I should have known to enjoy the balmy 12-degree weather yesterday when I arrived in Chicago. Today it dropped to 5 degrees. But at least it was a dry, sunny 5. That doesn't mean much -- 5 degrees is biting. But at least it wasn't...well, you know, like this...
Chilling weather aside, one of the pleasures of returning to Chicago is the chance to eat at favorite restaurants. And today was deep dish pizza day, a subject that can bring Chicagoans to blows.
(To those who haven't tried it, this isn't "thick crust." Chicago-style pizza has a fairly normal thin crust, but thick, tall sides that let you fill the pizza up deeply. And the crust is made with corn meal and flakier, more like a cake than bread. I understand that some people only prefer basic thin, Sicilian style. To each their own. For me, the richness of the tomatoes, abundance of ingredients, and flavor and texture of the crust make Chicago-style my favorite. Happily, I can enjoy both, though I know some thin-crust folks who are stuck in one-type-only land.)
One of my favorites is Edwardo's which introduced the now, oft-copied spinach pizza. The pizza is wonderful, though not universally appreciated. Though I don't think any pizza here is "universally" appreciated. People are simply too proprietary to their favorite. (It's like the food version of writers debating their screenwriting program.) One of the reasons I like going there though has nothing much to do with the pizza directly, but they give you baskets of pizza dough chips. Great stuff. I've been known to be full before the pizza even arrives.
In recent years, I've been introduced to Nancy's which I've come to like. Pizzaria Uno and Gino's East are the deserved legends, though I haven't been there in years. However, a relative of Gino's started Pizano's, which has a branch a few miles from where my dad lives. Oprah rated it "the best" in Chicago, and it's good -- but it's not close the best. (It's not even precisely deep dish, made with a low, mini-crust. Made straight forward, it's just okay, but if you pay extra and get the butter crust dough, it leaps up much higher.)
More recently I've begun eating at Viccino's, which is quite good. I slightly prefer others, but Viccono's has one huge thing going for it. They have two places each only about a mile from here. If they weren't as good as they were, I wouldn't go, but...sometimes convenience wins out.
Once upon a time, both Pizzaria Uno and Gino's East got into franchising, and bizarrely they each opened branches half a mile from me. It was a joy beyond joys. Alas, the ridiculous competition killed Gino's and a couple months after that -- because Uno's was in a horrible location on San Vicente where it curves in West L.A., a place where numerous restaurants have gone to die -- Pizzaria Uno's bit the dust. So, I was in pizza heaven for about three months, and then just a bitter, empty plate.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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