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Pizza Rustica may not be for everyone, but I'm surprised by how virtually absent it has been in this forum's discussions, especially given its location right across the street from TAC Quick. I'm a big fan of the bakery-style crust at this Venetian-owned little restaurant. Though you won't find mention of it on the menu, and the owner keeps it under wraps, the secret ingredient is lard, an irreplaceable, classic ingredient used by very few pizza places these days.

Eating the pizza at Pizza Rustica means accepting two downsides: your fingers will end up quite greasy, and you will take a few days off of your life expectancy. The reward is a fantastic, lard-produced, audible crunch that gives way to a very light-textured yet rich-tasting bread. My favorite pie at Pizza Rustica is the potato-rosemary. It's got a light coating of pureed tomatoes, well-cooked potato slices, a good dose of the fresh herb, and the right amount of cheese to keep the pie well balanced. Sometimes I have them leave the tomato puree off - it is pretty acidic.

Potato-Rosemary Pizza:
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The Crust:
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Pizza Rustica
3913 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60613-2925
(773) 404-8955
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Kennyz wrote:Eating the pizza at Pizza Rustica means accepting two downsides: your fingers will end up quite greasy, and you will take a few days off of your life expectancy.

Kennyz,

The question is: Which few days?
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You're right, this (and other) Roman-style pizza doesn't get enough (any) attention. Metro's not half bad for this kind. Yet, due to the number of places serving styles I prefer, the last time I had this sort of pizza al taglio was in Miami, at an Argentine place selling pizza in this Roman style.

Is there a city with more pizza variety today? I doubt it. I mean, Chicago boasts good examples of many home-grown, regional American, and international pizze.
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So, possibly dumb question ahead: Is this pizza basically non-vegetarian no matter how meatless the toppings are, due to the lard? Or is there a vegetarian option without lard?

For myself, it makes no difference, but I often eat pizza with a vegetarian friend, and I'm wondering if this place is now off the list.
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geli wrote:So, possibly dumb question ahead: Is this pizza basically non-vegetarian no matter how meatless the toppings are, due to the lard? Or is there a vegetarian option without lard?

For myself, it makes no difference, but I often eat pizza with a vegetarian friend, and I'm wondering if this place is now off the list.


Geli, I'm not sure about the lardless options, but I do have a friend that is a pretty strict vegetarian and he eats here all the time regardless, despite the lard.
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Ursiform wrote:
geli wrote:So, possibly dumb question ahead: Is this pizza basically non-vegetarian no matter how meatless the toppings are, due to the lard? Or is there a vegetarian option without lard?

For myself, it makes no difference, but I often eat pizza with a vegetarian friend, and I'm wondering if this place is now off the list.


Geli, I'm not sure about the lardless options, but I do have a friend that is a pretty strict vegetarian and he eats here all the time regardless, despite the lard.


I don't think most vegetarians would even think to ask whether the crust has lard, as the phenomenon is so rare. Even if they did, the server would probably say something about it being the owner's secret family recipe, so he/she doesn't know what's really in it. And the owner is only there sometimes, and is always "really busy". It took quite a bit of probing for me to find out. All I knew was that I really liked it.
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Kennyz wrote:I don't think most vegetarians would even think to ask whether the crust has lard, as the phenomenon is so rare. Even if they did, the server would probably say something about it being the owner's secret family recipe, so he/she doesn't know what's really in it. And the owner is only there sometimes, and is always "really busy". It took quite a bit of probing for me to find out. All I knew was that I really liked it.


More proof for my theory that vegetarians who eat in restaurants eat animal products more often than they know.

You should have seen the looks on the faces of some veggie friends of mine when I explained "fish sauce" to them after they told me how much they love thai food.
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eatchicago wrote:
Kennyz wrote:I don't think most vegetarians would even think to ask whether the crust has lard, as the phenomenon is so rare. Even if they did, the server would probably say something about it being the owner's secret family recipe, so he/she doesn't know what's really in it. And the owner is only there sometimes, and is always "really busy". It took quite a bit of probing for me to find out. All I knew was that I really liked it.


More proof for my theory that vegetarians who eat in restaurants eat animal products more often than they know.

You should have seen the looks on the faces of some veggie friends of mine when I explained "fish sauce" to them after they told me how much they love thai food.


another case in point: my non meat eating wife ate my Pizza Rustica leftovers for breakfast this morning, then said "That was really good. I wonder how they make that crust."
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eatchicago wrote:
Kennyz wrote:I don't think most vegetarians would even think to ask whether the crust has lard, as the phenomenon is so rare. Even if they did, the server would probably say something about it being the owner's secret family recipe, so he/she doesn't know what's really in it. And the owner is only there sometimes, and is always "really busy". It took quite a bit of probing for me to find out. All I knew was that I really liked it.


More proof for my theory that vegetarians who eat in restaurants eat animal products more often than they know.

You should have seen the looks on the faces of some veggie friends of mine when I explained "fish sauce" to them after they told me how much they love thai food.


I had a vegan/gluten free tenant for a year. She fussed and read labels and lectured about bread crumbs in the toaster, etc. I just sat back and smiled while she ate her "vegetarian" Thai food. :twisted:
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I would ask about the lard. The traditional method with some pizzas of this type is to drizzle lard on the pie before it goes in the oven rather than include it as an ingredient in the dough.
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Bill/SFNM wrote:I would ask about the lard. The traditional method with some pizzas of this type is to drizzle lard on the pie before it goes in the oven rather than include it as an ingredient in the dough.


in this case, I'm pretty certain that it's not drizzled on the pie. I have asked, and I have also watched the pie-making process pretty closely.
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Ursiform wrote:I had a vegan/gluten free tenant for a year.

Zoey Deschanel?
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Matt wrote:
Ursiform wrote:I had a vegan/gluten free tenant for a year.

Zoey Deschanel?

LOL! :lol:

=R=
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I posted about Rustica when they first opened. Having had a good meal and a lovely chat with several staff/owner/family members.

It's definitely a whole other style than we mostly see and discuss here, and my original post brought several aggressive dissents. The lady I had spoken with on my initial visit also posted an admirably diplomatic reply to some of the negative posts, explaining what they do and brushing off the negatives with a 'chacun a son gout' attitude.

Rustica became a favorite, especially of our now 8-year old, and a go-to spot for us when in the neighborhood.
They've expanded the menu from when they first opened, to include more non-pizza dishes, but I think they've retained their focus and haven't tried to do too much.
I, too, favor the potato-rosemary pie and love the crust. (I didn't realize it was lard, and didn't emerge from my initial conversation with that crucial bit of intel. So, thanks for that, as well as the photo-illustrated post.)

Overall, I think the price/value ratio is virtually unbeatable for the area and am glad to see it get another look here.
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As much as I love lard - and even render my own - I do feel like it's something that should be disclosed. This lard-loving Jew doesn't mind at all, but I certainly know a lot of Jews who would be horrified to find out that they had just consumed pork. I'm sure there are a lot of Muslims that would agree.

-Dan
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Disclosed how?
I think if you live in a mixed culture like ours and you have medically or religiously mandated dietary restrictions then it's incumbent on you to ask the question rather than on the vendor to pre-emptively create signage or craft some sort of caveat speech for servers encompassing every conceivabley problematic ingredient.

Only the customer knows just how kosher or halal they need a place to be. Lard in the crust? Kitchen full of pork products, but just not on my pizza? Dishes on which tref is served dozens of times every day? Pork handling goyish servers bringing your pork-free salad? It's not their job to figure all that out.

My vegan acquaintances are not shy about telling servers exactly what they need to know. After that it's the restaurant's job to provide accurate answers, but I don't see how they can anticipate the whole spectrum of people's needs with an advance disclosure.
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I get what you're saying, but when we're talking about a food that generally never has pork in it, it doesn't seem like too much to ask.

When I ordered the roasted pigs head salad at Mado last night, I fully expected it to have pork in it, but I'll tell you that my Dad has definitely been surprised when served salads at restaurants and found that there were bacon bits which weren't in the description on the menu.

Warning people that their pizza will have gluten or dairy or tomatoes seems silly, but really, lard? Again, I think it sounds delicious, but as much as I've incorporated pork fat in to all sort of recipes, never would it have come to my pork-loving mind that pizza crust would be a place to stick some.

-Dan
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I'm with dansch on this one. Pizza seems to be a common-denominator food item for diners with diverse food issues (save Celiac, obviously). Although Rustica has the sense not to call their vegetable pizza "vegetarian" it would be courteous to at least indicate that animal fats are used. It would be the same if they served the world's tastiest pancakes cooked in lard - most meat-averse persons think of certain foods as "safe havens" and it would be incumbent on the proprietor to take that into account in printing his/her menu.
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I take it back. They don't use lard.

Vegetarians and others with special diet restrictions: you can now return to your dreamland, where everything is as you imagine it to be, and the world is here to cater to your particular whims.
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Vegetarians and others with special diet restrictions: you can now return to your dreamland, where everything is as you imagine it to be, and the world is here to cater to your particular whims.


It's not about catering to whims, just a simple courtesy of notification. It's simply not a common practice to put lard in pizza dough, just like it's no longer a common practice to fry doughnuts in lard/tallow. And in a large cosmopolitan city in 2009 it's not unexpected that people with diverse dietary habits may occasionally drop in. From at least a PR perspective it's better to state that "animal fats are used in preparing our pizzas" as opposed to the likely negative word-of-mouth that will ensue from the people who come across this thread.
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spinynorman99 wrote:
Vegetarians and others with special diet restrictions: you can now return to your dreamland, where everything is as you imagine it to be, and the world is here to cater to your particular whims.


It's not about catering to whims, just a simple courtesy of notification. It's simply not a common practice to put lard in pizza dough, just like it's no longer a common practice to fry doughnuts in lard/tallow. And in a large cosmopolitan city in 2009 it's not unexpected that people with diverse dietary habits may occasionally drop in. From at least a PR perspective it's better to state that "animal fats are used in preparing our pizzas" as opposed to the likely negative word-of-mouth that will ensue from the people who come across this thread.


It's a little ethnic place run by Italian immigrants, not a Pizza Hut with a corporate PR department.
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I will visit Pizza Rustica because of this thread!
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the pizza sounds great kenny, and great pics.

I fear we are heading to a place where menu boards are going to need to be 30 feet long by 30 feet wide in an attempt disclose all the information needed to make sure folks with restricted diets dont allow anything to sneak past them.
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It's a little ethnic place run by Italian immigrants, not a Pizza Hut with a corporate PR department.


Spare me. They have a website; they tout "fresh ingredients". They obviously take pride in their product. A little courtesy for the customer is not limited to chains (where I'd certainly expect less courtesy).

It's not about my needs or expectations, but I know that this is an area where some people are extremely sensitive - and it's not for me to judge whether their sensitivity is appropriate or not. I just agree that the average customer would not have a "lard crust" on their radar or consider asking about such a thing.
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jimswside wrote:I fear we are heading to a place where menu boards are going to need to be 30 feet long by 30 feet wide in an attempt disclose all the information needed to make sure folks with restricted diets dont allow anything to sneak past them.

I don't think that's the case at all. As I mentioned upthread, I think it would be silly to list all of the possible issues, I just think there's something to be said for respecting a large segment of the population who doesn't eat something for religious reasons. No one I know would ever just expect (or think to ask): is there pork in this veggie pizza I just ordered. Not "did a pork product come close" or "did this plate once have pork on it" or whatever, but "did someone very intentionally put pork in to this dish".

I think our world of warning labels ("caution, contents are hot!" on a coffee cup, etc) is kind of ridiculous, but for some reason this seems totally reasonable to me. I think it's the combination of the religious nature of the dietary restriction at issue and the non-intuitive inclusion of pork fat in pizza crust.

-Dan
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dansch wrote:I don't think that's the case at all. As I mentioned upthread, I think it would be silly to list all of the possible issues, I just think there's something to be said for respecting a large segment of the population who doesn't eat something for religious reasons. No one I know would ever just expect (or think to ask): is there pork in this veggie pizza I just ordered. Not "did a pork product come close" or "did this plate once have pork on it" or whatever, but "did someone very intentionally put pork in to this dish".

I think our world of warning labels ("caution, contents are hot!" on a coffee cup, etc) is kind of ridiculous, but for some reason this seems totally reasonable to me. I think it's the combination of the religious nature of the dietary restriction at issue and the non-intuitive inclusion of pork fat in pizza crust.

Dan


its all good dan, I can respect your view, and the points you have made.

Perhaps a flaw of mine is that I am not very understanding of folks with non medical dietary restrictions.
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jimswside wrote:its all good dan, I can respect your view, and the points you have made.
Likewise.

jimswside wrote:Perhaps a flaw of mine is that I am not very understanding of folks with non medical dietary restrictions.
Generally, I'm totally with you. I can count the number of things I won't eat on one hand and have room to spare*. In fact, just the other day I was talking about dietary restrictions and said something to the effect of "Veganism, wtf? Why would anyone do that to themselves?" ;-)

-Dan

* In case you were curious: Balut, mayonaise and things that are still alive & actively attempt to remove themselves from my mouth (think small live octopus)
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dansch wrote:I don't think that's the case at all. As I mentioned upthread, I think it would be silly to list all of the possible issues, I just think there's something to be said for respecting a large segment of the population who doesn't eat something for religious reasons. No one I know would ever just expect (or think to ask): is there pork in this veggie pizza I just ordered.


And a large segment of the population is vegetarian. And yet people on the board aren't up in arms about the local hot dog stand that deep fries bacon and polish sausages in the same oil they cook their french fries (which, for most vegetarians I know, would taint the fries). Not to mention the places that fry in beef fat. Why not?

And we're using large very loosely here. For Jews/Muslims combined we're talking 2.5% of the population, and as we know, many happily eat pork. For vegetarians/vegans, we're again talking 2.5% of the population. We're nowhere close to double digits.
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Anyway, it's a pizza place that uses lard and does not go out of their way to tell customers about it. Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't. By announcing it in this thread, I am glad to have done a valuable service for the lard averse pizza eaters who wouldn't think to ask about it.
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I've never been to Pizza Rustica (although now I really want to go), but it's more than possible that the owners don't even realize that the inclusion of lard would be a problem for anybody.
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