Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chicago Pizza

        There has been a myriad of cultures who have had flat bread dishes that in one way or another resemble pizza but would not be recognized as such today.  Ancient Greeks, for instance, had a dish that was flat bread, honey and bay leaves. The first flat bread that used tomatoes as the base was in Naples where it was served as peasant street food. Cheese was added at the turn of the 20th century.  This first pizza is a far cry from the college staple and quintessential drunk food for the after-club scene.  Living in Ann Arbor I am an hour away from 4 pizza chain headquarters. Ann Arbor is home to both Cottage Inn, a regional pizza company and Domino's, the pizza juggernaut.  Also in Michigan are the headquarters for Papa John's (Madison Heights) and Little Ceaser's (Detroit).    Detroit even boosts its own style of pizza, though I have not yet had the opportunity to try it.  Detroit-style pizza is a square deep dish cooked in lots of oil in an industrial parts tray with the sauce applied on top and a twice baked crust.  The end of May I ventured to Chicago where pizza plays even more of an important role in the food scene.
          Chicago boosts four unique styles of pizza even if you are of the school that refuses to recognize anything but Neapolitan style pizza as pizza. Pie or pizza some Chicagoans boost their version (or actually versions) of pizza as best in the world.   Chicago has deep dish, stuffed, pan, and thin crust versions. It would take a lot more time than the weekend I was there to try all 4 versions and scope out the best places to get them especially because opinions are mixed.  I also wanted to try Chicago hot dogs, and Italian beef sandwiches so I only actually got to try one of the styles of pizza, I will have to try the others as I return again and again.  Or possibly when I move there as well.
        My friend Nick lived in Chicago for years so he was our unofficial tour guide as he showed us around.   We did all the touristy stuff and then at my behest we searched out pizza, hot dogs, and Italian beef places.  It was raining the day we went out for pizza but we still walked from our hotel to Gino's East (162 East Superior Street) but the line was out the door and half way down the alley.  The wait was at least an hour long here so we decided to find the other Gino's East location that my friends have frequented before. The other location (633 North Wells Street) was considerably less busy, we only had to wait for 30 minutes or so and I spent the entire time looking at all the graffiti that crowds the wall.   The graffiti was written in everything from Sharpie to White-out to Magic Marker. 
        The pizza itself was $28 for a large 8-slice Cheese and their famous sausage deep dish.  I was in shock considering its only $20 here in Ann Arbor for a 10-slice pizza but my friend swore by it so I forked over the money.  With our pizza we also ordered the appetizer trio which has cheese sticks, spinach sticks, and calamari.  The cheese sticks were divine, the mozzarella was plentiful, well-breaded, and melty.   The spinach sticks were not my favorite mostly because I am not a fan of cooked spinach anyway. And the calamari with a squirt of lemon tasted good albeit a little rubbery. 
       The pizza arrived in a black metal pan with what looked like a modified vice grip to hold the pan.  The pizza was steaming and smelled heavily of tomato and basil. The extremely attentive waiter ,who had already brought us 3 glasses of pop already owing to our thirst from the walk, sliced the pizza table side and served the pieces to each of us in turn. Even if you do not believe that deep-dish is actually pizza  you can not argue with the fact that it is delicious.  The sauce was not only fragrent but it also had a pugnent taste in the best way possible. The crust was flaky and thick and a every present taste of butter in the crust.  The sausage was slightly spicy and crumbled throughout the pie though lacking in quantity in my opinion for a deep dish pizza. The cheese, like the cheese sticks, was stringy and creamy with just enough in the pie (but who can argue with more cheese anyway?).  Even after filling up with the appetizers and the first slice I could not help myself and consumed my second slice as well which pushed me beyond full but it was well worth it.  We divided up the bill and decided to hail a cab since it was still raining and none of us felt like walking after the pizza.  Also its good to know that the pizza is just as good the next day in your hotel room when you dont want to be bothered to move about much.   In the coming month I will be visiting Chicago multiple times to the best of my abilities and I will be trying all the types of pizza I can and hopefully find a place to try Detroit-style pizza as well. 

Gino's East on Urbanspoon

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