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:


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Orvieto Pizzeria And Wine Bar [Meeting #94]

Orvieto Pizzeria and Wine Bar
2200 N. Ashland Ave (GoogleMaps)
Chicago, IL
(773) 395-0066

CPC invaded Orvieto Pizzeria and Wine Bar on 3/30/10.

Continuing a small trend of visits to pizzerias using gas ovens, we headed to the relatively new Orvieto Pizzeria which opened in November of last year. Housed in the same space as Green Dolphin Street, a jazz club, Orvieto Pizzeria and Wine Bar occupies the eastern half of the building. The interior is somewhat confusing; there is a sleek looking kitchen producing great food that clashes with a large number of flat screen HDTVs set out in a bar-like atmosphere. I found myself enjoying this contrasting decor, but then again, I would rather watch sports than talk to my friends. I'm not sure if it's a date spot or a place to come watch the MMA fight.

The chef, Nino Coronas, is from Sardegna (Sardinia), an island off the mainland of Italy. Orvieto represents his first American turn as executive chef. He worked at both Pizzeria D.O.C. (review)and Trattoria D.O.C. prior to their sale. Coronas calls his pizza just regular Italian thin crust pizza and noted that he credits his crisp crust to his cooking technique and use of 00 pizza flour. He has settled on my favorite sandwich shop, Bari Foods, which is also an Italian grocery store with a nice meat section, to provide his sausage. Being that Sardegna is an island, one might expect a multitude of seafood offerings at Orvieto. Seafood is indeed their specialty and Coronas told me that he plans on adding even more options in the summertime and plans on doing a seafood pizza as well.

It's a long trip from Italy to the Chicago. I would have packed socks and underwear, maybe a book; Nino brought his oven with him. The pizzas are cooked at 675 degrees in a Moretti Forni oven in their open kitchen. They have recently opened a North American branch and are headquartered here in Chicago. These ovens are gigantic, but there's no denying that they are attractive pieces of machinery. His 13-inch pizza cooks in here for 6 minutes before it's sliced and brought to the table.

We ordered the following pizza:

  • Rustica (sausage, onions, mozzarella, tomato sauce)
  • Calabrese (sopressata, tomato sauce, mozzarella, gorgonzola, jalapeño)
  • Al Tartufo (white pizza, truffle oil, mushrooms, mozzarella, speck)
  • Patate e Rosemarino (yukon potatoes, rosemary, mozzarella)
  • Prosciutto Cotto e Funghi (prosciutto cotto, tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms)
The pizza came out quickly and we dove right in. I think it was fortunate that MCH was working with a new camera today because it gave the pizza a few minutes to cool just enough for the crust to firm up. My overall impressions were largely positive. The crust is a little bit chewy, but this is a small flaw in an otherwise great crust. It holds up well, has a touch of salt in it, and had a very good texture. The only drawback was that the tomato sauce on the red pies overwhelmed the crust a bit, particularly the sausage pizza. I think most of us found the Calabrese to be the big winner of the night. The fresh jalapeño accented what was already a good pizza. The Bari sausage was, as expected, an excellent mild sausage. From a prior trip, I can say that I enjoyed the pasta and would certainly come back here just for the pasta and meat dishes. Orvieto has wine and pizza specials depending on the day; Monday is $5 10-inch pizza and Tuesday is half-priced Italian wine bottles. They also have all-you-can-eat pasta on Thursday, but unless you're running a marathon I found the regular portions to be more than adequate. On any given night, Orvieto is a good bet.

And now, I leave you with a few fun facts about Sardinia:
  1. There are proportionally more centenarians in Sardegna than anywhere else in the world. Must be the olive oil and ocean air.
  2. They speak Sard there. It's an amalgamation of all languages from civilizations that have inhabited the island.
  3. There is apparently a small island of miniature albino donkeys just off the coast of Sardinia. I'm not kidding.

Orvieta on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 26, 2010

[Special Report] Revolution Brewing

Revolution Brewing
2323 N. Milwaukee Ave (GoogleMaps)
Chicago, IL
(773) 227-2739

I recently went to Revolution Brewing with Randy, one of the reviewers at the Chicago Bar Project website. For the uninitiated, Chicago Bar Project does reviews of Chicago bars. I'm not sure if there are more pizzerias or bars in this town, so their project is pretty ambitious and their website is pretty comprehensive. In addition to just writing reviews of neighborhood bars, they also have organized events where you take trolleys to different bars.

Because Revolution Brewing is trying to make high-quality food as well as great beer, we decided to team up to review their pizza and the bar. The review for Revolution Brewing is already posted here on their website. In brief, I have been here a few times now and while I am slightly underwhelmed with their beer thus far, the bar itself is very nice. It's custom built and an excellent use of their space. I'm not too worried about the beer given the pedigree of the brewers; I'm sure they'll make me a hop-overloaded IPA soon enough. My favorite beer, and last beer of the night, was the Eugene porter.

It was nice that our server pointed out to us that all meat products are from Boe's Farm in Ottawa, IL. We noted that the sausage is made at the brewery. Their oven has a large fire and appears, at initial inspection, to be a small wood-burning oven. A closer look reveals that while it has an open mouth, it's a gas oven with flames in the back that radiate the heat to the front of the oven where the food is baked. The pizzas here are cooked at about 500 degrees for 7 minutes before they are served.

On this trip, we tried two pizzas:

  • Duck confit with gorgonzola, pistachios, rosemary, red onion, and tomato sauce
  • Italian sausage with mozzarella and tomato sauce
The crusts were the same on both and kind of confusing. The edges were great - light, well-cooked, and almost flaky. However, the portion which was topped was not really up to the task of holding up the toppings and became soggy and limp. I thought it was between pizza and focaccia. The sausage was better than I had hoped for; it is among the better sausages to grace a pizza in this sausage loving town. I had a lot of problems with the duck confit pizza. We both felt it was too salty - not to the point where it was inedible (we finished it), but enough that it became a chore to eat. The duck itself was too salty, suggesting the cure was applied for too long or was too salty to being with. In addition, Revolution questionably adds gorgonzola cheese, which only augments the salt from the duck. The pistachios and other toppings, besides the rosemary, were hardly noticeable on this pizza, drowned out by salt.

At this point, I find the sausage pizza a success because the sausage itself is outstanding, but the duck confit needs some work. They have 10 pizzas on the menu plus a special. There are a few here that seem appetizing and I'd be interested to try them. I'm not sure if we'll have an official meeting here, but the overall package at Revolution Brewing is very nice for a beer lover like myself. I went on a Wednesday evening and had to wait 30 minutes to get a seat at a table or the bar. Clearly, I'm not the only one enthusiastic about an excellent brewery opening up in town.

Revolution Brewing on Urbanspoon

[Pizza News] Which Do You Prefer: Guns, Pizza, Or Nudity?

Internet sociologists floatingsheep.org have turned their map-making focus on pizza. Well, pizza and strip clubs and guns.

Happily, it appears that their analysis of user-generated GoogleMaps placemarks indicates that here in Chicago we have our priorities straight. Other findings include: the South still sucks, the nebulous area between California and the Midwest still sucks, and there are lots of strippers in Las Vegas.

I think that Missouri made the right move in moving to the South, judging by their green patchiness.

Click here to see the map.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sano's Pizza [Meeting #93]

Sano's Pizza
4469 W Lawrence Ave. (GoogleMaps)
Chicago, IL

CPC invaded Sano's Pizza on 3/23/10.

Sano's Pizza is a mysterious place. I don't know anyone who has eaten there, they've only driven by. There's no website, and phone calls are unanswered. There isn't even voicemail. The official page on Facebook boasts only 44 fans. That said, there are a few ardent fans on Yelp! and other sites. In fact, I hadn't heard of it until some readers emailed us to recommend we check out their pizza. So what's this place all about?

Sano's Pizza, located in Chicago's Mayfair neighborhood (in the Albany Park community) at Lawrence and Elston, has been in business since the 1950s. The current owner, Frank, has owned it for the last 40 years. He bought it from the original owner, the eponymous Mr. Sano. Frank is a kindly older gentleman, who cooks the pizzas right out front in a Faulds rotating gas oven (a Chicago-based bakery oven manufacturer). It's clear Sano's is not like Spacca Napoli, and other "Neapolitan-style" pizzerias that are de rigueur in Chicago these days. Frank dislikes brick ovens because they do not cook consistently -- pies are either under-done or over-done, and then they are over-priced. He originally wanted to move his oven into the back, but never did. Now, he's happy that it's in the front, because having the kitchen in the front is back in style. There's no doubt that Frank, and his lovely niece, Maria, who was our waitress, are delightful. But what about the pizza?

We ordered:

  • thin crust with sausage and garlic
  • thin crust with Italian beef and onion
  • stuffed pizza with broccoli
The thin crusts were definitely the winners, and most of our group enjoyed our selections. Frank is not shy about garlic -- there were large slices and chunks of garlic evenly distributed through out our pie. The sausage, which is house-made, was flavorful and plentiful. The sauce was sweet and a little spicy, and fairly thick. The crust is thin, but sturdy. You won't have soggy slices in the middle of this pie.

Giardiniera is available upon request to accompany the Italian beef. Some took advantage of the Giardiniera, others did not. Even without the Giardiniera, the Italian beef can stand on its own, if you like beef on a pizza in general. The crust has integrity, the sauce has flavor, and the Italian beef is subtle in flavor, with somewhat crispy edges due to the thin slices.

There were mixed feelings at the table about the stuffed pizza. The schism is due to the amount of cheese in this pie. If you think there is such a thing as too much cheese, then this is not for you. However, if you can take a lot of cheese in a single slice, I think you'll be pleased. The broccoli in our stuffed pizza was not overcooked, the pieces were large and included the stems. In a way, the presence of broccoli made the whole dish seem more virtuous. The crust on the stuffed pizza, like the thin crust, was firm and flavorful. The outer crust was chewy with a pleasant blend of melty cheese and sauce.

Sano's may be somewhat of a mystery, but it's definitely worth a trip to Mayfair.

It must be noted that our final bill -- for three pizzas generously serving nine people -- was under $60. This is a very good pizza at $8 per person (including tip). Also, Sano's is BYOB, with no corkage fee and there is a liquor store next door.

As a final note -- one of our party was wearing the official Chicago Pizza Club thong panty. I can't say who, but a little bird told me that the panty was stylish, and comfortable after you got used to it. If you'd like one for yourself, check out the Chicago Pizza Club store at CafePress.com.

Sano's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

[Second Helping] Domino's Pizza

Domino's Pizza
Located approximately everywhere

Over the weekend, at the Flourish afterparty, I was served Domino's pizza, and curiosity got the better of me. So, I tried a few slices. It's possible that I haven't had Domino's in over 15 years, so I don't know what it tasted like before the recent, supposed overhaul. My boyfriend, who dined with me and has had Domino's in recent years, noticed that there was a new garlic flavor that hadn't been there before, although he said that the difference wasn't great. I did notice the garlic as well, but more on the nose than on the palate -- garlic-scented pizza! Most of the dough wasn't offensive to me -- I thought the thickness was fine; however, when I got to the crust, my mouth collided with the nasty, fake butter, (think bad movie theater "butter" juice), that was slathered on the ends. Yuck! I noticed the sauce, but only because I could see it. And, the cheese was SQUISHY. Yep. Lastly, I realized that the pizza had a bizarre aftertaste. I'm not sure if it was the butter sauce or garlic scent, but it might best be described as acrid. Next time, I'm turning down the Domino's; but, I guess the experience was educational.

This is what it looked like:

Domino's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

[Pizza News] Pizza Tours

Georgie Tourgie has started a Chicago pizza tour called Second City Pizza Tours. They take their customers on a trip to 5 pizzerias located in the North end of downtown. They hit up 1 stuffed pizza, 2 deep dish, 1 brick oven, and 1 thin crust place. It's $36 and it takes about 2.5 hours. I have to say, it seems like a good deal and a nice way for tourists to knock out these busy restaurants without having to wait for the pizzas to cook. They're ordered prior to the group's arrival so they should be waiting for you when you arrive. So for anyone coming to visit for a short time, consider this a good way to sample some deep-dish and stuffed Chicago pizza. They don't just talk about pizza though, they mainly focus on architecture and history for the walking tour. Also, the owner assures me that it's so much pizza you might as well skip breakfast before starting it.

Here's the list:

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Pizzeria Via Stato [Meeting #92]

Pizzeria Via Stato
620 N. State Street (GoogleMaps)
Chicago, IL
(312) 337-6634

CPC invaded Pizzeria Via Stato on 3/2/10.

Ten Pizza Clubbers turned out for an early meeting tonight at Pizzeria Via Stato in downtown Chicago. By some counts we had 10 2/3 people, but we round fractions and fetuses down in these parts.

Pizzeria Via Stato is part of the Lettuce Entertain You family of restaurants, perhaps Chicago's most successful restaurant company. A couple of years ago, the Lettuce people took the bar area of Osteria Via Stato, one of their Italian restaurants, and converted it into a separate pizzeria. Reservations are accepted at lunch but not dinner, so the CPC met earlier than normal, with most members showing up on time at 6:45 tonight. AJ was late and the loss was most definitely his as he did not get to experience the breadth of pizzas the rest of us did.

There are 11 pizzas on the menu, but one of those pies is barely filling enough for a dinner. We decided to get all 11 for the ten of us plus two extras. I knew from experience that the sausage and Margherita are both excellent so we ordered an extra one of each.

There are 6 red pizzas on the menu:

Classico Cheese (mozzarella, tomato sauce)
Margherita (San Marzano tomatoes, hand-pulled mozzarella, basil)
Vegetable (green pepper, vidalia onion, mushroom, mozzarella, basil)
Sausage (housemade sausage, mozzarella, tomato sauce)
Pepperoni (crispy pepperoni, mozzarella, tomato sauce)
Mushroom (mushroom, vidalia onion, mozzarella, tomato sauce)

There are 4 white pies:

Peppered Bacon (caramelized torpedo onion, hand-pulled mozzarella, Slagel farm egg)
Potato (organic fingerling potatoes, pancetta, smoked mozzarella)
Roasted Fennel (fennel, radicchio, hand-pulled mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano)
Four Cheese (hand-pulled mozzarella, young pecorino, goat cheese parmigiano)

And there's a rotating monthly special. Up this month is the Roasted Mushroom, which features oyster mushrooms, goat cheese, leeks and rosemary.

There were a couple of themes to all of the pizzas. First, there is the incredibly thin, crisp crust. This is thin even by Chicago cracker crust standards. The only place I can think of that comes close to this is Candlelite. But while Candlelite's crust is largely devoid of flavor, the nicely blistered crusts at Pizzeria Via Stato have a nice fresh bread flavor to them. The second, more important theme that was consistent across all the pizzas was the high quality ingredients.

I tried to survey the Club to see which were the favorites, but virtually every pie had a vocal supporter. Well, nobody thought the Vegetable pizza was the best, but that's to be expected. Personally, I thought the March Special stood out a bit. The sweet leeks, meaty roasted mushrooms and creamy goat cheese were perfectly matched. This pizza should be added to the regular menu immediately.

Another favorite for me was the peppered bacon. While every piece (these pies, which the restaurant calls "Tavern Pizzas," are cut into squares) is not blessed with egg, they all have the sweet onions, fresh mozzarella and bacon. As with the March Special, this pie had a fantastic blend of sweet and salty. In fact, those two pizzas were so good that we decided to replace our extra Margherita with one of them. After some discussion, we picked the Peppered Bacon. We must have confused our very attentive server because we got the Roasted Mushroom instead. Nobody minded one bit.

On the flip side, I was not a fan of the Roasted Fennel pie. The hand-pulled mozzarella was excellent as were two of the toppings - the fennel and the parmigiano reggiano. But the radicchio was too bitter for my taste. That said, at least one person identified it as one of their favorites.

I'm not going to go into detail about all 11 pizzas. Hopefully, other CPCers will chime in with detailed descriptions of their favorites and most hated. While we might not have achieved unanimity as to our favorite pies, we were in complete agreement that Pizzeria Via Stato puts out some delicious pizza.

Petey Pizza gives Pizzeria Via Stato an 8.175/10.

Pizzeria Via Stato on Urbanspoon

[Pizza News] Domino's Has Improved Sales, Still Sucks

Looks like those commercials where the people at Domino's admitted they were ashamed to make such shitty pizza have paid off. Per the Associated Press, Domino's has seen increased sales and revenue after "re-launching" with their new and improved recipe. If anyone has actually tried this new recipe, please leave it in the comments below. Also, I miss the NOID.