Tag Archives: pizzeria

A Little Slice of Chicago

deep-dish

That headline’s more than a mite misleading.

See, when it comes to deep-dish Chicago pizza, “little” and “slices” don’t really fit the equation. A “fat wedge,” yes. A “mountainous piece,” sure. But a little slice? Nuh-uh, that ain’t Chicago.

unoEspecially when you order a personal pizza at the original deep-dish pizzeria, Uno. In this case, the 2-inch tall pizza is dislodged from its pan before it even makes it to the table. And slicing the thing? Not going to happen.

But let’s back up a minute. Why was I in Chicago and why did I pick Uno over the plethora of “original” deep-dish pizza joints scattered around the Windy City? The easy explanation is 1) work and 2) Uno was only a few blocks from my hotel. When it comes to seeing the sites on a business trip, I’m nothing if not lazy.

Because of the popularity of the place and its inverse relationship to the amount of seating inside, you make your order (at least anything pizza-related) when you put down your name. Since the pizza takes 45 minutes to make and the wait is usually under that, it means less time at the table watching the early birds already devouring their meals.

I ordered my personal pie with mushrooms, spinach and sausage, which seemed like the right combo… despite how much the menu pushed pepperoni on everything.

As it has probably been written elsewhere and in far greater detail, the Chicago pie switches the traditional sauce/cheese relationship, relegating the cheese to a crust-sealer position on the bottom. This definitely makes sense on paper, but I also can’t argue with the taste. Once I finally breached the outer wall of the crust (which is an extreme sport all in itself), the stew of cheese, sauce and toppings could not be contained.

end-of-pizzaThe best analogy I can give about eating this thing was that it was like eating soup out of a bread bowl, except with a super-hearty soup and an impervious-to-moisture and not-very-bowl-shaped bowl.

It was a thing of beauty, this deep-dish pizza. And one that my belly will remember fondly.

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Best pizza ever?

First of all, a big thank you to Foodaphilia for the photos I forgot to take, even though I actually had my camera.

Second of all, wow.

Tacconelli’s serves easily the best pizza I’ve had in Philly, and probably the best thin-crust pizza in the land. Could it be the best ever? We’ll get to that in a minute.

One of the most interesting, and debated, aspects of the Tacconelli’s experience is the requirement that you reserve dough at least one day ahead. This does not mean, however, that you’re expected to make your own pie out of a pile of raw pizza dough. Far from it.

This policy is simply a means – and a quite effective one at that – of quality control. Tacconelli’s, a “one-man, one-oven operation,” does not (and will not) use refrigerated or frozen dough. They only make as many pizzas as there is dough to make them. Sound logic if you ask me.

The place itself is fairly dumpy. You got a few chairs, a few tables, a linoleum floor and some lights. It takes “no frills” to an almost ludicrous level, with only paper plates, paper napkins and plastic cups for your beverages – which, as you might expect, are BYO.

But mamma mia, what a pizza pie! From the first crunchy-soft bite to the last, this was the very epitome of good eats. Though I never got to see the actual menu (a small laminated thing tossed haphazardly around the table), I counted at least four different types of pies:

  1. Tomato Pie – the White Stripes of pizza is just crust and thick sauce
  2. Margherita Pie – add a few razor-thin slices of fresh mozzarella and sprinkling of fresh basil to the tomato pie and bang! another winner
  3. Regular Pie – resembles your average pie, with a nice sheen of cheese (although still less than most). Ours was topped with sausage and shrooms.
  4. White Pie – “consists of salt, black pepper, cheese and plenty of garlic.” We got this one with tomatoes and spinach, which were piled so high as to completely obscure the “whiteness” 

I must have had at least six slices out of the five pies we ordered. On a good night, I’m guessing I could probably down a whole pie myself. It’s really that good.

However…

I just can’t bring myself to rate it above Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn. Although they’re both in somewhat remote parts of their respective cities – Tacconelli’s in Port Richmond, about 20 minutes north of Center City; and Grimaldi’s in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge – and both pride themselves on the freshness of their dough and other ingredients, Tacconnelli’s strikes me as too much of a specialty pie.

I’m fairly certain the thin crust is closer to what’s made in Italy, but pizza is as American as it is Italian. And the gold standard of this mixed tradition is still Grimaldi’s.

Sorry, Philly. If it makes you feel any better, you’ve got Boston pizza beaten by a mile!