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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Castel Gandolfo Pizzeria [Meeting #98]

Castel Gandolfo Pizzeria
800 N Dearborn St (map)
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 787-2211

The CPC invaded Castel Gandolfo on 7/1/2010

The sign on the sidewalk in front of Castel Gandolfo proudly proclaims their recent third place ranking by Chicago Magazine. On July 1st the Chicago Pizza Club decided to see if their pies stood up to the prior 97 spots reviewed.

Castel Gandolfo has one of two coal fired pizza ovens in the city. Their cooking technique does not produce a char like the pizzas from Coalfire but that's not to say they don't do the oven justice. With a pizza menu consisting of just 2 sizes, 14" and 16" and the specialty option of a white pizza for $1 extra, the only debate is on the toppings. Considering there was only a $2 difference between the two pie sizes available (and no increased topping charges) the CPC ordered 4 pizzas for the review.

  • Sausage and Garlic
  • Margherita
  • White Pizza with Prosciutto
  • Roasted Grapes and Taleggio Cheese
The first round of pizzas delivered to the table were a sausage and garlic pie along with a traditional Margherita. Both pizzas had a generous amount of fresh mozzarella that extended closer to the edge of the crust than the slightly acidic sauce did. The crust was thin with a slight snap under the toppings and a soft wide rim. The second round brought out a white pizza topped with prosciutto along with an unlisted special pie containing roasted grapes and taleggio cheese.

The same Margherita pizza ranked highly by Chicago Magazine also seemed to be the favorite of the pizza club. Even with a crust that could have stood another minute in the oven, it's easy to see why this pizza is highly regarded. If Castel Gandolfo wasn't so close to the pizza I make at home, this would be a very frequent destination.


  1. I was among the members who favored the Margherita - the sauce was almost neon red from freshness. In fact, my favorites for the evening were the two that had red sauce - the Margherita and the sausage & garlic. The white pizza with prosciutto was pretty good...the best parts were the crust, which I thought had an appropriate thickness and density, and the prosciutto, which was thin-but-not-too-thin and of good quality. As for the roasted grapes and Taleggio Cheese pizza, I don't have anything good to say about it - the grapes were as smooshy and amorphous as you might guess they'd be after being soaked in wine and baked. It was either the Taleggio or the grapes that gave this pizza a smell that I likened to a filthy dog kennel, and which made my final piece for the evening a disappointment. Their pizza really is good, overall, though.

    Neil makes a good point that the toppings do not increase in price with the size of the pizza, so I will dull down my complaint about the crust's width, which was at least 3" (1 1/2" on each edge) of the 16" diameter of our pies.


  2. I really enjoyed this pizza quite a bit… even the Taleggio and Grape pizza… though, I'll admit that pie could've used some fine-tuning to perfect.

    The mozzerella cheese overall was just fantastic, you could tell that it was about as fresh as can be and it made a fantastic addition to the quality sauce and crust of the pies.

    The crusts, for me at least, had a great chewiness while still being not undercooked… and I definitely finished every bit.

    I'll give Castel Gandolfo an 8.5… I would definitely eat here again without any hesitation.

  3. I liked but didn't love the pizza. I thought every pie was a little undercooked and there were some issues with insufficient toppings (sausage and taleggio were both woefully underrepresented on their respective pies). But ingredients were all good quality. I'd be happy to go back, but I ask them to makes sure the pies were cooked more. A 6.8 for me.

  4. I know that they claim to have a coal oven, but did you actually SEE the oven and it using coal to cook? I ask because my friend is friends with the owner of Coalfire and there are only 2 coal distributors in the mid west and neither deliver to Castel. So unless they are using Kingsford, I want to see actual coal in this oven.

  5. Castel Gandolfo makes a good pizza but could use a little more practice in the consistency department. While all of the ingredients seemed to be fresh, some had more taste than others. On my first slice of sausage and garlic, I barely tasted the piece or two of sausage that was present. However, I did have a bite that exploded with garlic. That was nice. I saw basil on all pies except for the grape/taleggio, but couldn't taste it at all. So basically the sausage/garlic and margherita were essentially the same pizza to me. Then came the white pizza with prosciutto, which was cooked instead of thrown on after the pizza came out of the oven. I appreciate this because I like it crispy and greasy. Lastly, I ate the grape and taleggio cheese which had the most flavor out of all the pies. At first, I thought...oh man this cheese smells stanky...but I didn't mind it and the grapes were very moist and infused with their own product, wine, interestingly enough. This and the white pizza with prosciutto were my favorite slices.

    The cheese on all the pizzas was fresh mozzarella and really glued itself onto the crust, which I enjoyed. The crust wasn't too thick or too thin, except in the case of the sausage pizza where it was nearly impossible to eat without a fork and knife. It wasn't too dry or too moist and had a nice flavor. The tomato sauce was abundant on my slices, and I enjoyed its simpleness at first, but then tasted an overabundance of oregano. Overall, a nice combination and worthy of another visit.

    Castelo Gandolfo gets an 8.

  6. If the sauce at Castel Gandolfo went closer to the edge they would have earned a slightly higher mark. For the reasons mentioned in the main review they eared an 8.4 on this visit. It's on the verge of a truly great pizza.

  7. I really liked the pizza at Castel Gandolfo, which oddly enough is the name for the pope's summer residence. I wonder if they have good pizza there. There may be some merit to the comments that the crust could have cooked a bit longer, but the crust had a great flavor and a great chew. All the ingredients tasted nice and fresh, and I really liked the sauce. That may be why I happened to prefer the sausage/garlic and margherita pizzas. But they definitely need to toss more sausage on that pie. It's hard not to compare the grape/taleggio to the delicious version made nearby at La Madia, and the comparison is not favorable for Gandalfo. The grapes are soaked too long in wine, detracting from their natural sweetness and taking in too much of the booze. It also needs more taleggio (which it seems some commenters might not like, but I do).

    Overall, pretty solid pizza if you're in the area. 7.7