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:


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Uncle Tykie’s Prairie Fire Grill and Pizzeria (Chicago Preview)

Uncle Tykie’s Prairie Fire Grill & Pizzeria
213 N. Main Street (GoogleMaps)
Athens, IL 62613

Neil from the pizza club has found a vehicle to sell his years –in-the-making pie recipe (note: the only problem being that it is located 191 miles south of Chicago in Athens, IL.) For this CPC meeting we met at Neil’s apartment in Old Town for a facsimile of the pizzas soon to be served in Athens. As the commercial scaling of the pizzas may result in a slightly different preparation method, this review will focus strictly on the preview pies served to the CPC.

The hand-stretched, irregularly shaped crust is transferred from a cornmeal dusted peel and cooked directly on a stone. Much like the recently previewed Pizzeria Serio, these pizzas don’t fit squarely into any one of the traditional styles. The pizzas served were a hybrid of New York, Neapolitan with perhaps even a bit of New Haven style thrown in. The thin crust has a crisp, substantial base with slight bit of chew between the actual crust bottom and the toppings. The edge of the pie had a firm outer rim with a soft, airy inside.

As mentioned, these are not the actual pizzas served at Uncle Tykie’s in Athens so it is worth pointing out the similarities between the two. The dough and sauce recipe are the same, as is the asiago and pecorino romano hard cheese combination. This evening Neil prepared the following five pizzas for the CPC.

  • Margherita – garlic, basil, fresh mozzarella, asiago, pecorino romano and tomato sauce
  • Baseline Special – sausage, garlic, basil, fresh mozzarella, asiago, pecorino romano and tomato sauce
  • Chicken Doesn’t Belong on a Pizza? – roasted chicken, artichoke, garlic, fresh mozzarella, asiago, pecorino romano and tomato sauce
  • Pancetta – pancetta, onion, mushroom, fresh mozzarella, asiago, pecorino romano and tomato sauce
  • What’s Left – pancetta, onion, mushroom, red pepper, fresh mozzarella, asiago, pecorino romano and tomato sauce

Shuffling multiple pizzas out of a small non-pizza oven resulted in some inconsistencies in the finished product. This night the oven held up well for the first three pizzas, while numbers four and five suffered from a lack of crisp on the crust’s bottom, as the stone lost some of its temperature.

The pancetta was by far the stand-out topping of the night with a hearty amount of salty, fatty goodness. This was Neil’s first foray into using chicken as a pizza topping and although the texture was spot-on, the heavy poultry taste and lack of saltiness shows that he still needs some refining in the preparation. As his search for the perfect sausage continues, Bob Evans breakfast sausage was used as a substitute with surprisingly palatable results.

Viewing these pizzas as the proof of concept, they displayed Neil’s passion for pie as well as some serious potential for a future in the pizza business.

Friday, April 23, 2010

[Special Report] Pizzeria Serio

Scott Toth, the chef and a co-owner in the soon-to-be open Pizzeria Serio, emailed CPC a few months back inviting us to come check out his new restaurant. Because these things alway take longer than anticipated, it was only yesterday that he was able to show me around and let me sample some of his food.

Toth is a former technology employee who, like many others, decided he wasn't finding the exact pizza he wanted and started making it at home. After trial and error, he had hit upon a recipe that produced consistently good pizza and then decided to open a restaurant. He grew up in Michigan and New York and he was craving the sort of pizzas he grew up eating. His pizza isn't exactly a Neapolitan pizza; it's the evolution of it that you can find in New York that has a lot of similarities, but focuses on making the crust more sturdy and is more generous with the toppings. The particular pizza he served me was oblong, like a New Haven pizza, but I think that was more accidental than intentional.

His new oven is an EarthStone and he likes to cook his pizzas at high heat for a brief period. Although the oven is gas fueled, he does have wood which he will add to it if some issues with the hood can be sorted out. The space itself is very large with seating for 75 in the downstairs and an extra 50 upstairs. Toth is hoping to be able to provide some craft beers on the 6 taps and create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable having a few drinks after the pizza is eaten.

Pizzeria Serio will have some salads, appetizers, and deserts, but the main focus here is on pizza. There will be two sizes (12 and 16 inch) and his goal is to make a pizza that has a more substantial crust while still maintaining some bubbling. Although his stated goal is to get rid of the "floppy" corner seen in just about every pizza cooked in this style, I'm not sure that's actually possible. Still, this crust was impressive in both texture and flavor. I ate a pizza that was half sopressata/red onion and half pepperoni/mushroom. My pizza was perfectly cooked and as we dug in, I really enjoyed the familiar sopressata from Graziano's and an excellent spicy pepperoni. The mushrooms were fresh and although Scott loves red pepper flakes on his pizza, he served me this one without any additional toppings. We also tried a few slices of his cheese pizza and it was similarly impressive. I should also mention how perfectly my pizza was complimented by my bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola. He plans on serving the pure cane sugar variety of a few sodas, including Fanta.

The plan now is to be open this weekend and await a liquor license. We'll be back to review Pizzeria Serio in a few months, but from this preliminary visit we are impressed with the quality of their product and expect that their neighbors will start flowing in to dine here. If you're looking for a new place to try on Saturday, Serio will satisfy your cravings for a well-made pie.

Pizzeria Serio on Urbanspoon

Annual State of The Pizza Club / Chuck E. Cheese [Meeting #95]

Chuck E. Cheese
1730 W Fullerton [GoogleMaps]
(773) 871-2484

CPC invaded Chuck E. Cheese on 4/17/10.

Another year, another State of The Chicago Pizza Club meeting. This time, in order to revel in our pizza proficiency, we decided to go to Showbiz Pizza (where a kid can be a kid). Shocked and saddened to find that our favorite childhood pizzeria/arcade/bacteria pool was bought out by Chuck E. Cheese, we instead chose this venue for our annual meeting. However, a little research shows that Showbiz Pizza was actually the one that bought Chuck E. Cheese and then decided to brand all their restaurants under the Chuck E. Cheese name. Bizarre.

Of course, there has to be a reason to gather all your close friends at such a place, right? Well, we decided it would be my (2nd) 30th birthday! This got me a crown, with extra tokens stuffed in it, a cool balloon with tokens weighing it down to the table (thanks for stealing those, everyone), 3 pizzas, 20 tokens for everyone that came, and unlimited pop all for $14 apiece. I also got to participate in the birthday show with all the little kids. At first, Chuck E. was a little standoffish with me. I tried to high-five him and he left me hanging. However, after seeing my enthusiasm for the birthday celebrations he warmed up to me and made it a memorable (fake) birthday. He's not so bad (for a rat) after all! Of the on-stage characters, I think Pasqually the singing chef got my vote as favorite because he's the only human on the stage.

I was kind of disappointed in the arcade game selection. There were some serious ticket-winners, such as Shoot The Moon, but they weren't very exciting. There were a few pop-a-shots and football games that were a lot of fun as well as the classic skee ball, but no good video game racers, fighters, or shooters. Perhaps the worst omission is that there was no whack-a-mole game anywhere to be found. I noticed a Bozo Grand Prize Game in the corner, but only after I had burned all my crown tokens attempting to shoot the aforementioned moon for mad tickets. After pooling all of our tokens (and purchasing additional ones thanks to MCH's coupon), we had 2500 tickets. This went towards the purchase of 3 foam rocket launchers and a Nerf football. Awesome.

The pizza...well...you know, it disappointingly wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I only had one slice, pepperoni pizza. The best part was that the sauce was mildly spicy; I wasn't expecting any strong flavors for a pizza that is marketed and sold to over-sugared children. The crust was sturdy, though flavorless. We also got a sausage pizza and a cheese pizza.

As for Chicago Pizza Club, although I failed to give a speech I would like to note that we remain the best Chicago pizza blog ever and that our blog continues to have increasing readership. Fiscally, we had a rough year in that our revenue was exactly zero dollars. However, like all Americans living in this difficult time, we tightened our belts and are happy to report we only spent zero dollars this year. Therefore, we are able to continue the club into the 2011 fiscal year.

Chuck E. Cheese's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 22, 2010

[Pizza News] Fare Thee Well Orvieto, We Hardly Knew Ye

And so, just like that, we bid adieu to Orvieto.

Due to a terrible location and not at all to the quality of the food served, Orvieto has closed. We recently reviewed it and thought it was a good pizza. Apparently, we don't have the sway we used to have.

The full story is here.