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/

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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.

 

Ernestos Pizza (aka Ernie’s)

This past weekend was opening day for the Tigers in Detroit, MI. So we packed up the Prius and headed down to MI on Thursday night. The game was fun as always. Great times with some really great people. Then on Saturday morning we continued on our way to Harbor Beach to visit with Eric’s mom for the rest of the weekend. And one thing that Eric always has to get when he his back in his home town is pizza from Ernestos Pizza. So I said, “Sign me up!”

Ernestos

The first time I experienced Ernestos was a year ago around this time when we went down for the Tigers opening weekend again. It’s a very quaint little pizza shop located in the downtown area of Harbor Beach. There’s only a few booths and tables on one side of the restaurant, a vintage juke box in the corner that plays old and new 45’s and of course the kitchen in the back. While we sat there eating our pizza in one of the booths, a family came in with two smaller children. Eric kept laughing because one of the little boys (I would say around the age of 3 or 4) kept popping up over the edge of our booth and smiling. Next thing I knew, I felt something touching me on my head….this little boy was actually petting me. The reaction of his mother led us to believe that this was a very common thing he did when they took their kids out to eat. The mom begrudgingly said “Oh no, not again!” And then they quickly decided to get their pizza to go and left the restaurant.

As entertaining as that was, we couldn’t stay and eat in at Ernestos this time around. So we ordered our pizza for pick up. We decided to order a large pizza with bacon, pepperoni and mushrooms on it because we knew we’d want a ton of leftovers… this pizza is almost just as good the next day as it is fresh. Eric actually likes it even better cold the next day.

Anways, the pizza was just absolutely delicious. They put a really significant amount of bacon on it so you definitely notice the smokiness of the bacon flavor. You taste bacon with pretty much every bite! The secret to their sauce is that it has a sweetness to it. And it has a good thickness to it if you ask me. Not too runny. I could also taste garlic in the sauce which always makes me happy. Speaking of garlic, there was definitely a hint of garlic in the crust. The crust has a really nice buttery flavor to it. It’s light and soft but has some good texture to the bottom of it. The cheese was really good too. I could tell it was a good quality mozzarella that they use. Although, I hear back in the day the cheese used to be even better. I guess they’ve changed owners over the years. All in all, this pizza had good substance to it. It wasn’t too thin but it wasn’t quite a pan pizza either. I will have to give this pizza 4.5 stars. If I had tried this pizza years ago when the ingredients were even better than they are now.. I bet this pizza would be a solid 5 for sure!

Ernestos Pizza

CPG found out 2 weeks is too long to go without making a pizza

This weekend I decided to make another pizza, because well, why not? I had the time and I love pizza. Since I’m on my garlic kick right now (really, when am I not) I wanted to add garlic powder to the dough again. Well, I guess going 2 weeks without making a pizza was a little too long for me. Because I made some vital errors in my dough making this time. First I’ll give you the run down of what I put in the dough.

Dough Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups of flour to start
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. of sugar
1 can of Coors Light
1 Tbs. of yeast
and garlic powder (not exactly sure how much)..

Now I say I don’t exactly how much garlic powder I put in because I simply took the shaker and went to town. I’ve noticed in my pizza making experience that if you want to be able to taste a certain flavor in your dough, you kind of have to use a lot of that ingredient. So if I had to guess, I’d say I put in maybe 2-3 Tbs. of garlic powder. Then, I let the breadmaker do its thing. The whole time the dough was being prepared, the scent of garlic filled the whole condo. It was definitely going to be noticed in this one! :)

Now as I checked on the dough in the beginning, I could already tell that I needed to add more  flour. I could tell the flour to liquid ratio was just not right. I’ve made my own dough enough now where I could tell just by looking at the consistency of it that I needed to add more flour. So I went ahead and added probably another cup’s worth right then and there. When the beeping went off to tell me that the breadmaker was finished and my dough was ready I opened the lid and said “Oh no.. ” I could immediately tell that the dough was too sticky. Apparently I needed to add a LOT more flour than I had thought.

Have no fear, I just got out the flour again and went to work on working more in to the ball of dough I had. And soon enough, the dough was much less sticky and ready to roll out on to the pizza pan. I did have to cut the dough in half now though since I added so much more flour, there was just too much of it and I wanted more of a thin crust for this pizza. Good save Linds!! Gave myself a pat on the back for rescuing the pizza dough, because otherwise I would have been very sad. Lindsay without her pizza is not a pretty sight.

Now on to the pizza toppings. I loaded up the base with sauce. Just my usual Ragu pizza sauce this time. (One of these days I will get around to making my own sauce. I promise.) Then I added pepperoni, left over italian sausage from dinner a few nights before, and mushrooms. I shredded mozzarella (seriously, I can never remember how to spell that one and spellcheck always yells at me) and cheddar to top it off. In the oven my garlic-y pizza went at 385 degrees for 19 minutes.

homemade garlic crust

When the pizza came out, it was perfectly cooked. Lightly browned, melted cheese and a slightly crispy crust on the bottom. The first thing I noticed when I took a bite in to this pizza was the consistency of the dough. It definitely had a different texture to it than my dough usually has. Almost like it was more spongey and it wasn’t as light and airy. I am not sure if it was the amount of garlic powder I put in to the dough that changed the consistency or it was the flour I was adding to the dough after the dough was already made. But, I will say that the pizza still tasted quite good. It was just a different kind of crust. So I was happy with the end result. You could certainly taste the hint of garlic in the dough. And the italian sausage was really flavorful. I guess there is something to be said for being more careful about measuring  though :)

garlic powder crust

Nothing like homegrown vegetables on your pizza!

Homemade pizza tonight! Ok, so my decision process on making pizza tonight went something like this. I didn’t want pasta because I had pasta for dinner last night. I had grilled burgers and brats over the weekend so I didn’t feel like grilling. I figured I’d make a nice big salad one day this week but that would require going to the store to buy all the stuff to go in it and I just didn’t feel like making the trip. I wanted something that didn’t require a lot of effort or time either. I started to get the inkling for a pizza (naturally) but knew that by the time I got home, making the dough from scratch would put me at actually eating dinner around 9:00pm tonight. And I was already hungry (this was around 5:00pm that this thought process took place). So, I thought, you know…Whole Foods has really good fresh homemade dough and that would cut down the prep time by a lot. And viola, there you have it! We were making pizza tonight.

Since there was no dough making in this process, I’ll go right in to which toppings were used tonight:

  • Ragu Pizza Sauce
  • Fresh Mozzarella from Whole Foods
  • Chunks of cut up homegrown tomatoes from my parent’s vegetable garden
  • Sliced kalamata olives
  • Pepperoni
  • Sauteed homegrown zucchini from my parent’s vegetable garden
  • Basil…you got it, homegrown from my parent’s vegetable garden

Can you tell I’ve just recently been to my parent’s house? Any time I go there during the summer I get sent home with a bag full of fresh vegetables. I love it! This time I actually picked my own basil leaves too. Anyways, the pizza came out really tasty. I loved the fresh basil the best. The flavor really stood out and it smelled delicious. The kalamata olives really had a great strong flavor as well. Of course I love kalamata olives so I didn’t mind the strong taste. I can eat those things like candy. In fact, I often just sit there and eat them out of the jar as a snack when I’m deciding what to eat. I didn’t really notice the zucchini that much. We cut up round slices and sauteed them in a pan before we put them on the pizza. I wonder if I added more the next time if they would be more noticeable. Or maybe I’ll try doing shredded zucchini. We’ll see.

Whole fresh pizza

I actually felt like this pizza could have had a little more crunch to it. I cooked it for it’s usual time of around 18 minutes at 385 degrees. Maybe it had to do with the type of dough it was, but I actually put the whole pizza (what was left of it) back in to the oven for another 3 minutes after I ate the first slice. It gave it a little more crunch to the bottom. So then I was happy. All in all the pizza was very good. If you’re going to put vegetables on your pizza, you really can’t go wrong with homegrown. It just tastes so unbelievably fresh! Thanks Mom & Dad! I’ll certainly be back for more veggies sometime soon.

Close up fresh veggies

Clarke’s Diner…Yes, they serve pizza.

For years now, my friends and I have gone to the Clarke’s diner on Clarke St. in Chicago late night to grab some food after a night out. It sort of just became our thing. There would be a point in the night where one of us would chime in, “Anyone feel like grabbing some food?” and next thing we knew we were in a cab on our way to Clarke’s. I will admit, I usually pushed people towards this option. Why? Because they serve pizza of course.

If I’m not mistaken, they have 5 different pizzas to choose from. A bbq pizza, a veggie one, a chicken pizza, etc. I always just get the four-maggio one. It comes with cheddar, parmesan, feta and mozzarella cheese on it. It’s always been very hard for me to order anything else on a menu when I know they serve pizza as well. So, time after time, while everyone else is usually ordering the Denver skillet or something breakfast related, I get the pizza. Every single time. But this really isn’t a shock to anyone, is it?

So, last Saturday night we were out celebrating one of my best friend’s birthdays and happened to be right down the street from Clarke’s. And of course we were hungry so we said, “What the hell.. Let’s do it.” (It had been a really long time now since we had been there).  I think I had finally made everyone sick of going there. I didn’t even open the menu. I was getting the Four-Maggio again. That much, I knew.

On to the review. I have to say, I think my tastes have changed over the years. Because back in the day I used to think this pizza was half-way decent. I won’t say it was the best or anything. But I obviously would get it time and time again. All my friends thought I was nuts and would always comment that it tasted like cardboard. But for diner pizza, it was pretty much what I expected and I seemed to enjoy it. I have to admit, I think the first time I had Clarke’s pizza was the first time I ever had feta cheese on one of my pizzas. And I really liked it. So that part gets an “A” for effort from me.

But, this last time we went, I think I finally started to realize why so many of my friends claimed I was nuts for liking this pizza. The cheese seemed to be undercooked. It looked like it could have stayed in the oven for a few minutes longer. The crust tasted very bland to me. It didn’t taste like it had any seasoning in it, which it really could have used. I only at about half of the pizza (It’s an individual size, don’t worry). Usually I could eat almost all of it but one or two slices. And even when I used to have leftovers, I would still take them home with me. This time, I said no thank you. Reheating this pizza just did not sound appealing to me at all.

Maybe it’s because I have higher standards now when it comes to pizza (since I blog about it now). But Clarke’s pizza just didn’t do it for me anymore. I will sadly give this pizza a 2 rating. Clarke’s, we had a good run. But I’m on to bigger and better pizzas now. Maybe I’ll come back and visit you again some day and give you a second chance. So for now, let’s not say goodbye, let’s say…see you later?

Clarke's Diner Pizza