I'm still milking my recent trip to Chicago for blog material. Why not? It's a rich and culturally diverse city, there's loads to see and do and write about. This one goes out to L--, who lives (as I do) in California.
L-- insisted, as we were planning a weekend we'd both be in Chicago, the weekend before last, that it was essential to sample real Chicago deep-dish pizza. No question about it, that's what we were eating at least one of the evenings we were going to be in town. She said that all manner of pies had been passed off as "real" Chicago deep dish in her California experience, and she wanted a taste of the real thing. A touchstone. An authentic experience.
We were hanging out with S-- on the Saturday evening (I don't know why I'm hiding their names, if these people don't comment on this post I'll eat my ... pizza). S-- lives west of downtown, and he knew just the place for an authentic, touchstone, real-thing, not-a-tourist-trap Chicago deep dish pizza. Giordano's was the place he said. A chain, yes, with "over 55 locations in Illinois and Florida," according to their web site, but still the real thing. He drove us to the one in Westchester. At Giordano's, as many do, they call the Chicago-style variant of pizza "stuffed," which is apropos because it's also how you feel after you eat more than a slice or so of a pie.
True confession: I am not a fan of Chicago deep dish pizza. Never have been, and I hail from the South Side myself (it's been a while, but still). We have a little chain out here on the Left Coast called Zachary's: three locations in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Ramon. In the evenings they're packed, at least the two I pass on a regular basis, the ones in Oakland and Berkeley. Especially the one in Oakland. Constantly packed. Lines out the door packed. It's been that way for years. I shake my head in wonderment each time I go by the place.
In the runup to our meal at Giordano's, talking about what characterizes Chicago Style pizza while trying not to be a pill about it, it occurred to me that "stuffed" pizza is really lasagna, more or less, without the pasta. Lasagna baked in a yeasted crust. S-- considered my proposal, and agreed that it's close to the mark. This epiphany was comforting. Now I could spin the evening positively. No, I wasn't about to endure a style of pizza for which I have little respect. Instead I was going to have lasagna for dinner. I love lasagna. I love lasagna almost as much as Garfield!
A win-win, for both the Californians.
We ordered the special, as S-- recommended. Sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions. It was a'right, for lasagna without pasta. I really don't have more to say about it than that.
I guess I'm pretty attached to the New York style thin-crust at Arinell's, greasy as it is, here in Berkeley & San Francisco (Michael Bauer, the principal food critic for the SF Chronicle, had fine things to say about Arinell's); or the late Pie in the Sky around the corner on Center Street, which didn't last long but served an outstanding slice. And, if you want to get all fancy about it, to the wood-burning oven pies at Chez Panisse and its kin. I thought Pulino's in New York had it right when I ate there about a year ago.
But, hey, it takes all kinds of pizza to make a world.
Thanks to mytimemachine for the photo of a large Giordano's Chicago Style Stuffed Pizza, via Flickr.