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, August 12, 2012

Tocco Pizza e Arte [Meeting #110]

Tocco Pizza e Arte
1266 North Milwaukee Avenue (Map)
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 687-8895

CPC invaded the patio at Tocco on July 30, 2012.

From the time of unification until the 1970s, the Italian government maintained a monopoly on salt.  The government was so devoted to retaining that power that, at least in the 1890s, it actually restricted how much ocean water people could take to their house because they might use the small number of crystals that would be left behind days later when the water evaporated rather than buy more of the heavily-taxed, government-controlled product. While I highly doubt the intent at Tocco is to create a tribute to those oppressive days in Italy, I did find the pizzas to be the most underseasoned ones I can remember eating.

Five members of the Chicago Pizza Club headed to Tocco on a surprisingly mild Tuesday night. The wall of windows was wide open, giving those of us who took our place on the patio several steps off of a largely ungentrified stretch of Milwaukee Avenue a clear look at one of the more stylish interiors the Chicago Pizza Club has encountered. We ordered five pizzas:

  • Margherita
  • Casarecci (white pizza with mozzarella, gorgonzola, fresh tomatoes and mushrooms)
  • Soppressata
  • Milanese (mozzarella, prosciutto and fresh arugula)
  • Red pizza with zucchini, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms (name not on the website and therefore lost to history)
These pizzas, which ranged from $12 - $18 and are intended as a meal for one person, were not very good. The crust on each pie, which looked pretty enough thanks to some nice charring in spots, was dry and had no real flavor. The cracker-like texture was fine, but that just made it a cracker crust, not a good crust. The sauce, which was present on three of the pizzas, and which was presumably made from canned San Marzano or some other type of Roma tomato, tasted like, well, tomatoes. Like the crust, there was no noticeable salt. And these tomatoes were not particularly bright; not bad, but not that good. Another note about the sauce - there were seeds in it. They were soft seeds and I probably wouldn't have noticed them had I not looked closely at the sauce, but it's just lazy to leave them in.

There were a couple of highlights. Actually, there was one. The soppressata itself was actually good cured meat that packed a little heat. The pizza was simple and, other than the crust, not particularly flawed. The Margherita was also pretty good, but the cheese, like the sauce, brought nothing that made it stand out at all. It looked like fresh mozzarella, but wasn't the creamiest version out there.

The other three pizzas had significant problems. The Casarecci and the red pizza with the unknown name, suffered not only from the lack of salt that was a theme of the night, but also from decidedly unimpressive ingredients. Every single vegetable tasted like one of the cooks walked to the nearby Jewel and picked up whatever was on sale. It's the middle of summer; there's no excuse for using vegetables with this little flavor.

The Milanese might have been the worst offender of the evening. The prosciutto, which was far too thick and chewy, was a virtual salt lick. The meat was so oversalted that if someone in the kitchen could have figured out a way to extract the salt from the prosciutto and distribute it across the other four bland pizzas, then it's possible the tenor of this review would be entirely different. But that science doesn't exist and we were left with an unsatisfactory pizza meal. The arugula on the Milanese was good, but sandwiched between that prosciutto and a dose of Parmesan that looked and tasted like it came from a green shaker, it wasn't going to save the pizza.

All that said, we at the Chicago Pizza Club are troopers. We ate almost everything so Tocco's pizza at least had a little going for it. But I'll be surprised if any of us go back there again.

Petey Pizza gives Tocco Pizza e Arte a 4.9.