Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chicago style pizza and what it really is.

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog that will be all about food. My name is Joe and I will be your guide to the world of food as seen and experienced through my eyes, nose and stomach. :-)

First, a little about me. I am 32 years old, Italian-American (and proud of it!), and born and raised in Chicago Illinois. The actual city too, not the suburbs. I have traveled to many places in my life since I used to work for an airline and have tried food all over this great earth.

For my first ever entry I wanted to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart as a native Chicagoan and pizza lover. That is Chicago-Style Pizza and what it really is. Now there is a great deal of confusion over what Chicago pizza actually is. Everything I have read or seen from the media or from individuals has shown me that much of the world is really clueless as to what Chicago pizza is really all about.

Now I like to watch shows on TV where they take you on tours to different places and show you the local culinary delights. Every one of these shows I have seen about Chicago tries to imply that the only form of pizza found in Chicago is the Stuffed variety. Now it's true that this form of pizza is the most famous variety found in Chicago but it is hardly the most eaten variety in Chicago itself. If you find some normal Chicago residents ordering pizza for themselves, nine times out of ten they will probably be ordering a thin-crust pie. Yes everyone, Chicago does have thin-crust pizza and in my humble opinion it's the best thin-crust pizza in the world. New York does not have a monopoly on thin-crust pies.

So that is what this entry will be about. The two different kinds of pizza one can find in Chicago and which are my personal favorites. First we'll start off with the most widely eaten one in Chicago, the thin crust pie.

Chicago Thin-Crust Pizza

As hard as it might be for some of you to believe, Chicago does have thin-crust pizza and it's by far the most popular form of pizza eaten by local Chicagoans too. There are two main differences between Chicago thin-crust pies and New York thin-crust pies.

1. Chicago's thin-crust is always cut into squares and not slices like the New York pizzas. This square cutting is sometimes known as a "Party Cut."

2. Chicago's pizzas are far less greasy than New York's pizzas.

From my experiences of eating and ordering pizza with people in Chicago, it seems to me the majority of Chicago people order their pies with sausage as the main ingredient along with usually mushrooms, onions and green peppers if they want some veggies on it at all. You will hardly ever seen Chicagoans ordering pepperoni on their pizzas. Now I like pepperoni a lot but I much prefer sausage and mushrooms on my Chicago pizza. Another thing is there are probably a million little local mom & pop pizza places in the Chicago metro area. I have had pizzas from many of them and let me say, I have never had a bad one. Now some I have liked more than others, but none of them were ever bad. So you could go into almost any local pizza joint and get a good pie in Chicago because Chicagoans just don't serve bad pizza. As for my favorite thin-crust pizza in Chicago, I can only go with one place. This isn't an easy decision either or one I take lightly because I have had so many good ones. There is one that just seems to stand out above all the others though and it's the little local place that has been around forever in the neighborhood where I grew up. It's called Obbie's Pizza on Archer Ave. It's in the Chicago city limits near Archer and Harlem in the neighborhood of Garfield Ridge. Obbie's is a small little mom & pop joint that has been around a long time and always been successful. They have no seating inside at all as it's take-out only but their pizza is just heaven. Out of any pizza I have ever had, no matter where it was from or what variety it was, Obbie's Pizza is by far my favorite. It would be difficult for other people to eat it since you cant eat there so you pretty much have to live around there to get it but if you're willing to eat a pizza in your car, I would highly recommend you try it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.,-87.784882&spn=0.028982,0.055275&z=14

Chicago Stuffed Pizza

There is a lot of confusion over what the difference is between a stuffed pizza and a deep dish pizza, even among some Chicagoans. Basically a deep dish pizza is one that has a very thick crust and is baked in a deep pan but still resembles a normal pizza. A Chicago stuffed pizza is quite different. Stuffed pizza will not resemble what a normal pizza looks like with all the toppings sitting on top of the cheese. A stuffed pizza consists of a layer of dough placed on the bottom of a very deep pan with the dough riding all the way up the side of the pan and hanging over the edge which will later be trimmed off. On top of this bottom layer of dough will be placed a very large and generous amount of cheese, meats and vegetables depending on what you would order with it. This layer of cheese, meat and veggies can be anywhere from a quarter of an inch thick up to a whole inch in thickness. That's a lot of cheese, meat and veggies! On top of all that gooey goodness will be placed a top layer of dough to cover it up. At this point there should still be about a quarter of an inch of open space between the top layer of dough and the top of the pan. On top of the top layer of dough is placed a generous amount of pizza sauce. Pretty much it will look like a small pond of sauce. All this is then placed in the over to bake. It doesn't resemble a normal pizza because when you get it you don't see any of the toppings or the cheese. All you see is sauce and a little bit of dough. Then you cut a slice for yourself and dig that thick piece of heaven out of the pan and have all this wonderful cheese stretching that you keep trying to break but it just won't. Finally you break all the cheese strings, set it on your plate, and gander at this steaming, thick slice of cheese, sauce, meat and dough staring back at you saying, "Eat me, eat me." You must break out the fork and knife because this isn't a slice you can pick up and eat regularly. You cut yourself a piece of it and place it ever-so-gently in your mouth, close your eyes and just chew while savoring the flavor of all that magnificent goodness. That is a Chicago stuffed pizza and it's unlike any other pizza you have ever eaten. Even the largest of appetites usually fail to eat more than two slices of it because it's so filling. Here are a couple pics of it just so you can get an idea of what I am talking about.

So that is your essential Chicago Pizza lesson in a nutshell. Personally, I prefer the thin-crust pizza over the stuffed one. I have to be in the mood to tackle that giant stuffed monster but I love it when I have it. Whichever you decide to eat though, know that there is always great pizza to be had in Chicago!