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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pizano's Pizza & Pasta [Meeting #96; Meeting #22 revisited]

Pizano's Pizza & Pasta
864 N. State Street (Map)
Chicago, IL
(312) 751-1766

CPC invaded Pizano's Pizza & Pasta on 5/11/10.

Oh what a difference 4 years makes. In February 2006, with 21 meetings already under its belt, the Chicago Pizza Club hit the interwebs with a review of Pizano's. The shitty pictures and complete absence of any description of the pizza in that post show how far the pizza club has come. Back then, CPC was a group of friends who liked to go out for pizza. Today, we are a sophisticated pizza eating and reporting operation.

Pizano's is the child of Rudy Malnati, Jr., who is the child of Rudy Malnati, Sr. Rudy Malnati Sr. was the early manager at the original Uno's and later became a partner in the business. Working with him at Uno's was his son from his first marriage, Lou, who would eventually go on to open his eponymous pizzeria. Rudy Sr. eventually married another lady and had another son, Rudy Jr., who was substantially younger than his half-brother Lou. It seems that Rudy Jr. and his father's first family are not besties so rather than go into the family business, he simply went into the family industry instead, founding Pizano's in 1991.

I routinely identify Lou Malnati's as my favorite deep dish pizza in Chicago. But I've had a few misfires there, especially at the Lakeview location. I have never had anything but delicious deep dish pizzas from Pizano's and the 96th Meeting of the Chicago Pizza Club kept my streak alive.

The 7 members came hungry so we ordered three pizzas. Up first was a deep dish "Hey Hey" Jack Brickhouse Special, which comes with sausage and mushrooms. Like every deep dish pie at Pizano's this one featured a killer crisp butter crust and a tangy sauce of chunky tomatoes. The sausage outstanding and the mushrooms were there in sufficient quantity to announce their presence even while paired up with the sausage.

The second pizza was a deep dish Mark's Special, which comes with sliced tomatoes, basil, and fresh garlic. Again, this one had a potent and delicious flavor combination on a perfect butter crust. Personally, I would have liked a little more basil, but I know others in the group disagreed and thought the proportions were spot on.

The last pizza was a thin crust with pepperoni. A few years ago Oprah and her special friend Gayle anointed Pizano's maker of the best thin crust in Chicago. Pizza love is certainly subjective, but I fail to see what criterion they were using that could possibly have had them reach that conclusion. That's not to say the thin crust is bad; it's actually pretty good. But while the deep dish pies are cooked in pans that may well have been used on opening night at Uno's nearly 60 years ago, the thin crust pizzas are not cooked in such character-building cookware. The result was a soft crust that was disappointing. Another knock on the thin crust is that the spectacular sauce from the deep dish pies is nowhere to be found, replaced by a thin sauce that doesn't have much of an impact.

Hiccups with the thin crust aside, this was a night of outstanding pizza. We had two medium deep dish pies and one large thin and a few of us would have gladly eaten more. While the CPC has improved immensely since its last visit to Pizano's, I am happy to report that the pizzeria is still putting out some insanely good pies.

Petey Pizza gives Pizano's a 9.17.


  1. For the reasons mentioned in the review and because I don't care about the thin crust pizza as it might as well not exist at Pizano's because the deep dish is so good, I hereby award Pizano's a score of 9.

  2. After much thought, I think I'll have to allocate Pizano's as my current favorite pizza. There are a few rivals that would be worthy of mention, but this review isn't the place - I just want to prequalify my statements.

    We got two of their "deep dish" pies, and one "thin crust." The ellipses are there because neither is really what you'd expect based on the products commonly associated with the nomenclature. In reality, their deep dish and thin crust are not terribly different in thickness. The major difference I noticed was the edge of the crust - it rose up a good 1/2" or more above the profile of the pizza on the deep dish; on the thin crust, it was flush with the top of the pizza.

    One deep dish we got was a sort-of Margherita (Mark's Special) - the tomatoes seemed to be stewed or canned and ground up, which was fine with me (I can take or leave fresh tomatoes on pizza, really). Dan and El Prez made comments about the basil - one of them had not enough, and one had plenty. My slice was noticeably deficient in basil, but that's something I can live with. I could not say the same about its garlic content - whoa...it was definitely there, but again, fine with me, since I'm a big garlic fan. It was a well-made, tasty pie.

    The other deep dish was a sausage and mushrooms (Jack Brickhouse Special). The minute I bit into this slice, I noticed a wholly different cheese flavor; namely, just a lot of cheese - it was very noticeable on this pizza. I admit to not having a palate that is mature enough to identify what cheeses other than the requisite mozzarella were included, but it was tasty to be sure. Their sausage is excellent - very fresh and not overly-seasoned. I should mention that the crust on both pies, including the edge, was done remarkably well, and the edge was a delight to eat on its own. As an aside, I'm pretty sure you can ask for "butter crust," and brother, let me tell you that it is decadent and wonderful (we didn't go for the arterial traffic jam, and passed on the butter crust option at this outing - I've had this during other visits).

    The other pizza we got was a thin crust pepperoni. There wasn't anything that stood way out with this pizza - it was just a really good pepperoni pizza. Pizano's sauce is not sweet and not to salty - it has a pleasant, hydrated balance to it (not over-savory or pasty) with an appropriate mixture of garlic and herb flavors. That with the good ol' ordinary cheese and their excellent crust made this a status quo pizza to make the other pepperoni pizzas insanely jealous.


  3. Hmmm...after looking at the very telling pictures taken by Andrew, it would seem my recollection of the tomatoes on Mark's Special is inaccurate - they were, indeed, fresh tomatoes. I've learned something new about myself - I can (in italics) like fresh tomatoes in some instances.

  4. Unless you ordered the butter crust, then your taste buds might be off. Pizano's outdated menu speaks of the butter crust but that is OIL you are tasting in the crust (unless of course you ordered the butter crust). From the pics you have up, it looks like they missed the mark on those thin crusts. I get the thin at the Jeweler's Row location often and most of the time it comes out perfect. It is as crispy as the crust from their deep dish with some of the best cheese I've ever tasted. I do agree though that the thins could use a little more sauce but I'll leave the Malnati in charge of the recipe and I'll just stick to the ordering. For me, Pizano's gets a 10!

  5. So good, so very good.

    The thin crust is pretty good, but who really would say it's their favorite? Sometimes I will order it from Pizano's or Lou's just because I don't want a deep dish pizza, but while good, I wouldn't say it's great.

    The sausage was great. Big, big chunks. The veggie pizza had enough butter in the crust that I wasn't missing that umami sensation that is usually lacking in non-meat pizzas.

    I was hungry. We ordered half a pizza for each member. I really could have eaten more and I regret not getting a 4th pizza.


  6. So good, I wish I was eating it now. I definitely could have eaten more, and I did enjoy the thin crust, but it does pale in comparison to the deep dish. So buttery… mmm… butter. The toppings were quality too. The sauce and cheese were good too, but the real star is the crust. I give Pizano's a 9.

  7. This was the best deep dish pizza I have had in years. It was beyond what I expected and I had high expectations from my recollection of the last time I was there (about 2 years earlier). If you go do not f*** around and get the deep dish. The sausage and mushroom deep dish was outstanding. It had really excellent sausage and great cheese and tomato sauce. I would eat this pizza every day and never get sick of it. If I were to get sick of it though I would gladly take the Mark’s special. This was a great veggie option. The tomatoes were very good (not overcooked). The basil was great too. I highly recommend this pizza to anyone who is not a meat eater but loves a good deep dish Chicago pizza. The thin crust would be good as an appetizer but again do not deviate from the original plan and just get the deep dish pie. You will not regret it. I give this place a 9.5/10.

  8. There's not a whole lot I can add that anyone else hasn't said already!

    I didn't like the thin crust much; the crust itself was too pastry-like, and soft, and diverted my attention from the pepperoni and cheese, which were perfectly fine on their own. But, you are cheating yourself if you go to Pizanno's for the thin crust, as the deep dish was fantastic. The buttery crust was the star, super rich and crispy, but the ingredients on the pizzas we tried were also very high quality. I especially enjoyed the sausage and the chunky tomato sauce.

    I don't agree with some people that this pizza was better than Lou's, (whose pizzas are at times a solid 10 for me); but it was great, and I would recommend people wanting a solid Chicago pizza experience go here instead of waiting outside Uno's for 2 hours.

    Based on the deep dish, I give it a 9.

  9. ate here on my bday in 2006, my last bday of my 30s. was the day of the Air & Water show, the waiter treated my friends and I like celebs, gave us the special bday dd cookie, and made it a great experience all around. Yay for Pisano's. I don't get downtown much, but next time I'm def eating here!