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great lake in andersonville
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  • great lake in andersonville

    Post #1 - February 21st, 2008, 1:29 pm
    Post #1 - February 21st, 2008, 1:29 pm Post #1 - February 21st, 2008, 1:29 pm
    Has anyone been there yet? and what is your take?

    Great Lake
    1477 W. Balmoral Ave
    Chicago, IL
    773-334-9270
  • Post #2 - February 21st, 2008, 1:42 pm
    Post #2 - February 21st, 2008, 1:42 pm Post #2 - February 21st, 2008, 1:42 pm
    Um...I live in Andersonville and this rings only a vague bell. Now, admittedly, I don't get out much and I don't have much time for reading 'cause I spend a lot of my waking moments online at LTH-something-or-other. Where is it? What is it? What can you tell me/us? Thanks!
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #3 - February 21st, 2008, 2:10 pm
    Post #3 - February 21st, 2008, 2:10 pm Post #3 - February 21st, 2008, 2:10 pm
    So I didn't know for the life of me what great lake was either.

    All I knew was "great lake" had been staring back at me for a number of weeks while I took the poodles out for walk. It is nestled between Latache and Andersonville's shoe cobbler.

    Decided to give the place a try even though pizza can be found at a minimum of three other places in a block radius of the location. They have just opened as of yesterday, Feb 20th. Small menu (only 6 items on the board). Ordered a Soprasseta Sausage and a Crimini Mushroom.... enjoyed both but the Crimini Mushroom comes highly recommended.

    There seems that there is a current trend in Andersonville, where newcomers are challenging the establishment by doing a few things well. We have seen it in pastry, now I think we are seeing it in of all things pizza.

    It will be interesting to see if the neighborhood embraces great lake as one of their own.
    Last edited by QueCeraCera on February 21st, 2008, 2:53 pm, edited 4 times in total.
  • Post #4 - February 21st, 2008, 2:18 pm
    Post #4 - February 21st, 2008, 2:18 pm Post #4 - February 21st, 2008, 2:18 pm
    From today's "Dish" e-mail from Chicago Magazine:

    “‘Great Lake’? There’s no big story. It’s just what the name is. I’m making pizza. I’ll have a few chairs. You can eat here or to-go. There’s some fresh mozzarella that I’m going to make. Some goat cheese from Spain that I’m using. Crème fraîche with bacon and onion. A few prepackaged food items. Metropolis coffee, Ricci teas. Imported Italian tuna in olive oil.” –Nick Lessins, owner of Great Lake (1477 W. Balmoral Ave.; 773-334-9270), a tiny Andersonville pizzeria/grocery that opens February 20th
  • Post #5 - February 21st, 2008, 2:25 pm
    Post #5 - February 21st, 2008, 2:25 pm Post #5 - February 21st, 2008, 2:25 pm
    "opens Feb. 20th" :roll:

    of course no one's formed an opinion
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #6 - February 21st, 2008, 2:29 pm
    Post #6 - February 21st, 2008, 2:29 pm Post #6 - February 21st, 2008, 2:29 pm
    Welcome to the forum, QueCeraCera. I like amazing pizza. What, pray tell, do you find amazing about the Great Lake pizza?
  • Post #7 - February 21st, 2008, 2:50 pm
    Post #7 - February 21st, 2008, 2:50 pm Post #7 - February 21st, 2008, 2:50 pm
    It may just be me being a total dork, but I love watching food being prepared. Probably the reason why my TV viewing schedule revolves around The F word, Good Eats, etc...and it is probably why I liked this pizza so much, seeing the ingredients go in, and getting to then eat the process.

    When something simple is done well...that to me is amazing.
  • Post #8 - February 21st, 2008, 3:09 pm
    Post #8 - February 21st, 2008, 3:09 pm Post #8 - February 21st, 2008, 3:09 pm
    I live a few blocks away and walked by last weekend. Tried to peek in the window but I couldn't see much.

    QueCeraCera, what kind of pizza is it? What's the crust like? The cheese to sauce to topping ratio? More importantly for those of us on non-profit salaries, what's the price point? From the Dish piece and the ingredients/process mentioned, it sounds like we may be looking at a slightly pricier pie.

    I'm always on the lookout for another good pizza option, so I'm curious to know more about Great Lake.
  • Post #9 - February 21st, 2008, 3:36 pm
    Post #9 - February 21st, 2008, 3:36 pm Post #9 - February 21st, 2008, 3:36 pm
    (The newby is learning)

    Remembering....

    The pizza I had was a thin crust approx. 13" diameter.
    Slightly sourdough, but soft with a nice crackly crust on the outside.
    As I usually never like crust, this for me was a huge plus.

    Half was the Mozzarella & Soprasseta and the other Crimini mushroom.

    Sauce to mozzarella cheese ratio would be approx. 1:3
    Large mozzarella sliced, not shredded
    Sausage was cut in 1/8 thin 2" rounds - 5 pieces
    Crimini mushrooms covered the whole half and I mean COVERED.

    $17.
  • Post #10 - February 21st, 2008, 10:56 pm
    Post #10 - February 21st, 2008, 10:56 pm Post #10 - February 21st, 2008, 10:56 pm
    My husband and I happened by Great Lake tonight and once we peered through the window at the cozy minimalist interior we were seduced inside. Once we got inside, the menu--and the friendliness of the owners--tempted us to stay.

    The menu is currently as follows:

    1. Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella: Tomato Mountain Farm Tomato Puree, Fresh Mozzarella, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Fresh Herb, Sicilian Sea Salt $15

    2. Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, Sopressata: Tomato Mountain Farm Tomato Puree, Fresh Mozzarella, Salumeria Biellese Sopressata, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $18

    3. Cremini Mushrooom, Murcia Al Vino Goat Cheese, Tellicherry Black Pepper: River Valley Ranch Fresh Cremini Mushrooms, Queso de Murcia al Vino (Wine-cured goat cheese-Spain), Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Tellicherry Black Pepper, Sicilian Seal Salt. $17

    4. Smoked Bacon, Creme Fraiche, Onion. Newsom's Hickory Smoked Bacon, Kendall Farms Creme Fraiche, Yellow Onion, Fresh Herb, Tellicherry Black Pepper. $18

    We ordered the Number 1, and enjoyed it very much. The crust was light, yet bubbly with a nice chew to it--perfectly cooked. The crust was thicker than I recall Spaca Napoli's being, but it had a very good flavour to it. Very light sauce, and a nice quantity of fresh mozzarella. After removal from the oven, it was sprinkled with a fresh herb (not sure what kind) which gave the deliciously bland cheese a bit of kick. The pizza was about 13 inches: enough for two people unless both were really really hungry.

    As we were waiting for the the pizza to be ready, we chatted briefly with the owners who told us that they might tweak the menu a bit as the seasons progress, as they hope to use mostly locally sourced ingredients. I think the owner's philosophy was best summed up when he told us he'd rather do a few things really really well than lots of stuff just okay. A sentiment with which I completely agree! They may also tweak the hours; currently they are open Wednesday through Friday, 4 - 9 and Saturday 11-6.

    They also carry a small selection of I guess what you could call small batch prepared ingredients, including Metropolis coffee, Rishii Tea, Amish popcorn from Wisconsin, and peanut butter, among other items. Currently they only have two drinks: Arancita soda and Limonetta

    I would characterize the decor as cozy modern; there's only one table, which would probably sit six or ten in a pinch, and while they are certainly prepared to have people eat in (we ate in and they brought us real silver-ware, plates, and glasses), I suspect most of their business will be take-out.

    Over-all, we definitely enjoyed our experience and our pizza and will most assuredly go back. Not being interested in waiting an hour for a table, we've mostly given up on Spacca Napoli, which means our pizza experience has been pretty bleak. While it's true that Andersonville has several other pizza places, none of them are in the style of Great Lake, nor, in my opinion, half as good. I'm a little bit apprehensive that such a "boutique" style restaurant will be able to survive, but I hope my apprehensiveness is totally unfounded and Great Lake will thrive! A very welcome addition to the neighbourhood.

    Cheers,

    Lillafury
  • Post #11 - February 22nd, 2008, 7:03 am
    Post #11 - February 22nd, 2008, 7:03 am Post #11 - February 22nd, 2008, 7:03 am
    Thanks for the comprehensive report. Looks like pizza is in our future!
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #12 - March 21st, 2008, 6:57 pm
    Post #12 - March 21st, 2008, 6:57 pm Post #12 - March 21st, 2008, 6:57 pm
    On our weekly walk to Pasticceria Natalina, Natalie gave us a tip to check out a new Pizza joint on Balmoral and Foster (A block from Natalina) called 'Great Lake'.

    So we stopped in, and discovered a tiny alcove (maybe a former vacuum cleaner repair shop) of a pizza shop. They have 4 pizzas they offer on the menu. We ordered the Tomato, Mozzarella and Sopresetta. The other three choices escape me.

    The pizza was earthy and robust. The crust was light and airy, but well charred on the bottom. The soprasetta provided a wee bit of grease, but it was a small production salumi and the flavor was awesome. I probably would want less sopresetta to cut down on the grease, but the flavor was amazing.

    The simple post-it board menu listed their providers, and several of them were recognizable CSA providers from the Chicago area - the others were selective provisioners of cured meats, cheese and basic provisions.

    In all, Great Lake is a welcome addition to Andersonville and is definitely worth a gander. For LTH'ers, this is a very unique pizza joint and it comes with recommendations from Pasticceria Natalina. So at least for that, it is worth a shot.

    By the way, the owners were extremely nice AND were local residents of Andersonville.[/img]
    There is no accounting for taste!
  • Post #13 - April 1st, 2008, 10:49 am
    Post #13 - April 1st, 2008, 10:49 am Post #13 - April 1st, 2008, 10:49 am
    My girlfriend and I met a buddy of ours there the other week and ate in.

    Really quite good pizza.

    The crust is thin and was pretty crispy, kind of like the Neapolitan pizza joints, but a little crispier, more robust, and tastes a little different.

    The ingredients are really beyond reproach, very flavorful. We got the soprasetta and mozzarella, pretty simple, but the salumi was terrific. We also got one that had creme fraiche, onions and some other stuff on it, it was also a nice flavor combo and well thought out.

    BYOB for the small table that they have in the place, and the owners/proprietors were really nice and seem to have a philosophy that I am pretty on board with.

    Prices seemed reasonable for the quality, thought and care that went into the food.

    I guess if the style of the pie suits you, I would rate it a must try.
    We need more secret sauce! Put this jar of mayonnaise in the sun!
  • Post #14 - April 20th, 2008, 9:38 am
    Post #14 - April 20th, 2008, 9:38 am Post #14 - April 20th, 2008, 9:38 am
    We'll add our endorsement.

    Image Image

    We called in our order Friday evening around 5:45pm or 6:00 and then had a nice leisurely walk over there. Pizzas were ready almost precisely at the promised 20 minute mark. Tiny operation: mom and pop (albeit a young mom and pop in their 30s, we'd guess), a table (one), and some stuff for sale--all as noted above. Pizzas come in one size and the choices have all been noted above. (And glory be, the pies were cut into slices without my having to ask!)

    I should add that prices are now $2 more per pizza than quoted earlier. Excellent crust. The soppresatta was generously applied and the cremini was so dense with mushrooms that it was impossible to see anything underneath. I don't know what's behind the artisanal pizza explosion in Chicago, but I'm happy to be a beneficiary--especially to such a wonderful place within a ten minute walk of our house.

    We are hardly Neapolitan pizza experts--maybe more like pan-European pizza pigs--but this pizza struck us as more than very good. Is it Spacca Napoli or Coalfire quality? I don't know. But it sure is awfully, awfully good. We'll be back--and often. And heartily recommend it to all.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #15 - July 20th, 2008, 3:36 pm
    Post #15 - July 20th, 2008, 3:36 pm Post #15 - July 20th, 2008, 3:36 pm
    We finally made it to Great Lake last night to try out their pizza and we were blown away. It is hidden in an easily overlooked little storefront next to La Tache in Andersonville. We ordered two pizzas from a menu of five - #2 had sopresatta and #5 with arugula - both were amazingly fresh tasting and delicious. We also ordered a mixed greens salad that was so fresh tasting that it must have come directly from the market (they do a lot of shopping for ingredients at the Green City Market). This is not fast food or a place to go if you are in a hurry. To pass the time we sat inside at the communal table and watched the owners carefully put together our pizzas.
    My husband suggested that Great Lake is similar to our all time favorite pizza place in San Francisco, Pizzetta 211. Both are tiny family run artisanal top notch places for great pizza.

    1477 Balmoral Ave near N Clark St.
    773-334-9270
  • Post #16 - July 20th, 2008, 7:45 pm
    Post #16 - July 20th, 2008, 7:45 pm Post #16 - July 20th, 2008, 7:45 pm
    Those pics look great to me. Especially the abundance on the mushroom pizza. Can't have enough 'shroom. Is this, by chance, the old Delwood Pickle space? Or is La Tache the old DP space? (Not that it matters.) Looking foward to giving it a shot. I really like places that don't try to do too much, but do whatever it is distinctively and well.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #17 - July 20th, 2008, 8:58 pm
    Post #17 - July 20th, 2008, 8:58 pm Post #17 - July 20th, 2008, 8:58 pm
    Great Lake is in the teeny spot next to the former Dellwood Pickle, its last (short lived) incarnation was an Asian Gallery, I believe. Before that, I don't recall, but the very old school shoe repair place is still next door, as is the world's slimmest, one chair, anti-war barber shop one shop up.

    I was pleading with Great Lake all spring to add some sort of super simple mixed greens to compliment their pizzas (our joke was, "I know it's BYOB but can I BYOS--bring my own salad?") and just on Saturday I saw Lydia (I think that's her name but I could be wrong) and she happily informed me they had added mixed greens, which they are getting from Growing Power (hooray!) and they are selling incredibly well.

    So I am going to quit my day job and go into hardcore restaurant consulting for tiny start ups--just kidding. Seriously, I am simply glad (and even a little bit proud) that they are in my neighborhood and you know, maybe even listening to wacky customers like yours truly.

    And one other thing, they do not let you on to it, but they will do a half and half of their pizzas. So my mushroom-loathing husband and I can achieve pizza Ying/Yang with a half mushroom/half sopressata pizza. Actually, I tend to yang the ying as I get to eat all of the mushroom side plus he feels compelled to share a bit of the meat side with me. !!!

    I have only ever eaten Great Lake at home, so now that the new patio is in action, I am hoping we can enjoy their pizza fresh and al fresco.

    bjt
    "eating is an agricultural act" wendell berry
  • Post #18 - August 17th, 2008, 10:43 pm
    Post #18 - August 17th, 2008, 10:43 pm Post #18 - August 17th, 2008, 10:43 pm
    Having restaurant envy, TPA, Thor and I ate two meals in Andersonville this weekend. (Anyone who suggests that there's good dining in Roscoe Village doesn't live there - really, how many mediocre brunch places can be in on one block?) Walking to Big Jones (where we had a second outstanding meal), we passed Great Lake. Given the number of names I recognized on their very bare bones menu, I decided it was worth a second trip despite the parking. Our only disappointment was that their BYO license extended only to the interior as it was far too beautiful an evening to sit inside. This pizza is awesome and in my opinion the best commercially available in Chicago. The ingredients are excruciatingly top notch. When I walked in, I realized that the wife, Lydia and I had been shadowing each other at Green City on Wednesday, both buying copious amounts of produce. The products made in house are exquisite - the mozzarella was really fantastic, tight and flavorful. And the crust, Mama Mia! As many on this forum know, I'm a bread snob. And this crust is good. The second that I tasted it, I knew that this was made from a starter with a slow fermentation (confirmed by TPA when I took Thor to the car). Big holes, chewy and deeply flavorful - this is the real deal. I won't say that it's perfect - truth be told, the mozzarella-basil pizza was drizzled with a bit too much oil (the epitome of gilding the lily) and the bacon-tropea onion-creme fraiche had a touch too much onions (actually had they simply left the the greens off - it would have been sufficient), but these are minor complaints. I was tempted not to write this up as it seems to have generated little buzz here on the forum - for selfish reasons of course - there is only 1 table here! But having eaten the rest of our pizza today, I can't keep this to myself. Go, and go quick.
    MAG
    www.monogrammeevents.com

    "I've never met a pork product I didn't like."
  • Post #19 - August 17th, 2008, 11:39 pm
    Post #19 - August 17th, 2008, 11:39 pm Post #19 - August 17th, 2008, 11:39 pm
    MAG wrote:And the crust, Mama Mia! As many on this forum know, I'm a bread snob. And this crust is good. The second that I tasted it, I knew that this was made from a starter with a slow fermentation (confirmed by TPA when I took Thor to the car). Big holes, chewy and deeply flavorful - this is the real deal.


    I think MAG hits this on the head. I've been popping into Great Lakes with regularity over the last 2 months and can add a few new data points to the thread:

    1. Their wait time has gone up from 20 min. to 40 - 45 min. Not really a problem if you call ahead.
    2. When I was there 2 weeks ago, they replaced their small batch soprasetta with a pepperoni. I was a bit worried at first, but the pepperoni was mild and flavorful. Lovely. Also, as has been already noted, their mushroom 'za is literally carpeted in cremini, making it a funghi lover's dream come true. These 2 styles have prevented me from trying their new garlic/arugula combo. Anyone have anything good to say?
    3. Inside has a 6 top picnic table and a 2 top. Outside, has 4 2-tops.
    4. What MAG wrote regarding their byob policy is true -- they very nicely moved us inside when they spied a 6 pk. of Leffe Blondes I had in tow.

    The whole seating/alcohol problem can be easily sidestepped. I typically take my pie to Farragut's (Clark/Berwyn), a block and a half away. With their weekly specials on beer and open window seating, Tues. or Wed. can easily turn into a cheap date. I'd imagine Simon's might allow food as well.
  • Post #20 - August 18th, 2008, 10:51 am
    Post #20 - August 18th, 2008, 10:51 am Post #20 - August 18th, 2008, 10:51 am
    we have brought Middle Eastern Bakery grub into Simon's without any problem . . . but on a hyper lovely evening when a glass of prosecco would be magical with a piece of Great lake pie (al fresco) . . . well, that's the challenge. You could always have a glass of something at the In Fine Spirits backyard patio and then go to Great Lake . . . and then skip on over to Pasticceria Natalina and top it off with some gelato and you've got yourself a pretty solid evening of tasty situations.

    bjt
    "eating is an agricultural act" wendell berry
  • Post #21 - August 24th, 2008, 12:07 pm
    Post #21 - August 24th, 2008, 12:07 pm Post #21 - August 24th, 2008, 12:07 pm
    Dropped into Great Lake on Friday last. Was quoted an hour wait time on the phone that turned out to be an hour-and-a-half. While the staff was apologetic and accomodating, I was more struck by the equanimity the customers displayed when told their order hadn't even gone into the oven yet. Not even a tight-lipped smile in the bunch. Apparently, the neighborhood has been receptive to Nick and Lydia's efforts. Good for Andersonville.

    While I waited, I took bjt's suggestion and strolled down to In Fine Spirits for a few bottles of the 3 Floyd's Gumballhead which I can't resist (that off-kilter whammy of citrusy hops always leaves me guessing) and whiled away the time back inside Great Lake sipping beer and reading T/O.

    Some new data points:

    1. They no longer do half-and-half pizzas. Rats.
    2. They took the green garlic/arugula combo off the menu. In it's place I saw a chorizo and white corn style that sounded intriguing. Lydia mentioned that Nick uses a food mill to prepare the chorizo which mitigates the seasoning somewhat. My problem is that I can never overrule my lust for the cremini pie to sample their specials when they're being offered.

    While I'm a big supporter of Great Lake, I strongly recommend visitors call ahead and have some backup plans available (like having a few drinks at a nearby watering hole or enjoying some gelato at Pasticceria Natalina while waiting). Lydia was even taking down cell numbers to call people back when their pie was finally ready.
  • Post #22 - August 25th, 2008, 8:31 pm
    Post #22 - August 25th, 2008, 8:31 pm Post #22 - August 25th, 2008, 8:31 pm
    Titus is right on about the wait time (and how a few of us Andersonville-ites are shockingly patient when supporting a business we believe in). We were there last week and after almost an hour of waiting, me and the the 20 month old had to hit the road while the rest of our party stayed behind. But just as I was strolling up Balmoral, my husband came running up behind me bearing a piece of the pepperoni pizza. For me to snarf on the walk home. And I did it with as much elan as one can do while pushing a stroller with a kid kicking out of hunger and frustration. (Wait is this why the guy at Taste of Heaven doesn't like kids?) Anyhow, we are patient because the pizza is worth the wait and the little touches aren't lost on us. I like sipping water out of a pink Danish designed plastic cup that reminds me of my Thermos from 4th grade but so much nicer. And even though I am chewing my cheeks through their growing pains (WHAT, no more halfsies? And why'd you get rid of the sopresetta pie?) I find if you engage the owners they have honest answers. They were getting bored with the same four pies. They want to try new ingredients. They are trying to have fun. Nick seems to like to stay on course and Lydia seems to like to experiment. Anyhow, these days they are also serving a seasonal heirloom tomato salad, in addition to the local greens they offer. Lydia tried serving blueberries and cream as a dessert but no one bought it. I am not so surprised, as they have gone from a minimalist/artisanal pizza place to a pizza place branching out a bit, but not many people think of dessert in that context.

    Oh well, I think you have to approach Great Lake in context these days--how much time do you have, how many people in your group, how er, starving are you? And then, just like Titus, you can make it happen for you in the hood.

    bjt
    "eating is an agricultural act" wendell berry
  • Post #23 - September 6th, 2008, 11:46 pm
    Post #23 - September 6th, 2008, 11:46 pm Post #23 - September 6th, 2008, 11:46 pm
    Great Lake has phenomenal pizza. I ate there with friends recently. We had three of the five pizzas. Each one had amazing flavor, in its own unique way, depending on the ingredients. We had an heirloom tomato pizza, a cremini and gouda pizza and a pepperoni pizza. The crust was perfectly light, fluffy and crisp with a slight chew. How that is all possible in a crust at the same time is beyond me, but Great Lake does it.
    The restaurant is small but very quaint, cozy and inviting with great music playing in the background. There is sidewalk seating for 8 people but it is BYOB, inside only. There is an open kitchen so you can see your pizza being created by the owner and his wife, who are very friendly. Top notch, locally produced and seasonal ingredients are used. The owners will be happy to answer any questions you might have about the products.
    Head up to Andersonville for some of the best pizza you will ever eat. I'll be back for sure to try out the other pizzas.
  • Post #24 - September 11th, 2008, 6:39 pm
    Post #24 - September 11th, 2008, 6:39 pm Post #24 - September 11th, 2008, 6:39 pm
    Image

    I was beginning to think that Great Lake was the Schwa of pizzas, impossible to get into, so today I swooped the kids up at 4:45 and we deposited ourselves at Great Lake's door right at 5.

    In fact, we beat the chef there, so we sat with a couple of San Pellegrino soft drinks and watched the folks at La Tache set up for their evening, and pretty much had it to ourselves for most of the time between 5 and 6. We ordered, basically, a margherita, and a pizza with creme fraiche, onion and bacon-- in other words, tarte flambee. They told us it would be about 35 or 40 minutes as the chef wanted to let the dough rise properly before making our pizza. We were in no hurry.

    Image

    The margherita came first, dressed with olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan.

    I liked this okay, but I felt the cheese plus the olive oil plus more cheese made the whole thing too buttery-gooey. For all the quality involved, not my favorite artisanal margherita around town.

    Image

    The crust was very large and bubbly, in fact my first thought was (forgive me) that it resembled Costco pizza. Of course it had more character, though I'm not sure I would say sourdough, and plenty of burnt spots. I liked the crust quite a bit, in fact I liked eating the end, just the bread, more than I liked the part with tomato and cheese on it.

    Image

    The pizzas were more expensive than at, say, Spacca Napoli, I wasn't sure how many we needed since we usually get 3 there among the 4 of us and return with half a pizza or more to take home. They advised us just to order two and they were right, we came home with about the same amount and the price worked out about the same. They must be both bigger and a little more filling because of the crust.

    Anyway, our second one was the pizza that's actually, by my reckoning, tarte flambee. Since the wonderful tarte flambee at the Christkindlmarkt several years ago, which has never returned, I've tried several and tried to make my own and never quite equalled my memory of that one and all its smoky goodness, although I have very much enjoyed the one at Crust.

    Image

    From the instant this arrived at our table, trailing the smell of its smoky bacon and charmingly misshapen, I knew this was going to be wonderful and it was. No, it doesn't have the rye flour in the crust (which both the Christkindlmarkt one and Crust's did) but the acidic, tart creme fraiche, the brightly fresh pepper, the smoky bacon and the bounty of mild fresh onions all added up to as good an argument as you could want for local produce and top ingredients lifting something like this from good to exceptional. Probably the best pizza I've had in a couple of years, except as far as I'm concerned, it's not actually a pizza. But whatever you call it, go have it.

    Image

    Afterwards we popped into Pasticceria Natalina to see how Nick and Natalie's relatives were bearing up. Natalie's dad said they got into Sicily this morning, crashed for a few hours and then went sightseeing. Who knows what wonders will await us when they return, but in the meantime, we picked up a little dessert of the long, banana-cream filled pastry and the puff pastry with the cream and the amarene cherries. Final bill, exactly $60 between the two places, a couple of slices for lunch tomorrow or sometime included, and if there's a better way to spend $60 in this town, well, I'm sure I could think of several, but this was right up there with any of them.
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  • Post #25 - October 3rd, 2008, 8:40 am
    Post #25 - October 3rd, 2008, 8:40 am Post #25 - October 3rd, 2008, 8:40 am
    For the record, and fully cognizant of Stevez's off experience with exactly the quasi-pizza I most admired, we went back last night and... ordered exactly the same thing.

    I thought the margherita was better, actually, not overdressed with oil as last time. The tarte flambee-like one was as good as last time. It is a bit salty, but unless Steve has more sensitivity to salt than I realize, I don't think this one would have hit him the same way, so I think they just screwed up the one he had such a reaction to.

    One note re: neighborliness-- nearly everyone who walked in between 5:30 and 6:30 seemed to be known to the owners. It's a neighborhood place in a real sense. There are some quirks and inefficiencies about the way it's set up and run, to be sure, but I have to say it will likely always be only the second quirkiest pizza GNR, by a long shot.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #26 - December 4th, 2008, 6:43 pm
    Post #26 - December 4th, 2008, 6:43 pm Post #26 - December 4th, 2008, 6:43 pm
    Well, it may not be good enough for the GNR judges, but even the Trib apparently thinks highly of our neighbor. Today's (12/4/08) "Dining" section, at the very top of the first page, has a short, one-paragraph notice calling it "about as perfect as a neighborhood pizza joint can get...." (My italics). Hmmm. (The review goes on to call it the "best new pizza in Chicago," somehow managing to overlook that it's been open nearly a year now!) Since the positive notices in this thread (and the GNR nomination thread) don't seem to have been enough to convince that august panel, maybe this will help persuade a few more folks to make the trek.

    Great Lake
    1477 W. Balmoral Avenue
    773-334-9270
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #27 - December 8th, 2008, 11:58 pm
    Post #27 - December 8th, 2008, 11:58 pm Post #27 - December 8th, 2008, 11:58 pm
    I saw that too, as well as a pizza pie from Great Lake being shown in a "What's Hot Now" illustration in another part of the paper, that day or a day or two earlier. The pictures look great and the posts here persuade me of the quality, but I was starting to wonder, is the Tribune shilling for Great Lake?

    (I also wondered, at the start of this thread, how QueCeraCera posted four or five times without his post count number changing from 4. Just a technical glitch, I guess.)
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #28 - December 9th, 2008, 12:04 am
    Post #28 - December 9th, 2008, 12:04 am Post #28 - December 9th, 2008, 12:04 am
    Katie wrote:I saw that too, as well as a pizza pie from Great Lake being shown in a "What's Hot Now" illustration in another part of the paper, that day or a day or two earlier. The pictures look great and the posts here persuade me of the quality, but I was starting to wonder, is the Tribune shilling for Great Lake?

    They are demonstrating they are with-it or is it hip?

    (I also wondered, at the start of this thread, how QueCeraCera posted four or five times without his post count number changing from 4. Just a technical glitch, I guess.)

    This person has exactly four posts. Posts are not number sequentially. If you visited any post you created, they would all list your current aggregate posting count.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #29 - March 30th, 2009, 5:22 pm
    Post #29 - March 30th, 2009, 5:22 pm Post #29 - March 30th, 2009, 5:22 pm
    I had an unequivocably stellar experience last week at Great Lake and felt, based on this initial vist, that it was clearly among the finest pizzas I've eaten in Chicago and quite possibly the best. I think there are a few other places that are in the ballpark but based on quality, execution and my personal preference of style, I cannot remember a more satisfying artisanal pizza.


    Image
    Menu board
    Couldn't be simpler, right? Great Lake's whole story is right there to see.


    We started out with a couple of salads, both of which were excellent . . .

    Image
    Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad
    Perfectly cooked beans, mixed with high-quality canned Italian tuna and crunchy bits of red onion. Nicely balanced, as none of the notes were being played too loudly.


    Image
    Mixed Greens with Buttermilk Dressing
    Hearty, bouncy greens in a compelling, house-made buttermilk dressing.

    We ordered 4 pizzas, which were served in a progression that allowed us to savor each of them under optimal conditions. First up . . .

    Image
    Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Mona Cheese with Fresh Herbs


    Image
    A closer look

    What I noticed immediately was the incredible crust. It was light and crispy but it also had a tug-away tenderness that was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. The flavor was deep -- not only from the perfectly proportioned bits of char that dotted it but also from the dough itself, which was as complex and satisfying as a fine, naturally-leavened bread. The tangy, yeasty flavor continued to develop throughout the chew. Toppings were sensational, too. The cheeses were both rich and pungent, the tomatoes sweet and slightly acidic, and the herbs were fragrant and heady. The pizza was cooked to absolute perfection. Not only does pizzaiolo/proprietor Nick know his oven intimately but his pizzas had a perfect balance between crust and toppings. Any more toppings and they wouldn't have been cooked properly when the crust was done. Any fewer and they would have finished cooking well before that amazing crust did. This pizza was immaculate, as were the 3 that followed . . .


    Image
    Cremini Mushroom, Mona Cheese & Black Pepper
    Another demonstration of the mastery over conception and execution. Here, the mushrooms were sliced so thinly that they cooked perfectly. They were tender -- not woodsy at all -- and they rendered no unwanted moisture on the pizza. Needless to say, the quality of the ingredients was sensational but again, it was the way they were handled that took this pizza to unprecedented heights.


    More on the crust . . .

    Image
    Side View
    The uneven air holes tell the tale. This dough, which I'm guessing was made with fresh yeast and/or a fantastic starter, was allowed to rise slowly, which creates the unevenness in the holes. As the yeast feed, they produce lactic acid, which makes a strong contribution toward the overall flavor of the dough. The slower they feed, the more flavorful the dough. The downside to slow proofing is that it can lead to poor rise and spring as the dough cooks. But not in this case. Not even close. Again, this dough was crispy, light and tender. It's an overused word in food-writing but I would describe this crust as ethereal. It took some real thought, experience and care to produce this crust.


    Image
    Bottom Crust
    Even better tasting than it looked. There was a perfect amount of char on all the pizza crusts. Considering that Great Lake has a gas-burning oven, the results are astonishing and again, point to a rare mastery over ingredients and equipment.


    Our next 2 pizzas were just as delicious as the first 2 and the crust was absoultely the same on each one . . .

    Image
    Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, Sausage, Red Pepper and Mona Cheese
    Fantastic, slightly spicy sausage in which the pork and the judicioius seasoning worked together in harmony. I loved the roasted red peppers which were, not surprisingly, perfectly executed.


    Image
    Spinach, Garlic, Fresh Mozzarella & Mona Cheese
    A great marriage of flavors and the thinly-sliced garlic -- not minced or pressed -- was fantastic.

    For 'dessert,' we tried a few slices of a dry-cured sausage from Salumeria Bielleise in NYC . . .

    Image
    Dry-cured sausage from Salumeria Bielleise
    I loved this sausage because it was flavorful but not overwhelming with spice. The pork and the seasonings complemented each other well and the tanginess of the sausage was subtle.

    Our group was 8 (5 adults and 3 kids) and the environs were not especially conducive to such a large and partially-impatient group. But we were very comfortable -- even sitting with a few folks we didn't know -- and made to feel incredibly welcome. But still, I'd probably leave the younger kids out of the equation next time around. The older ones not only loved the pizza but seemed to do fine. There are maybe 12-14 seats in the entire space. That, combined with the brief hours, make Great Lake a somewhat difficult destination, especially for dining in. But, it's precisely this smallness that, I believe, makes the pizza as transcendent as it is. The level of care applied to each pie is meticulous and that care just happens to be highly expert. Nick and Lydia are extraordinarily talented but I'm guessing they feel like they couldn't be this extraordinary in a bigger space. I'm sure there are many reasons why Great Lake is as small as it is and I respect each and every one of them (even if I have no idea what they actually are). This pizza was, for me, revelatory and easily worth the minor inconvenience we had to endure to experience it. This was a truly magnificent, bar-setting experience.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #30 - March 30th, 2009, 7:10 pm
    Post #30 - March 30th, 2009, 7:10 pm Post #30 - March 30th, 2009, 7:10 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:This pizza was, for me, revelatory and easily worth the minor inconvenience we had to endure to experience it. This was a truly magnificent, bar-setting experience.

    R,

    I have attempted to go to Great Lake three times, no-soap-radio. I figured three strikes and out, but after your post, and conversations with others, looks like I have to go one more inning of attempts.

    Wonderful post and pictures.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow

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