A Taste of Chicago – A Tale of Two Pizzas
Forty-eight hours is hardly enough time to taste the great food city of Chicago, but we went hungry and prepared. At the top of our list was the famous Chicago deep dish pizza. Our friends Sinead and Chad set us up for our first stop at local favorite Pequod’s.
It should be noted that typically we enjoy thin crust pizza along the lines of Neapolitan pizza. But, every once in a while, there’s nothing as satisfyingly indulgent as an ooey-gooey, loaded with cheese and lots of toppings deep dish pizza. Turns out that Chicago actually has three different types of deep dish pizza: the classic deep dish, stuffed pizza, and pan pizza.
Pequod’s is the home of the pan pizza. Created by Burt Katz before he moved on to open Burt’s Place, the distinguishing feature here is a ring of caramelized parmesan cheese, which crisps up in the cast iron pizza pan. The crust is also breadier than the others. With one delicious bite after another, the best bites were saved for the end. If any part of a pizza is left behind, it’s almost always the crust, the sometimes afterthought of a slice of pizza. Not here. The caramelized cheese crust was the star of the show. It makes us wonder why every pizza doesn’t add this “burnt” cheese to the crust. We can still taste the crispy goodness!
Now when stuffing one’s self with pan pizza, it would be advisable to not order anything else on the menu. But with such a heavy meal coming, we desired the light and fresh balance of a salad. We bring this up mainly because the salad at Pequod’s was our first encounter with whale cheese. No, not cheese actually made from a what, but cheese in the shape of a whale. Remember back to the days of high school English class, Pequod is the name of Captain Ahab’s whaling ship in Moby Dick. Thus, the white whale of mozzarella topping the salad couldn’t have been more fitting.
With Pequod’s as our first meal in town, we appropriately tried another pizza place as our last meal in town (with a few non-pizza meals in between). Giordano’s is the most famous practitioner of stuffed crust pizza. What truly sets stuffed pizza apart is an additional layer of dough above the cheese and below the sauce. Most people don't even know it is there because it's so thin and is the same color as the cheese. Also, rather than crumbly, the crust is flaky.
Luckily for us, our friends had a Giordano’s just around the corner. So, we picked up a stuffed crust pepperoni pie on our way home from sightseeing. Now no pizza is as good take-out as it is in the restaurant fresh out of the oven, but it’s hard to imagine this getting any better. Perfect cheese pull and light flaky crust. Superb!
So, our favorite? As we say, our favorite pizza is generally the last one we ate! But seriously, it was a close tie. Jessica preferred Pequod’s with its crumbly crust and less cheese; Joe Bob preferred Giordano’s flaky crust and loads of cheese. Both agree that Pequod’s burnt cheese crust is something that lots of pizza could benefit from.
A pizza loving town, Chicago celebrates pizza in all forms with joints offering styles ranging from Neapolitan to (gasp) New York and beyond. We look forward to return trips to Chicago to try these other pizza offerings and, of course, eat even more deep dish!