Eating at Eataly

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged….so I apologize. I really have no excuse. But don’t worry, I have still been indulging in pizza as much as I possibly can! That has not stopped (and never will if I can help it). With National Pizza Week happening in January I was inspired to start blogging again. So yay! And today I’ll be talking all about Chicago’s own Eataly.

Eataly opened in December 2013 featuring Chefs Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and is located at 43 East Ohio Street in Chicago. This is the second Eataly location to open in the US (the first is located in NY) and let me tell you it’s a big one! It has 63,000 square ft. of space and 23 restaurants, some which include: La Pizza & La Pasta, La Piazza, La Carne, Il Pesce & Le Verdure,  Lait Gelato, etc. etc…. La Get In My Belly is what I was saying when I walked through the doors for the first time! Not only can you eat at one of the many eateries here but there is so much more to Eataly. It’s a grocery store, a wine shop, a cooking school, a bookstore… well let’s just go ahead and call it an Italian food theme park!

One of the nice things about Eataly is there is a wine bar and even it’s very own brewery inside (Birreria) where you can get yourself a drink to walk around with while you shop or wait for your table reservation. So naturally, the first thing I did when I IMG_2928walk through the door is head to Birreria. They have a really great selection of beer to choose from. Not only do they often have one of my favorite beers there, Three Floyds Zombie Dust, (which can be hard to find at times here in Chicago) but I also got the chance to try out Three Floyds Permanent Funeral. It did not disappoint. One of these times I’ll have to try the beer that they brew themselves. (Just one of the many reasons to go back!)

Ok on to the pizza. After all, that is what I’m supposed to be reviewing from this place right?  I have had the pleasure of trying three pizzas there so far – the Massese, the Salsicciotta and a third pizza I had there that was on special that day which I can’t quite remember the name of right now so we’ll just call it the “Special”.

IMG_2912          IMG_2913         IMG_4459

The Massese – mozzarella, tomato sauce, spicy salami, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil.

The Salsicciotta – tomato sauce, mozzarella, Eataly housemade sweet italian sausage, mushrooms and basil

The “Special” – mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, extra virgin olive oil and basil

IMG_2917First let’s talk about the dough. The dough is very light and airy with a little bit of chewiness but with just the right amount of crispness to the crust. The pizzas are  thin crust and cooked in a pizza oven that reaches 900 degrees F and cooks in just 90 seconds.  I always love when a crust has good bubbles in it, which these pizzas had plenty of. Not sure why that is, I just can’t help but get excited when I get a bubble slice.

Let’s see, what can I say about the sauce? It was good. Good flavor and just the right amount was used in my opinion. Not too much not too little. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a pizza doesn’t have enough sauce on it. As far as the toppings go, I think what really makes these pizzas taste so great is that only fresh ingredients are used. I mean, Eataly has it’s own mozzarella lab where people can watch the process of making mozzarella from scratch in three different stages . The spicy salami was out of this world. Really great flavor and a good level of spiciness to it. It really made the pizza. I think the Massese would have to be declared my favorite out of the three I tried because of the spicy salami. The housemade sweet italian sausage was really good too. It was seasoned really well and I liked that it wasn’t just placed on the pizza in big chunks but was more crumbled over it so you’d get some in each bite. My only complaint about the toppings would be that I would have liked more basil on each one. There were maybe 2 leaves on the pizzas. Gimme more of that fresh basil, LOTS more!

IMG_2909And the olive oil.. well let’s just say I found out that Eataly offers 100 varieties of olive oils from producers that harvest exclusively in Italy. Not only did I get to enjoy the wonderfulness of the olive oil on my pizzas but they also give you complimentary bread and a plate of olive oil to dip your bread in as soon as you sit down at your table. So basically the moral of the story here is: fresh ingredients = better pizza! (I feel like that’s in a pizza commercial somewhere, am I right?) Which makes total sense though! So I would have to give the pizza at Eataly a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

Side note: I also tried a bite of my cousin’s pasta (which was great) while I was there. There are SOOOOO many other things I would die to go back and try there. I would just have to somehow convince myself to NOT get the pizza…which could be a very very difficult task in itself.

IMG_29242nd side note: They also have a book I found in the bookstore in the shape of a pizza called Pizza – 50 Easy Recipes. I must have this book in the near future… therefore, stay tuned for more homemade pizza related blogs!

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Bojono’s Pizza

Just this past year I discovered that I live very close to Bojono’s Pizza which is located at 4185 N. Clarendon in Chicago. A really great pizza place that exists just a few blocks away and I never knew it! What kind of pizza reviewer am I? My friend Jason has been recommending this place to me for awhile now since it is located right in my own neighborhood (so I really had no excuse not to go and check it out). He mentioned that they have pretty good thin crust so after finally heading north in my neighborhood instead of south as we often do, we discovered just how good Bojono’s pizza actually is. And I have happily had it several times ever since.

Bojono’s opened up in Uptown in 1996 and prides themselves on serving pizza made with only the freshest ingredients. From all the pizzas I’ve ordered from Bojono’s, I can attest that the fresh ingredients are definitely noticed and make for a great pizza. One of the first pizza’s that I ordered from there was a thin crust with bacon, garlic, pepperoni and extra cheese. Just some of my usual favorite ingredients of course. The first thing I noticed when I opened the pizza was I thought “Hmmm, I didn’t ordered crumbled sausage…” Well that wasn’t crumbled sausage folks. It was tons and tons of crumbled bacon!! Usually when I order bacon on a pizza it isn’t that noticeable, but this pizza had lots and lots of delicious bacon on almost every bite. Another time I had ordered mushrooms on my pizza from Bojono’s and the pizza was literally filled edge to edge with mushrooms. So if you like a lot of toppings on your pizza, this place definitely doesn’t shy away from them. It was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed the crust on this pizza. It was a very light and very fresh dough where just the ends of the crust were crispy. Just the way I like it on a thin crust pizza. I also like the sauce that Bojono’s makes. I like that it is a little on the sweeter side and they use the perfect amount of sauce on their pies.

Bojonos Pizza

When we placed the order over the phone we were using a Groupon and had around $3.00 left to spend so the woman on the phone asked if we wanted a side salad or a drink or anything to go with it. We went with a side salad with ranch. I have to say, the homemade ranch dressing was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was really good! The fresh ingredients paid off again. They even gave us a mini loaf of bread and some butter to go with our salad. Even the bread tasted super fresh. I forget how much I love bread until I have a really great piece of it and just want to go back for more.

bojonos2

Another time, me and my besties ordered Bojono’s for a girl’s night in (GNI) and we decided to try the Bojono’s salad (along with pizza of course). This one had romaine lettuce, salami, fontinella cheese, tomato, celery, carrots, bermuda onion, black olives, pepperoncini, roasted peppers and comes with their special dressing although we ordered their homemade ranch on the side because it’s just that good. I literally was stealing the fontinella cheese off of all my friends’ plates. What? We all know how much I love my cheese! And the roasted red peppers, salami and pepperocini really made the salad. So delicious.

Unfortunately, this place doesn’t really have a seating area to dine-in at. They have more of a waiting area with stools. But if you get the chance to stop in, order a pizza to go or call up and get one for delivery. All I can say is Bravo Bojono’s. Bravo. I will give this pizza at least a 3 out of 5 stars


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Thankful for Langel’s Pizza this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I not only got to enjoy TWO Thanksgiving dinners on the same day but I also got to try out some new pizza on Thanksgiving Eve. Thanksgiving Eve is one of the top five busiest days of the year for pizza delivery and I’m not surprised at all. Everyone is so busy prepping for the big meal the next day that nobody wants to cook anything. This year, Eric and I went to Indiana on Wednesday night to spend the first half of Thanksgiving with his brother Craig. And like everyone else, we didn’t feel like cooking anything for dinner that night either. So we decided to go to this pizza place/bar a few blocks from Craig’s house called Langel’s Pizza.

Langel’s Pizza is located at 2833 Highway Ave in Highland, Indiana. We decided to sit in the screened-in porch area in the front of the restaurant. Unfortunately, we were sitting in the section of a not-so-stellar waitress. All three of us ordered a Gumballhead beer on draft. After what seemed to be a pretty long time our waitress came back with one draft beer and just looked at us. Then she told us that the Gumballhead keg ran out and that one of us will get the Gumballhead beer and the other two will be getting Jinx Proof which was the keg that was replacing the Gumballhead one. We all just looked at each other, wondering why she was the one deciding this for us. What is Jinx Proof anyways? None of us had even had this beer before and how did we even know if we were going to like it or not? So we asked her if she could bring us a taste of the Jinx Proof and told her that we’d decide from there. I went ahead and decided that I would just have the Gumballhead beer since it was already at the table :) After a long time had passed again, the waitress stopped by our table just to tell us that they were still changing out the keg (I graciously offered to share my beer with Eric and Craig at this point because I felt guilty sitting there drinking it in front of them.) Finally she came back with a small cup of the Jinx Proof for them to try. But instead of waiting to see how we liked the new beer, she dropped off the cup and walked away. So we had to wait yet again to simply even order the rest of our drinks. She finally returned and Eric decided to to go ahead and get the Jinx Proof and Craig just went with a Blue Moon. In the meantime our pizza had already shown up….BEFORE the other beers even did!!

Langel's Pizza

So let’s talk about the pizza. We ordered a 16″ thin crust with crumbled sausage and bacon. A fairly simple pizza. When we got the pizza, the first thing I noticed was that the entire thing was covered with the crumbled sausage. No skimping there! It almost looked like ground beef in a way but it had a really good flavor and you could taste it in every bite which I really liked. The bacon on the other hand I felt was lacking. The pizza could have really used some more bacon on there. I liked the taste of the sauce and they used a good amount of sauce on the pizza which is always important to me. The dough was nice and airy and had a good thickness to it. It even had some really nice air bubbles in it (which are always fun to pop). I thought they did a great job on the crust. There was also a good amount of cheese. It was nice and stringy and so oozy that it almost took off all your toppings with it when you tried to take a new slice. So all in all the pizza was pretty good. I would rate this pizza a 3 out of 5 stars. I would definitely go back despite having to wait a lot on our waitress (maybe she was just having a bad night, afterall.. she wasn’t eating pizza.) And in the summertime, they open up the screened-in porch area so I bet it has a really nice atmosphere to it.

The beers finally did arrive but since they took so long, we chose not to stay for a second  round. Instead, we decided to enjoy the growlers of Daisy Cutter we picked up from Half Acre Brewery on our way out to Indiana that we had waiting for us back at the house. It was a fun night of pizza, beer, chopping and prepping our Thanksgiving meal while listening to Gobble Gobble mix 2012 on the iPad!!

(Interesting tidbit: While writing this blog post I was eating… pizza. Shocking, I know! Although it was one I have already reviewed – Panino’s. You can see my review here: https://chicagopizzagirl.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/paninos-pizza-in-lakeview/

Rocco Ranalli’s Cafe and Pizzeria

Yes, we had yet another Living Social coupon to use on a pizza again. This time, it was for Rocco Ranalli’s Cafe & Pizzeria located at 1925 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. I had never been to this restaurant before and I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised to see the HUGE outdoor patio as we walked up to be seated. It was a beautiful day out so naturally we chose to sit outside. Although the hostess threw us for a loop when she started to speak because she had a very dull, deep and spacey voice. I instantly had to mock her to Eric after she seated us (because that’s just what I do). My guess is that she was a DePaul student because she seemed very young to me. I kinda wanted to grab her head and shake it and yell “Wake up, in there!” But I refrained.

Our waitress that came to take our order was just as interesting and I think she was also a DePaul student. She had a valley girl “OMG” type of voice to her. Interesting staff, that’s for sure, and just wait, it gets better! So we ordered a couple of Oberons and decided on a garlic, pepperoni and bacon pan pizza. I hadn’t had a pan pizza in awhile and it just sounded really good. While we waited for our pizza we noticed the table behind ours had a girl that was shadowing another waitress. They were waiting on a table of two guys. The guys had asked what types of dark beers they would recommend and the waitress suggested one beer that she “thought” was a dark beer but wasn’t sure. Then she proceeded to tell them she didn’t know of any other dark beers and would go ask the bartender. (And this was the waitress, not the girl shadowing her, the one that ‘should’ have known the menu in theory). I would think if it was your job to know the types of beers and food items on the menu… you should, well… probably know them. I hope the girl shadowing was taking good notes. Don’t need to know menu – check. 

Our pizza came and I have to say it was pretty tasty. The pieces of pepperoni were the largest slices of pepperoni I had ever seen on a pizza. They were the size of baseballs which was nice because you were pretty guaranteed to get pepperoni with almost every bite. The bacon was really good as well. It had a good smokey taste to it. And we found the best call of the night was to get the garlic as a topping. Some places will load waaaay too much garlic on. But this place had just the right amount on there. It really added a really great flavor. The one thing I felt the pizza needed more of was just a little bit more sauce. I actually decided to ask our waitress for a side of sauce so that I could dip my crust in to it. Why not, right? If Chicago Pizza Girl wants extra sauce, she should get extra sauce! So the waitress said, “Sure” and asked a bus boy to go get some. I waited and waited and no sauce came so I asked a bus boy myself when he came to our table to clear some things away. He seemed to understand what I was asking for and hurried away to go get me some. When he finally came back he brought me a side of mayonnaise. I kinda laughed and said, “Ooooh I’m sorry, I wanted marinara sauce.” And there was another bus boy stand ing next to him who repeated what I said to him and he seemed to then understand what I wanted. Finally, he came back with the right sauce. When the waitress came back to check on us she asked if I got my marinara sauce and I explained what happened. She then decided to become racist as she bashed her own co-worker right in front of us. She thought she was being funny by saying “You know ‘them’, none of ‘them’ speak english very well. I can never tell them apart either, they all look the same.” My mouth about dropped to the floor. I was like “did she actually just say that?” So rude! Quality staff, let me tell ya.

But enough about the stellar staff, I did enjoy the pizza. And the atmosphere was pretty nice. I would give this pizza a 3.5 star rating. At least you will probably be in for some interesting entertainment from the staff while eating your pizza if you check this place out. But it’s not the pizza’s fault. Don’t blame the pizza!

Rocco Ranalli's pizza

Osteria Via Stato

I kicked off the summer right this year by enjoying my favorite thing for lunch, pizza, in an outdoor patio with some pretty great people. Then, we finished the night off right, at a baseball game. We ate at Osteria Via Stato on State St. in Chicago. We had one of our first nice weekends so naturally I wanted to sit outside someplace and enjoy the weather. Osteria Via Stato has a really nice patio to eat outside in so it worked out perfectly.

Osteria Via Stato is known for its Roman style, cracker thin crust pizzas that are cooked in a brick oven. The size of the pizzas are small enough to order one for yourself. I tend to finish the whole darn thing when I go. Shocking… I know. Some of the types of pizzas I have tried there are the margherita, the sausage and the pepperoni. I will say, out of those three, the margherita is definitely my favorite. Some other types of pizzas they have there that I would love to try sometime are the four cheese pizza and the prociutto americana pizza, both of which are white pizzas.

Osteria Via Stato Margherita Pizza

Osteria Via Stato Pepperoni Pizza

Previous times I have been to Osteria Via Stato, I have tried the caprese salad and the plate of house marinated olives as an appetizer. Both were really good. It helps that I am a huge fan of kalamata olives! This last time that we were there, I ordered the margherita pizza for my lunch. There is something about the freshness of the basil that I just love. And the ratio of cheese to sauce is just right. Normally I don’t get all that excited about a cracker thin crust pizzas in general. I usually prefer a thicker crust or deep dish. But I have to say, I did enjoy this pizza very much. Paired with a Half Acre Daisy Cutter beer, it was delicious. And the great thing about the thinness and size of these pizzas is that if you are with a group people and all order different pizzas, they are great for sharing if you’d like to try more than one type. I would give this pizza a 3 star rating.

 

Did Apart Pizza Company Stand “Apart” From the Rest?

Low and behold folks, I had yet another Groupon-like deal (this one was a Living Social coupon) for another pizza place that I had to use up before May 24th. This one was for Apart Pizza Company. There are two locations that I know of. One in Andersonville in Chicago on Broadway and another at the corner of Montrose and Lincoln. Now when looking at the website, http://www.apartpizzacompany.com, it was kind of hard to tell if either of these locations actually had seating. But I finally did see that the one on Broadway had at least patio seating, so Broadway was the one we decided to go ahead and try.

caesar salad

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked in the door. But I will say I was at least happy there were 3 whole tables to sit at since we felt like dining in instead of just getting delivery that night. The place was definitely set up more as just delivery pizza place rather than an actual dine in restaurant. So on to the ordering. The menu had a lot of great toppings and specialized pizzas to choose from. For instance, one pizza that we almost went with was called the Tricolore which contained fresh tomatoes, goat cheese and spinach. Another one I thought sounded great was the Quattro Formaggi which had brie, goat, parmesan, and bleu cheeses. Mmmm cheese! But we ended up just creating our own with pepperoni, bacon and goat cheese. When we placed our order though, I forgot that our coupon was worth up to $30! So we had to order more if we wanted to get our money’s worth. (Ok twist my arm.) So we increased our pizza from a medium to a large (since I always love leftovers anyways) and also ordered a Caesar salad and some fountain drinks (for future notice, this place is BYOB).

Our pizza came out pretty quickly. So quick in fact that they hadn’t even brought out our salad yet. But that came shortly after. The salad was pretty large and that being said, we finished the whole thing, it was so tasty. The pizza came in large New York style slices. They are all hand tossed so you really end up getting a good sized pizza which is always nice in my opinion. As far as thin crust goes, this place was pretty comparable to some of the other places I have been to. The bacon had a great smokey flavor to it. It wasn’t the small, cheap crumbles you might find on some pizzas. The slices of bacon were nice and thick and flavorful. The amount of goat cheese they put on there was just right too. Some places will load it on when you ask for goat cheese and although I do love my cheese.. it can sometimes be too overwhelming of a flavor if there’s too much of it.

Apart Pizza Company

The people on staff here were all very nice. You can tell the manager takes pride in what she does. She was very attentive to us and the other couple at the table next to us that were also dining in. Now granted there were only 2 tables to have to take care of, but none-the-less, they were very nice and accommodating there. I would definitely go back. I think I would have to rate this pizza a 3.5 out of 5.

Ariba, Ariba!! First Attempt at a Mexican Pizza

Taco night (or as we call it in this house, “Effin’ Taco Night!!”) has always been quite popular in the dinner rotation here. So, for quite some time now I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making a mexican pizza. Well, last week I finally got my ideas together, headed to the grocery store and got everything I needed to do it.

The homemade dough was just your basic pizza dough recipe. The one thing I did decide to add to spice things up though was a bit of some cayenne pepper. See dough ingredients below:

3 cups of flour to start
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbs. of yeast
1 tsp of cayenne pepper

The toppings I decided to put on this pizza were:

Refried beans
Salsa
Black Olives (Lindsay’s brand of course)
Diced tomatoes
Spicy taco meat
Home grown chives from my Mom & Dad’s garden
Cheddar & pepper jack cheese
Crushed red pepper flakes

While the dough was doing it’s thing in the bread maker, I got all my chopping and prepping done ahead of time. First, I cooked up 1 lb. of ground sirloin and then added a packet of hot n’ spicy taco seasoning. I also warmed up the refried beans in a sauce pan so that they would be easier to spread on top of the dough. Once the dough was ready to roll out, the first thing I put down was the refried beans. Next, I spread out the salsa on top of the beans and sprinkled some crushed red pepper on top of that. I purposely bought a salsa that wasn’t too chunky but not too runny/watery either. It had a great consistency similar to what you would get in a mexican restaurant. Then, I added the black olives, chives and diced tomatoes. And finally I shredded the cheddar and pepper jack cheese and covered the pizza.

I cooked the pizza at 385 degrees for 19 minutes. The pizza looked great when it came out of the oven. I have to admit I was very excited yet nervous to try this pizza. I really had no idea if I was going to love it or hate it. To my surprise, it tasted excellent!! Only a few things I would change up to make it even better the next time I make this. This pizza would be a perfect candidate for using the new cast iron pizza pan we have (this time I just used our regular pan). The cast iron really gives the crust a crispy crunch to it which I felt would have helped this pizza. I may have put on a little bit too much salsa because I felt that if I didn’t eat the pizza quickly, it just might get a little too soggy. So I think the extra crunchiness that the cast iron pan provides would have been great.

Mexican Pizza

Another thing I forgot to add that I bought for this little experiment was black beans. Oops! There’s always next time. Also, I wanted to add my favorite taco sauce, Ortega (medium or hot), but was worried with the salsa AND the taco sauce that it might get even MORE soggy. So I skipped the Ortega sauce this time. I think next time, I might mix up a combination of salsa with the Ortega sauce and use that. Another thing I thought might be fun to add on top (maybe after it’s done cooking) would be crushed up tortilla chips. But I haven’t decided how I feel about that topping yet. Would it really help the pizza? Or am I just gettin’ crazy now?

Needless to say, Effin’ Taco Pizza night was a success! And I think warming up a piece of the leftovers on the stovetop in a frying pan would a great idea for this pizza. I think that it would help crisp up the bottom of the crust a little more when going to reheat it. Now all you need is a margarita and you’d be set!

Mexican Pizza