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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pizzeria Serio [Meeting #100]

Pizzeria Serio
1708 W. Belmont Ave [GoogleMaps]
Chicago, IL
(773) 525-0600

CPC invaded Pizzeria Serio on 10/12/10.

We had previously been invited to Pizzeria Serio for a tasting prior to their official opening. We decided to give them a few months to work out the kinks and get their business running before heading back for an official visit. I'll note that Scott, the owner and pizza-maker, knew we were coming and gave us some complimentary calzones that we would not have otherwise ordered. How his knowledge of our attendance affected the pizzas is unknown because the restaurant wasn't packed this evening and he was making all the pizzas that night anyway.

Since our previous report, Pizzeria Serio has opened and acquired the sought after alcohol license. They had some nice bottles and drafts of local microbrews and I settled in with a Three Floyd's Alpha King to enjoy my pizza. Despite initial concerns that the city wouldn't allow him to burn wood in his oven, he was able to make the necessary changes to the hood to incorporate wood burning into his gas-fueled oven.

We happened to be there on a Tuesday and there is a nice special for pizzas - get 50% off your second pizza. We ordered 6 pizzas (and got the 50% for 3 of them):

  • Marinara
  • Margherita
  • Margherita Con Carne
  • Sausage and Peppas
  • Diavolo
  • The Big Cheese
Initial plans for 2 sizes of pizza have been scrapped and they settled on a 14" one-size-fits-all pizza. No major changes have been made to the crust from the initial review and usually it holds up well. I think that in trying to make The Big Cheese and Sausage and Peppas fully topped, he does a disservice to his crust. It is obviously overpowered and left soggy by the ingredients. In contrast, I felt that the crust on the Margheritas was excellent largely because they were approriately topped. The Marinara was quite good, although I thoroughly enjoyed the excessive amount of garlic. I was excited by the Diavolo, but in the end found it too spicy for my tastes (and I usually enjoy spicy food). The pepperoncini were all I could taste of the pizza. The sauce is sweeter than you would expect to find on this type of pizza, but not as sweet as an Aurelio's (or most South Side places, for that matter). I thought it worked well - particularly on the calzone.

I think the single most impressive thing I ate this night were the calzones. The bread was spot-on and the simple ricotta and mozzarella filling puts the focus squarely on the bread and a little bit of sauce. Last time, I really enjoyed the soppressata and I failed to get it this time - mistake. I think that in general, the best pizzas here tend to be the more simple ones. Scott is working on adding a spinach pizza to the menu, but otherwise he's locked in.

Pizzeria Serio is not touting itself as a NYC pizza place, but that's what its pizza most closely resembles. There are more hits than misses here, with the misses coming mainly from excesses - toppings, heat, . I find that a less complicated pizza from Serio really shines and showcases their technique better than more convoluted options. They have multiple large HD screens and a nice bar upstairs for watching sports. This western edge of Lakeview is short on pizzerias and Serio fills the void for a good neighborhood pizzeria.


  1. Pizza Serio was fine, but there's nothing about the pizza that stands out other than the sausage. I tried 5 of the pizzas (I skipped the Big Cheese). Other than the Diavola, which as Cisco pointed out suffered from pepperoncini domination, I thought everything was perfectly fine. But I look for better than perfectly fine. Other than the outer edge, the crust was largely devoid of crispness, which was a problem both in overall texture and that it reflected an inability to stand up to weightier toppings.

    As far as filling a void in the neighborhood, I'm not sure I see that. Art of Pizza and La Gondola, both of which are 3 blocks away, are better pizza options. There's also Sapore di Napoli, also 3 blocks away, which I haven't been to but have heard good things about.

    I really wanted to like this place since the owner is so passionate about his work, but this pizza was just okay for me. I give it a 5.5.

  2. Pizzeria Serio has quickly jumped ranks into one of my go-to pizzas in Chicago. The style of pizza at Serio hits on many of the qualities that I look for in a good pie; thin crust with a chewy rim, acidic sauce and light cheese/toppings. As mentioned in some other reviews this type of crust doesn’t lend itself to handling a load of toppings but quite honestly I don’t think it needs to. There is something to be said for letting a small number of quality ingredients come together and not trying to overwhelm people with toppings, Pizzeria Serio does exactly this, just not on all the pizzas.

    Although I’m not normally a huge fan on pepperoni, the Margherita Con Carne made me think otherwise. The spiciness of the pepperoni blended oh so well with the creamy fresh mozzarella, sauce and fresh basil. The pie where the crust and sauce were really stood out though was on the Marinara. Without excessive toppings, actually without really any toppings except garlic (no cheese at all), this pie shined. With the crispiest crust of the bunch and nothing to detract from the sauce, there is no doubt the Marinara was my favorite pizza of the night.

    If you’ve been to Pizzeria Serio or are thinking about your first trip there, order something with light toppings! I made a 2nd trip after the CPC meeting and got another outstanding Marinara pizza. For the next visit a few dobs of fresh mozzarella and maybe some basil added to a Marinara may put Serio into top 3 spots in the city.

  3. In my old age (ha) I think I'm becoming more enthused about pizzas that are simple and allow a few really good attributes to stand out; as opposed to combinations of multiple savory ingredients that bounce off of one another creating more complexity. I was very much taken by Serio's more simpler pies - with the exception of the Marinara, which I thought was slightly ill-conceived because the heat of the pie allowed some of the moisture and warmth to evaporate before I could get to it (no cheese or other protective layer to seal in the elements) - it's overall flavor was not bad, though. I really enjoyed the Margherita (sans carne) - the crust turned out really well and the mozzerrella was at the peak of freshness from what I could tell. I think I expected the sauce to have a bit more tang, but I wasn't turned off too much by that. I would say a complaint I have with gourmet Margheritas is the basil is usually distributed in such a way that you get one or two very basil-ey bites - I wish someone would depart from the aesthetic practice of laying 5 to 6 single, whole leaves and half or quarter them: Serio's was no exception. The Con Carne option started to wander into the aforementioned comlexity land for me; in fairness, this could have something to do with my eating a lot of pepperoni pizza in recent months - it was a good pie...no founded complaints.

    The Sausage and Peppas pizza was quite nice - they nearly julienned the peppers and didn't overcook them, so that had just a hint of fresh crunch, and their house-made sausage was noticably different (good-different) from the norm; more spices and flavor.

    I loved the Big Cheese! I thought Serio did a great job selecting the ingredients for this pizza. The cheese on this pizza was gooey and pungent. I can't say I was a huge fan of the Diavolo - I didn't dislike it, but I think I agree with El Prez that the pepperoncinis owned it.

    Good pizza here: 8.2 (after rating, I saw Neil was right there...great minds think alike)

  4. I liked this pizza alot… the garlic pizza didn't do a whole lot for me, but that's not a pie I'd order on my own, so I'll overlook that. Loved the crust, the toppings were all good quality in my book and I stuffed myself silly whilst I was there. Sounds like Pizza Serio gets a solid 8 to me.

  5. I really enjoyed these pies. My faves were the margherita, sausage, and the garlic. The garlic, in particular, was really something I had never really tried before. It's a must-have for garlic lovers. I think all pizzerias should be judged by their margherita, because it is so simple. High quality cheese, a good sauce, and fresh basil. However, I agree with Adam that although the large basil leaves are aesthetically pleasing, it might do more for the flavor if they were more evenly distributed. 8.5.

  6. The pies at this place were pretty good. I thought the Diavolo and the Sausage were the best. The Diavolo's peperoncini complimented the pepperoni really well and had a nice crunch to them too but perhaps a few more pepperonis would've balanced better. The Margherita showcased quality cheese and crispier outer crust than normal for a Neopolitan. Not sure if it was their intention, but the Big Cheese was a bit strange for a blended cheese pizza with one pungent/sour cheese dominating all the others, though the taste was still interesting. Overall a solid pizza place worth a return visit.


  7. The calzones we started with had the creamiest ricotta and were a great device for scooping up the delicious marinara – probably my favorite ingredient on the pizzas. I also really liked the crust but thought a nice sprinkle of some chunky salt would have polished it off nicely. Like Neil, and much to my surprise, my favorite pie of the night was the marinara. I love cheese, but with a pile of garlic and sauce this good I can forgive it for not being there. I also enjoyed the Margherita Con Carne; the meat was fantastic and blended wonderfully with the other flavors. The only real letdown for me was the big cheese. Unlike Chand, I didn’t feel that any of the cheeses overpowered the others; in fact, I didn’t think any of them stood out and found the slice a bit bland.

    I’m happy to see this part of Lakeview get another quality pizza joint. I can’t say it’s my favorite, but I’ll for sure be back to Pizzeria Serio. They have nice nightly specials as well!

    I give it a 7.5

  8. I think I'm going to go with a 7.0 overall for Pizzeria Serio. There's a lot to like about it, particularly for non-pizza items. I enjoy the decor, the atmosphere, the nice televisions, the nice beer list, and the general vibe.

    However, we're here to talk about pizza. As I mentioned in the main body of the post, consistency plagued the pizzas we ate. I would stay with simple pizzas here that aren't burdened with too many toppings so that the rest of the pizza doesn't suffer. Not that I won't eat here again, because when the pizza here is on I find it to be very good. It's just that I'm going to be selective in my ordering.