when I want a proper pizza; this is where Marcello’s came a bit short. The pizza I’d normally use as a baseline for this style is topped with sausage and garlic. That pie, although good, was my least favorite of the evening. The sausage had no stand-out quality and seemed like it could use a bit more fat. I'm looking forward to trying the garlic chicken, mushroom and fresh basil on my next visit.


  8. Argh, great review guys. I wish I had been there to steer you towards the deep-dish there. It's worth trying and I personally prefer it to their thin (which I also like).

  9. Marcello's rocks! I'm a huge fan of its thin crust pizza. Doesn't really matter which toppings you choose because the crust and sauce are so good! I came here with a friend recently who is celiac, and she says Marcello's has hands down the best gluten free menu in Chicago. She ordered the thin crust gluten free pizza, I tried it and honestly could not tell the difference whatsoever. Haven't tried the pan pizza yet, I hear its not really their thing. But Marcello's is definitely my new go-to for thin crust pizza delivery. I hear the broasted chicken is very good too, ill have to give it a try.