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#1
Posted June 3rd 2004, 12:41pm
A few months ago I went out drinking with SethZ, AaronD and a few other hounds. All in all it was a fun night, but something dreadful did happen that night. Constant harping by two foodies I trust, Seth and Aaron, from totally different backgrounds, on the state of Chicago pizza, has caused me to reassess my feelings toward Chicago pizza. I could dismiss Seth before as typical East coast bias, but Aaron, from Nebraska. Geez. Did Chicago pizza really suck?

I thought not. Then I went out and had some just god awful pizza from Spizzico in Elmwood Park
( http://vitalinformation.blogspot.com/20 ... 6288112369 ). I could dismiss that as just a poor example. Until I showed up at Vito and Nick's on the SW side. A lot of people have held this out as the ultimate example of Chicago thin crust pizza. Since I trusted greatly the opinions of the people who expoused Vito and Nicks, even before visiting, I thought I had an extra weapon in my arsenal in supporting Chicago pizza. I figured if I loved Chicago pizza and had not even tried the best, then I stood on firm ground.

Yikes, Vito and Nicks, while good enough, was not great, and not a standard bearer. It reminded me a lot of Fox's on S. Western, and perhaps there is a particular school of Chicago pizza from the SW side. It is a school that is thin and crisp without being flakey or biscuity, but I found both V&N and Fox to be marred by excessive cornmeal and the overall flavors just too muted. ReneG has called V&N balanced, I found it a little too balanced, meaning a bit too bland. My faith grew weaker.

Like the Vicar stopping by for a bit of sherry, Grand Slam pizza has arrived to reinforce my faith [ed. that's one awful mixed methaphor]. Grand Slam has been down the street from me for the whole time I've been in Oak Park. It did not assert much pull on me. The exterior is drab, and combined with the name, just said average pizza to me. Unlike nearly every other local pizza joint, Grand Slam did no apparant marketing. No fliers on the door handle. No coupons in the local paper. They kept to themselves, I to mine. (Of course, in retrospect, the lack of marketing seems highly appealing, so word of mouth.) My nose led me to Grand Slam, my nose and Vito.

A few weeks ago a Starbucks opened up on North Avenue, and the VI family has used its arrival as the occasional excuse for a stroll. And we strolled right past Grand Slam. And a blast of garlic and yeast pulled us right in. Where I found Vito. Now, Vito was not at that moment clad, Hammondesque in sleeveless T, black shoes and sock garters, but I believe that earlier in the day, when no one was looking and he was pounding out the dough, that's exactly how he looked. And I am sure Sinatra or Martin would be playing in the distance. In a world of exemplars, signifiers, hidden signals, Freud and endless pizza argumements, I knew this would be special pizza. We orderd that night.

I am not sure Grand Slam is the best in Chicago. It is so good because is is probably not the best. I'd rather it just be plain good. Reminds me that one in Chicago can get, within less than an hour of a phone call, very satisfying and enjoyable pizza. The distiguishing feature of Grand Slam is crust that is bread. It tastes just like really good bread. Except at the raised edges, it is not especially crisp or brittle. Neither is it excessively chewy or jaw stretching. It is not too flaky as Seth might complain, and is blissfully free from too much corn meal dust. The toppings are strong enough to make this pizza not bread though. Great neighborhood pizza.

Menu, phone number and coupons can be found here:
http://ristorante.net/grandslam/index.htm
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#2
Posted June 3rd 2004, 4:36pm
VI:

You said:

"The distinguishing feature of Grand Slam is crust that is bread. It tastes just like really good bread. Except at the raised edges, it is not especially crisp or brittle. Neither is it excessively chewy or jaw stretching. It is not too flaky as Seth might complain, and is blissfully free from too much corn meal dust."

I hesitate to say anything about pizza any more, having been assailed (sometimes rather vigorously) a number of times for having criticised the Chicago take(s) on it, but you've emboldened me to speak up... just this one last time...

That's what pizza is: bread, not pastry, but simple bread, with a little bit of stuff on it.

Savoury pies with pastry dough can be tasty, very tasty indeed, but they are conceptually a different sort of a thing.

Beyond that, I will remain silent in all languages.

A
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#3
Posted June 3rd 2004, 5:51pm
So, I'll be curious on your take of Grand Slam. Of course its take-out only, but maybe you can stop by the bungalow or something to sample. (Arika can vouch for me).

Rob
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#4
Posted June 3rd 2004, 5:54pm
VI,

I'm glad to see you can get Grand Slam delivery in the general Oak Park area. I'm thinking this might be the right cuisine to have for the final "Sopranos" episode.

The prices look right: a 16 inch for $10.95 (with online coupon)

David
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#5
Posted June 3rd 2004, 11:00pm
I'd be interested to read what you all think of Phil's Pizza in Bridgeport (about 3800 S. Halsted). I am not clear on such things, but I've been told that it is "Chicago thin crust." It does have a nice flaky thin crust, tasty sausage and not too much cheese. Certainly not the gloopy mess that one sometimes gets here. We've ordered it "well done" both times we've eaten it -- nice and brown on top. N.b. Phil's is delivery and carry out only.
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#6
Posted June 4th 2004, 10:48am
The point of this post is mostly to pop my lth cherry, but in the new board's signature vein of "more than just chow" let me add the singularly unconstructive: Chicago pizza sucks.

I, like many others on this board.l grew up in the Chi. and was thus subjected throughout my childhood to the atrocity that is Chicago deep dish (or pan, or whatever). Adding to the humiliation is the sad state of affairs in the local thin crust arena. Vito and Nick's is okay, and I have a particular appreciation for the $2.25 maritinis they have (probably to numb the mouth to all of the corn meal on the bottom of the crust), but I always find myself getting a bowl of giardinara to help enhance the pie - surely a sign of deficiency.

VI, since I get out to Oak Park about as much as I get out to Schaumburg, Naperville, et al, I probably won't get to Grand Slam anytime soon. Your description does, however, evoke fond memories of Ay Goomba on Taylor, my hangout freshmen year in high school when I had 8th period free. They also had the bready, but not too bready crust - crisped in the right places, with good sausage and just enough sauce/cheese at a good ratio. They also sold by the slice, which, on my meagre HS budget, was a perfect fit. Others will remember the place, and may differ in their levels of appreciation (and surely the pizza part of the memory is clouded by other fond experiences there), but I think I'm on the right track in comparing the two if I read your post correctly, and perhaps I will get out to Grand Slam to try and get that taste again.

Slightly nostalgic digressions aside, I weep for ny and good pizza by the slice - at least I can take solice, and brag to chi. ex-pats over there, about tacos, al's, bbq, etc... and life goes on, without pizza.
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#7
Posted June 4th 2004, 4:40pm
Vital Information wrote:Constant harping by two foodies I trust, Seth and Aaron, from totally different backgrounds, on the state of Chicago pizza, has caused me to reassess my feelings toward Chicago pizza. I could dismiss Seth before as typical East coast bias, but Aaron, from Nebraska. Geez. Did Chicago pizza really suck?


You have been deluded by foreign missionaries and kneejerk anti-chain reactions. Get a stuffed pizza from Edwardo's or Giordano's or make aliyah to Pizzeria Due and renew your faith.

Repeat after me: Cheese...It's about the cheese....
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#8
Posted June 4th 2004, 4:59pm
There's too much to keep up with these days, and I hope to return and weigh in on this more fully, but since I've been implicated as a delusional foreign missionary, I must say that I evaluate the deep dish/stuffed Chicago-style pizza differently from what I could call, and I don't mean this to be in any way incendiary, real pizza.

I like Giordano's a lot. I like Edwardo's. I like Pizzeria Due. I like Gino's East okay. Call what they serve pizza if you like. I won't argue. But if I'm in the mood for pizza, I'm not in the mood for the stuff served by these places. And unfortunately, I'm not in the mood for anything I've found within a radius of several miles from where I live.

I don't doubt that some decent pizza exists here. I've had it. I like Vito and Nick's well enough (though I must dissent on their martinis...ugh...I much prefer the buck-fifty Old Styles in the cute, little, throwback, pizza parlor glasses). I enjoy the pizza at Brick's in Lincoln Park quite a bit and would order there if I lived closer. I like the greasy slices from Slice of Italy in the Fox and Obel building just fine. My complaint is that I've never lived anywhere that I've had to search so damn hard for good pizza. And I don't think my standards are ridiculously high...I mean, I've lived in Omaha and Irving, TX. It's not like I'm searching for a Midwestern reincarnation of Pepe's or Sally's or Difara's or any of the other venerated East Coast joints. But we must have tried 10 or 15 different places within easy striking distance of our home, and there's not a one I plan to try again, unless I run out of places to try and am forced to return for a second round in hopes of changed ownership. It's a wonder we still even try. But I'll keep looking, and I'll keep hope.

Cheers,

Aaron
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#9
Posted June 4th 2004, 6:17pm
Let us agree that pizza is a religious issue and that we are of different faiths.

I, too, have separate evaluation criteria for what I (and most Chicagoans) would term "real pizza," vs. what you are looking for, known locally as "flat pizza." (Though I do believe that when in Rome, one should adopt the local lingo, even if one can't bow at the altar. I am admittedly a fervent convert to Chicago-style pizza, but in my formative days, I belonged to the cult which worshipped East Side Detroit's Sicilian-style, thick-crusted, square pizza as "real pizza." Of course, in those days, the alternative, in Detroit, came from places like Little Caesar's and Domino's.)

That said, I'll agree that good flat pizza is hard to find in Chicago. I'll submit that Irving, Texas, and other places you may have lived did not have their own unique pizza style and therefore took thier cues from the East. Few practitioners take flat pizza seriously here. They treat it as a kind of hors d'oeuvre or snack food, cutting it into those goofy little squares -- as opposed to real pizza, which is a meal-sized wedge, eaten with knife and fork.

Although I rarely order flat pizza (and when I do it's apt to be what I think of as "gourmet flatbread," like the Thai chicken pizza served at Pizza Capri), I've had the pizza at Brick's, and I and others might be more helpful in suggesting similar possibilities near where you live if you mentioned where that is. My one recommendation would be to look for establishments that serve only flat pizza, as they are apt to be more focused than those who view it as an adjunct to their real pizza business.
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#10
Posted June 4th 2004, 7:09pm
So much of it depends on what you've grown up eating, and pizza is probably one of the best examples of that.

I grew up in Rogers Park. When I was a kid, there were 2 places we ordered pizza from. For thin, it was Lauries at Foster/Broadway. For pan it was Gullivers on Howard. Those were my standards.

Were they better than everyplace else? Of couse not. Were some people that grew up eating something different repulsed by them? You bet. But to me, those are my standards.

When I moved to the Elmwood Park area, it took me a long time to find a pizza that I could look forward to. Then I actually started working in the area and got a lot of feedback from people that were used to eating the area. There was a pretty strong concensus about the best place, Villa Napoli.

And it was good quality pizza. There was tons of cheese on it. The sausage was good quality. But it wasn't my type of pizza. The cheese was white. My pizza has to have yellow cheese. The sausage was good, but it had no fennel in it. And there was no grease on the top.

And I actually found a place about
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#11
Posted June 4th 2004, 8:50pm
Obviously LAZ and I traveled similar paths to our current Chicago chow incarnations. I too ate my first Monte Cristo at the Michigan Union and was a devotee of Shields pizza in Detroit. That being said, I love an Edwardo's stuffed spinach pizza (and have an excellent recipe which maybe I'll post in the appropriate forum) and Caponie's thin crust, and Giovannis, and Pepino's and Saleros, and lots more. At my YMCA in Berwyn last weekend the people from Pizza Platter, 6715 W. 26th St, were giving out samples and they were just fine too. Just don't ever make me eat a fast food pizza and I'll be happy. And I like the squares. It's so easy to keep on eating them without making the public commitment that, say, taking the fourth piece of a traditionally sliced pizza requires.
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#12
Posted June 4th 2004, 9:27pm
As someone who grew up and lived most of my life in the New York area, I do have a definitive idea of what pizza should be. That being said, I also had similar conceptions growing up of what was Chinese food, Japanese (what, no steak house?), Thai, Mexican, and everything else that changed completely when I tasted 'real' food. So is pizza different, a food that reaches into our inner selves and imprints its mark from early childhood?

If I thought prosthelytizing pizza would bring pizza to Chicago, I'd be ringing your doorbell right now. With the millions of people who live here and the availability of food from around the world, why is it that real pizza is so hard to find? I'm wondering if we're living in a pizza black hole; a space where real pizza will always be elusive, just out of reach as we swim in a deep dish of molten cheese searching for sauce and crust.

Rich4, foreign missionary
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#13
Posted June 4th 2004, 10:26pm
Again, someone refers to what they like as REAL. It's no more REAL than the pizza I like is REAL. The simple fact that outside of the NY area, nobody else makes pizza like that tends to make the claim of REAL a little dubious.

But your post asked about why pizza is different than all the other foods that you grew up with and were able to find better (again, I won't call it REAL) as you expanded your experiences. I think you can find things similar that might use better quality ingredients or an extra spice that might make you change your perceptions or memories.

But I'll give you a few examples. You mentioned Japanese steak houses. I love Ron of Japan. Well I actually went ot Japan and went to a real Japanese steak house. Now I do use the word REAL there because it's hard to get a more real Japanese steak house than a steak house in Japan. On top of that, they served the supposedly superior Kobe beef. And it sure wasn't cheap.

But I still much preferred Ron's. Why? Because it's what I'm used to. I've been going there for years and always look forward to the opportunity to go. But I'd be a fool to say it's REAL. And I'd be a fool to say that it's better. But I'm not a fool when I say it's what I like better.

Another example is Gyros. When I was 17 we found a restaurant that would sell us liquor. But you had to order food there to be able to sit and drink. It was a Greek restaurant right by the Loyola L. I'd never been to a Greek restaurant before and I'd never even heard of Gyros. But I was told by the people that turned me on to the illegal booze sales that it was good.

Well they served it much different than anything you can buy now. Each piece was cooked very crispy. And it was sold on French bread. And there was no sauce or anything. It was just like an Italian beef sandwich except it was Gyros meat.

I must have eaten those Gyros sandwiches 2 or 3 times a week for 2 years. And some nights I'd have to eat more than 1 so I could stay there drinking. And to this day, I can't eat what's now served on Pita with that cucumber sauce. Everybody else thinks it's great, but it's not MY Gyros. But which one is REAL?

White Castle hamburgers. My father grew up eating those things. I never had one till I was about 25 years old. I had it once and will never eat them again. But my father will suffer withdrawl pains if he doesn't have some at least ever few months. But because he likes them, does that make them REAL hamburgers?

And I have a ton of other examples. But let's understand one more thing. You may like NY style pizza. I might actually like it if I ever tried it. I've found many pizzas in Chicago that I like and many others that I'll tolerate. But I think (at least I hope) we can both agree that Domino's pizza sucks. And yet they continue to stay in business here in Chicago. Somebody is ordering that stuff and ordering it on a regular basis. Which begs the question, WHY?

I'll tell you why. In some places, Domino's is the best pizza in town. I was forced to spend 2 weeks in Akron Ohio about 12 years ago. The first thing I asked when I got to town was where the best pizza place was. Everybody I asked said Domino's. And I spent the next 2 weeks proving that they were right. And it wasn't that the Domino's there were better than the ones here. Nope, they still sucked. But everything else sucked more, as hard as that is to believe.

So there are enough transplants in Chicago that grew up in places where Domino's was the best. And those people continue to patronize them because to them, that's REAL pizza.

One more quick Akron story that has nothing to do with anything, I just get a kick out of it. We went to a fancy place there and they had French onion soup on the menu. I asked the waiter if it was any good. He said, "Sir, it's the best in town." So I ordered it. When the waiter later came over to ask how the soup was I said, "If that's the best in town, I'd move."

Oh well, rant over.
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#14
Posted June 5th 2004, 12:29am
Admittedly I do use REAL to refer to the pizza that I enjoy, but it doesn't make other pizzas unreal. In fact, no one owns the word pizza at all, so whatever you like can be real pizza for you.

But I really don't see this as a NY vs Chicago thing. Notice how pizza in all other major cities in the US, Europe, and Latin America is not like Chicago pizza. I do not believe they are all taking cues from New York, but have independently developed pizza that their citizens enjoy. And it's not deep dish. Hmmmm.
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#15
Posted June 5th 2004, 5:37am
Rich4 wrote:But I really don't see this as a NY vs Chicago thing. Notice how pizza in all other major cities in the US, Europe, and Latin America is not like Chicago pizza. I do not believe they are all taking cues from New York, but have independently developed pizza that their citizens enjoy. And it's not deep dish. Hmmmm.


I vowed to remain silent on this issue beyond what I have briefly stated above in this "thread" (new term needed- perhaps 'string'?) but now feel forced to break this vow in order to fill in a glaring gap in the discussion here.

New York vs. Chicago... Even in saying this discussion does not boil down to that opposition, one has accepted this dialectic as the frame, as the core problematic, as it were...

I am somewhat dismayed to see that no one is willing to acknowledge the fact there is a recognisable proximate point of origin for pizza and it is Naples. While in Europe, and perhaps all over this shrinking globe, nasty American and American-style chain pizza now is found in all major tourist traps and beyond, committed pizzaiuoli everywhere (even increasingly here in this country) look to Neapolitan style pizza for ultimate guidance and ultimate satisfaction.

I was born and raised and went to school and college all within a paltry few miles of the umbilicus mundi, which lies, pace all others, beneath the waters of the North River, just on the Jersey side of the current border, and was ritually fed the local style of pizza for many years. It's good, it's very good, it tastes like childhood.

But the pure expression of the ineffably sublime combination of simple bread dressed with a bit of tomato and mozzarella is found in Naples, there where each of the ingredients is itself an expression of man's thirst for perfection. It is thither that one must go to break free of this provincial, colonial dialectic, New York-Chicago, Chicago-New York. In Naples, beneath the ever-present reminder of human vanity and fragility, the sternly beautiful (formerly) smoking Vesuvio, you will find the essence of pizzezza, pizzismo and pizzet
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Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
- aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
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#16
Posted June 5th 2004, 7:34am
Having said that I grew up with one sort of pizza and now prefer another, I can hardly be expected to agree that "it's all about what you were raised with."

I do not say that all must worship at the altar of the One True Pizza. Should you prefer pizza in the style of Naples ... or New York ... or Nebraska -- or have an ecumenical taste for variety -- it's all one to me. I believe in freedom of religion. I merely ask that unbelievers be polite about it. One does not publicly denounce Catholicism in Vatican City, nor kvetch that kosher butchers aren't ubiquitous in Salt Lake City.

As for Domino's -- I went to a meeting last night at which the organizer, a friend of mine, ordered in Domino's pizza. An Edwardo's branch was almost directly across the street. I mentioned this with raised eyebrows. She said: "Domino's is cheaper. And what's the difference anyway?" That's why people order from Domino's. This same friend cannot distinguish between Coke and Pepsi. Strange as it may seem, there are people to whom what they eat matters very little. And they outnumber us.
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#17
Posted June 5th 2004, 9:05pm
Ah yes, the pizza of my youth, made in the church basement by the youth group. Chef Boy R Dee in the yellow box. We added our own hamburger and canned mushrooms, and, if we were feeling very adverturous, breakfast sausage. No mozzarella. I don't think we'd ever heard of it. Just the parmesan that came in the box with the mix. We loved it too, pathetic innocent souls that we were. I've never been tempted to try to re-create it. I did though, try to re-create, church camp casserole of tuna, cream of mushroom soup, peas, and potato chips. But only once.
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#18
Posted June 5th 2004, 10:56pm
Chef-Boy-R-Dee, pizza in a box. That's hilarious. See, and that's what I'm talking about. My mother would make that garbage all the time when I was a kid, except it was Apian Way. About once every 2 years I just have to have it again and I buy a box and make it.

And my wife absolutely refuses to eat it. We've been married just under 32 years and she will not change her mind. She tried it once, and that's enough for her.

But it's my youth pizza, not hers. I know it's awful. But sometimes, I just gotta have it.
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#19
Posted June 7th 2004, 11:37am
VI, we ordered a Grand Slam cheese and sausage pizza for the Soprano's season finale, and it did not fail to satisfy. I usually prefer a little more sass in the seasoning, but the two main ingredients, cheese and sausage, were both B to B+, and the bread was, as Antonius and you have noted, very good indeed.

The whole deal, with a web-accessible coupon and delivery, came to $16.50, and was easily enough for 4 (though, as usual, I ate too much).

Thanks for the tip,

David
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#20
Posted June 8th 2004, 9:54am
David, glad you liked the Grand Slam pizza. My primary contention/point in this pizza debate is that, I have up until a few months or so ago, always been very happy with a pizza nearby. Then, when I was debating the issue with Seth and Aaron, they kept on challenging me, which place, which place. And I was stumped. Sure, a bit of it was just different locales. Aaron and I were not eating, for the most part, the same pizza. Still, I could not give him good answers. Suddenly, I thought maybe there is not as much good pizza as I thought (and I am talking "thin" or normal pizza not restaurant pizza like deep dish). Grand Slam is so reassuring to me, not because it is the best pizza in the world or probably not even the best pizza in Chicago, but for the fact that I can again get very good pizza with little effort. When challenged, all I have do do now is say, well down the block from me...

Rob
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#21
Posted March 27th 2010, 2:10am
Take That, Chicago! First Lady Lunches on Brooklyn Pizza wrote:Harajda sparked a New York pizza versus Chicago pizza feud when the Times quoted him as saying that Michelle Obama told him: "It was better than Chicago pizza."

He backtracked a bit later, however. When the Chicago Tribune asked him to comment on the Times quote, Harajda clarified: "No, what she said was, 'It's the best pizza, and I'm from Chicago.'
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#22
Posted March 28th 2010, 1:28pm
For me, it begins and ends with this:

LAZ wrote:Let us agree that pizza is a religious issue and that we are of different faiths.
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