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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


  1. Hmm, this sounds like the kind of place a couple of sisters and a daughter might like to visit in June.

  2. I thought Sano's was very, very good. In fact (wait for it...), I'd have to say I was "in-Sano" about their thin crust pizza (hehehe). Okay, childish humor aside, I was definitely a fan of the two thin crusts we had - their home-made sausage was the perfect topping to go with their mildly acidic sauce, and the introduction of abundant garlic completed the dish very appropriately (thus completes pie #1). Pie #2, the thin crust Italian beef with onions, was equally tantalizing and competently assembled - toppings all in correct proportion. The crust of the thins was, in a word, great; reminiscent of pastry-style, but with substance and endurance in terms of crispiness.

    I thought our broccoli stuffed pizza was pretty good on Chicago standards. I will say that it didn't hold a candle to the thin crust, but if I lived in the neighborhood, this pie would be enough to save me some trips to other, better-known stuffed/deep pizzerias. This pizza had a TON of cheese, and the crust was, again, very good (the outer portion being quite edible and enjoyable).

    Our discussions as a group revisited the notion of grading on a restaurant's stronger menu offering, and in this case, I'd like my score to reflect only the thin crust - their juggernaut and champion. 9

    (I may be sanctioned for this, but if I was to rate their stuffed pizza on its own, I'd go with a 7.7)

  3. This place has a total South-Side feel, but it's way up north. I almost expected the sweet sauce usually found south of Cermak, but instead got a thick sauce that was mildly tart with a strong thyme and oregano profile. The crust was firm and yet not dried out like some crusts can be. Just be careful - these pizzas come out right from the oven. Let them rest a bit.

    The Italian beef with giardiniera was really, really, really good. Make sure to get the hot stuff on the pizza.

    The sausage was the typically great Chicago sausage. No gross parts, just fatty meat with pepper and fennel. I liked it very much.

    The stuffed was actually pretty good; I just don't know if people really enjoy this style. It was very heavy on the cheese, but I did not mind that at all.

    The thin crust pizza here is genuinely good in the tavern style. It's a bit far, but I would make an excuse to eat here again. i thought it was really excellent.


  4. Nestled just west of Koreatown, Sano's is the pizza gem of Mayfair.

    I think the winner of the night was the garlic/sausage thin crust pizza. Echoing el Presidente's assessment of the excellent sausage, it is wonderfully simple and very Chicago and having grown up in Budlong Woods, Frank's sausage took me back to the tasty fennelly sausage I enjoyed on pizzas way back when.

    I also enjoyed the stuffed, especially the slightly spicy sauce. My definition of stuffed = heavy cheese. I had no problems with that.

    Kudos on the reasonable prices. Frank showed me a personal pizza he was making fresh to order and proudly stated, "its only seven bucks." If you are looking for good pizza, excellent Chicago sausage, at an honest price, Sano's is your place.


  5. I thought the thin crust at Sano's was great. It was nice to get a break from the myriad new Neapolitan/brick oven places (which I also like) in favor of a reliable, square-cut Chicago thin crust pie.

    The crust held up really well and had a great texture and crunch. The thick, herb-filled sauce and gooey cheese worked well with the hearty toppings we selected. As others have noted, the sausage (made in-house, I understand) was everything you expect and love about sausage in Chicago. I liked the large slices of fresh garlic, which is not the most common way for garlic to appear as a topping. You usually find it minced and buried in the sauce, but keeping big slices atop the pizza allowed them to cook nicely on their own and almost caramelize in places. The Italian beef was mild in flavor, but was really tasty and had a great texture. It was a good call to request some giardiniera on the side, which was not listed among the standard pizza toppings but is nonetheless on hand for sandwiches. As for the stuffed pizza, I thought it was okay, but I would stick to the thin crust in the future.


  6. My favorite part of these pies was the sauce. I like a lot of sauce and this stuff is thick and plentiful. As the above comments mention, the thin crusts are must-haves at Sano's.

    I give Sano's an 8.0.

  7. I'm kinda late to the game here and don't have too much to add to the previous comments. Loved, loved, loved the Italian Beef & Onions pizza, even took a hit with the hotness and enjoyed that as well. I thought the Sausage & Garlic pizza was pretty great too… at first I balked when I saw all the garlic on my slice, but once I tasted it I wanted more. I enjoyed the stuffed pizza as well, the crust on that one was a nice variation… but wasn't huge on the brocolli… maybe if it had been more of the top bits and less of the stem, but whatevs. Good pizza all around… out of the way, but I'm sure I'll be back someday. 8.5

  8. I try not to read other reviewers comments, so forgive me for any repeat info.

    First off, entering this place was like going in a time machine back 50 years. I was waiting for George McFly to pop up behind the counter. Seriously, it was the whitest eatery I have ever seen. It was like Aunt Flo's kitchen, mixed with a Maytag commercial. In any case the decor is worth a check out on it's own.

    The pizza was surprisingly very good. I would NEVER have orderd a garlic and sausage pizza, but it was DAMN tasty. There were whole slices (length-wise) of garlic and it was delicious. Again, I would never order italian beef on a pizza. The beef was tender and with a little giardiniera it really kicked some ass. Mouth was happy on that one. OK, the stuffed pizza. I have to say, I really dug it. May have been one of the few at the table who did. The crust was a meal in itself and had good flavor.

    All in all, definitely worth the trip, and may go again. I will give it a sturdy 8.

  9. After so many recent visits to specialty pizza places, it was refreshing to go to a good, square-cut Chicago pizza place. The toppings were basic, but very high quality. Of course I loved the sausage, but I was especially impressed with the Italian beef slice. The beef itself wasn't tough and flavorless like it often can be at pizza places. It was tender and juicy and its flavor held up to and complimented the sauce and giardenara (which really made this a top notch piece of pizza). I think that all of the other reviewers did a good job detailing the pizzas we had at Sano's and I don't have a lot to add to it. Everyone should have a neighborhood pizza place like this. I was ambivalent about the stuffed pizza we had, but a little blown away by the thin crust. Since thin crust is their specialty, I'm gladly giving it an 8.5.

  10. Sano's is a solid pizzeria with a beautiful oven sitting just inside the front window. The passion the owner showed when talking to our group came through in each pie. The sausage and garlic was my pick for the night and although excellent was trumped by the Italian beef and onion pizza. With some giardenara to add to the beef pie the flavors just exploded, this is a truly outstanding pizza! Through some high-life tall boys in the mix and you've got a deliciously inexpensive night.

    I'd be curious to try the stuffed pizza with some hearty meat on it as the broccoli just didn't cut it. Overall the stuffed pie had potential with the right toppings but the 8.4 rating here only applies to the thin.