“Let me explain something: Deep dish pizza is not only not better than New York pizza, it’s not pizza. It’s a f***ing casserole!” – Jon Stewart (spoken while using a picture of a stuffed pizza – not deep dish – as a visual aid)
There’s not actually a serious debate in this country as to whether deep dish pizza counts as pizza. It’s been called pizza since its invention in 1943; it’s universally referred to as pizza and it shares a flavor profile with every other style of tomato sauce-topped pizza. That said, the dissent seems to be increasing. It could just be that New Yorkers are getting even more vocal; it could be part of the move away from traditional red-sauced Italian-American food to more “authentic” Italian options; it could be that more willfully ignorant food writers are craving attention; or it could just be that Jon Stewart really does have that much sway over public discourse. Whatever the reason, now seems like a good time to make clear that the argument that deep dish pizza is not pizza flies in the face of pizza history, linguistics, and common sense. That’s the nicest way I can say that the argument that deep dish pizza is a casserole is complete and utter bullsh*t.
Tucked in a cluster of small industrial buildings between a freeway and a field, amid loading docks and drainage ponds, is a tiny storefront with a half-barrel of herbs and cheerful little holiday lights in front. Just off I-94 in Lake County, about 28 miles north of O’Hare, you’ll find the tasting room and production facility of North Shore Distillery, Illinois’ very first post-Prohibition maker of hand-crafted spirits.
I climbed out of the car and listened to trucks downshifting in the distance, with a counterpoint of small birds happily celebrating the fact that they’ve just survived Chicago’s worst winter in recorded history. I walked across the asphalt under the weak spring sunshine, not sure what to expect: a rickety Rube Goldberg-style tangle of pipes and flasks? Big oak barrels and good ol’ boys in trucker caps and overalls? A brisk and businesslike sterile laboratory? I am clueless, but North Shore Distillery’s co-owner Sonja Kassebaum has kindly offered to educate me in the ways of small-batch distilling, and I’m reporting for my first (and only) day of class.