Pizano’s Pizza – Pretty darn good!

First I’d like to start off giving a quick explanation on why I have been looking forward to trying this pizza for awhile now. The man who founded this pizzeria is Rudy Malnati Jr., son of Rudy Malnati Sr., who in 1943 established Pizzeria Uno in Chicago. And who helped co-manage this Pizzeria Uno with Rudy? None other than Rudy’s son Lou Malnati! Well, we all know that Lou Malnati’s is my favorite deep dish pizza of all time! So I was very excited to see how this pizza compared of course.

So off we went, to the Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta in the Loop in downtown Chicago on Thursday night to give it a try. The place was very busy, but we were able to pre-order our pizza while we waited to be seated. We decided to get a sausage and pepperoni deep dish pizza. We actually ordered a large so that we would have plenty of leftovers to take home and I just so happen to be enjoying a reheated slice of it right now as I write this! :)

When the pizza came it looked very similar to Lou’s at first glance. And actually, the whole time I was eating it, I couldn’t stop comparing it to Lou’s. Which I don’t know if that helped it or not since Lou’s is my all time favorite. It had some big shoes to fill in my mind. The crust is similar in that it is a buttery flakey crust. In my opion, Lou’s is definitely better but this was pretty good too. It had a nice solid crunch to it on the bottom and the sides had that crisp thin flakiness to it.

Pizano's PizzaPizano's Pizza slice

One thing I really liked about this pizza was the flavor of the cheese they used. It definitely stood out to me. I wish I could place what they were using. To me, it wasn’t just your typical mozzarella, but something else too. The saugsage was also one of my favorite parts about the pizza. It had a really good italian flavor to it and they used a good amount. It wasn’t a full layer of sausage that Lou’s is known for doing on their pizza’s, but it was still good none the less. I had no complaints about the tomato sauce on the pizza. It had nice chunks of tomatoes in it which is always yummy if you ask me. But, I will say, I wished there had been a little bit more sauce used on the pizza altogether.

Before we even had the idea to go to Pizano’s, we happened to see a Groupon gift certificate online for sale for the restaurant. For those of you that don’t know what Groupon.com is, it’s a website that offers daily deals at unbeatable prices. This could be discounts off of anything from restaurants to salons. They base the deals on the city location you are in. When I found a deal on Pizano’s Pizza downtown, we obiously jumped on that one right away. So at the end of our night, when we presented the $50 gift certificate to the waitor, his face dropped when he had to tell us that they no longer accept the Groupon certificates. We were very confused as to why, as the manager wouldn’t really give a reason. But, the good news is, when we emailed the website to see what the deal was, they told us to simply mail back the gift certificate and said we would get a credit on their website to use in the future on something else.

So, at least our money wasn’t wasted and we still had a great time in a good atmosphere enjoying our deep dish pizza. The pizza itself was very delicious and I was pretty impressed with it. So, I would have to rate this pizza as a 4 and definitely see myself getting this again in future. Pizano’s Pizza is no Lou Malnati’s but that family definitely has some amazing pizza making abilities running through their genes!!

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Pequod’s Pizzeria – 2nd best deep dish pizza in Chicago!

A couple Saturday nights ago I had a birthday party to go to in Lincoln Park. We wanted to get dinner somewhere located near the party. Then it hit me. Pequod’s!! I’ve been to Pequod’s several times now, but definitely thought it deserved a proper review since it’s one of my faves.

Pequod’s opened in the early 1970’s and was named after the whaling ship from Moby Dick. This neighborhood bar/restaurant is located on the corner of Clybourn and Webster, right across from a movie theater. So it’s a great place to stop for dinner and a movie any night of the week. I can honestly go ahead and say it. I think Pequod’s has the 2nd best deep dish pizza in the city (next to Lou Malnati’s of course). And yes, I will say that I think it is better than Giordano’s pizza. Keep reading to find out why!

We ordered a small, deep dish sausage and pepperoni pizza. We would normally get a medium, but since we were heading straight to a party after dinner, we didn’t really want to have to drag around leftovers with us all night. We also ended up ordering an appetizer of cheesy garlic bread with marinara sauce on the side for dipping since we weren’t positive the small sized pizza would do the trick. It really hit the spot.

As for the pizza, I really only have nothing but good things to say about it. The sausage had some really great italian seasoning to it and they were nice big pieces. The sauce was good. Not too thick, not too thin. And they put a perfect amount on the pizza as well. Now the crust, I will say, is really one of a kind. Pequod’s uses a cast iron skillet to cook their pizzas in which leaves the best crunchy and crispy crust around the edge. It gives the crust a caramelized flavor that is ridiculously good and certainly a known trademark of theirs. The cheese was so nice and gooey. Plenty of it too. The kind that just keeps on pulling and forms those nice long strings of ooey goodness when you pull it away from the tray.

Pequod's Pizza

We definitely didn’t need the appetizer before the pizza. The small was plenty of pizza to fill us both. I have ordered this pizza for delivery before too. It’s still very good. But there’s something to be said for a nice hot deep dish pizza coming straight out of the oven right to your table.

As far as deep dish pizza goes, I love that Pequod’s is not too doughy. It’s a nice thick size and you don’t just taste all bread. Which I feel like a lot of deep dish places are at fault for (ahem… Giordano’s). I feel like when I’m eating Giordano’s I always have a lot of leftover crust that I just don’t want. Not with Pequod’s! And Pequod’s really does a great job at putting just the right amount of ingredients on it’s pizzas. So every bite is just perfect.

I am actually debating right now on what to rate this pizza. I thought, if Lou’s is a 5 rating then should I make this a 4? But it seems so much better than a 4. Then I thought to myself, well how about a 4.5? But, who says that Lou’s has to be the only 5 rating right? I can have more than just one pizza as a 5 rating. BUT… that being said, I still think Lou’s is better than Pequod’s. It is, after all, my all time favorite pizza. But I think Pequod’s can share the 5 rating because I think it has a completely different taste to it. I mean, looking back at the definition of a 5 rating in my rating system it says, “This is hands down among one of my favorites.” And this is true. So yes, I will give this pizza a 5 rating. There! I’ve decided. Now go get some Pequod’s!! :)

Panino’s Pizza in Lakeview

I have been ordering Panino’s pizza for about a year and a half now. But I had yet to actually sit down and eat inside the restaurant. Thursday night I didn’t feel like cooking and of course.. had the urge for pizza, so I said “What the hell, let’s go to Panino’s!” It’s located at 3702 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60613.

The restaurant itself had a nice atmosphere. For some reason I was very entertained by the little mini salt and pepper shakers on our table because they were just too cute. It kind of made me feel like a giant. First things first, we ordered drinks. I was excited to see a wine menu on the table where every bottle of wine listed on there was only $15. And lucky for me, I happen to love wine. We ordered a bottle of 2008 Santa Ana Cabernet Sauvignon and I have to say, it was REALLY good. The waiter brought over bread for the table and to my surprise, it came with a little bottle of olive oil for dipping and a small bowl of parmesan cheese. Just the way I like to eat my bread. Makes sense to me, but not all Italian or pizza places do that so I often have to ask for them to bring it. They had some really good foccacia bread included in the bread basket that tasted like it had just came out of the oven.

Bread and Wine

On to the pizza.. We ordered a medium sized pan pizza with sausage, bacon, and pepperoni on it. Now granted I have had Panino’s pizza delivered several times before, but I was very excited to try their pizza fresh out of the oven in their restaurant for the first time. And when the pizza came, I enjoyed every bite! For some reason, the size of this pan pizza seemed so much larger than when we usually get it. I even looked over at the table next to our’s and our pizza looked gigantic compared to their’s. Oh well, we had lots of leftovers for dinner the next night, which is always nice.  There was lots and lots of cheese covering the pizza and it oooozed in a good ‘ole ooey, gooey fashion like a pizza should when you pull a slice away from the pan. Love that! I love the sauce they use too. It wasn’t too sweet and had a distinct tomato taste to it. They also put a good amount of sauce on the pizza. I like when there’s lots of sauce on a thicker pizza to compensate for the extra dough. Otherwise I feel like all you taste is the dough. The crust had a great flakey, crispiness to it that seemed very light and airy too. Seems like they had the cooking tempurature just right on this pizza.

Panino's Pizza photo

So I have to say, I reheated this pizza the next day for dinner and was pretty happy with it. I know a lot of people love their leftover pizza cold, but I always like to reheat mine. I really wanted to reheat the pizza in the oven, but I was looking forward to it so much that I just quickly reheated it in the microwave. The cheese melted evenly and all the flavors melded together wonderfully. All in all, I would give this pizza a solid 4 rating! This is one of my favorite pizza places to order from in Chicago and I can now say it is even better getting it fresh in the restaurant if you get the chance!

Panino's Pizza Slice

Parmesan and Garlic Crust

I couldn’t go the whole Memorial day weekend without having pizza at least once. So, I decided to make another homemade pizza last night. I had a BBQ yesterday and we had lots of left over sausages and beer. What better way to use up leftovers than to use them on a pizza right? Let’s start with what was in the crust.

Dough Ingredients:

12 oz. can of Bud Light
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
3 cups flour
2 tbsp. yeast
1 tbsp. minced garlic
4 tbsp. parmesan cheese

Next, let’s move on to the toppings.

Pizza Toppings:

Sausage
Pepperoni
Olives
Feta Cheese
Mozzarella Cheese
Ragu Pizza Sauce

Here is a before and after shot:

Before shot

After shot

The pizza cooked at 380 degrees for 18:23 minutes. The cheese was extra gooey and the crust had a perfect crispiness to it. I will say, I should have used more feta cheese on it, because it was a little hard to even notice the taste on there. The sausage though, was really really good. Since we had already cooked them yesterday, we just sliced them up and put them right on the pizza. And as always, I dipped my crust in ranch dressing. I’m a big fan of that. I just started doing that a couple of years ago. The one pizza I don’t ever feel the need to even do this with is Lou Malnati’s of course. I didn’t really notice the parmesan cheese taste in the crust. I think a lot more would need to be added to get more of the taste coming through in the crust. But overall, I really enjoyed this one. It was a great way to use up some of the BBQ leftovers. And not just the food leftovers, the beer too! Because let’s face it, I’m not a huge Bud Light fan so it served it’s purpose well. One tip I do have for you if you do try adding a beer to your dough, is if it is already refrigerated, I suggest warming it up in the microwave for a bit since it is replacing using luke warm water. Now I wonder if I can make a pizza with my leftover chopped salad…

Slice of pizza

Reviewing pizza from the road – DaVinci’s Italian Restaurant in IN

This weekend I went on a road trip to Ohio to go to Cedar Point and ride some roller coasters! We left Chicago right around 5:00pm on Friday and actually got out of the city in fairly good timing. Once we were well on our way (in Indiana at this time), we decided it was time to stop for some dinner. We were kind of in the mood for Italian so we were originally thinking Fazolis, since we had seen a sign for it along the highway and figured it would be quick. But once we got off the exit, we passed this local Italian restaurant named DaVinci’s and our decision was made. Fazolis did not win out this time! So, we decided to give DaVinci’s a try.

So, first we had to decide between thin, regular or thick. We had no preference really so we went with regular. Then we ordered a medium sausage and mushroom pizza with a delicious brusheta appetizer that came with kalamata olives and artichoke hearts so I was one happy camper.

DaVinci's Pizza

When the pizza came, it was much bigger than we expected. So we had lots of leftovers for the weekend. I must say, the crust was great. It had a great crispiness to it and it even had lots of bubbles in the crust which I am a big fan of. I still want to know how they get those in there. Does it have to do with the temperature they cook it at? If anyone knows this secret, please let me know. The sausage was really really good too. It wasn’t that crappy dried out, rabbit turd sausage that you sometimes get at cheaper pizza places or on frozen pizzas. It had a lot of great flavor that left a lasting impression on me. I will say that sauce was a little bit runny or thin. It was  a good flavor, but it either needed to be a little bit thicker or there needed to be more sauce on the pizza. Not sure which really. Now the mushrooms… I completely forgot they were even on the pizza. We decided that they were probably just those mushrooms that you get out of a can at the grocery store. They didn’t seem to make any sort of impression on us. I certainly don’t think they were fresh since I could barely taste them.

But overall, the pizza was really good. I did eat 3 slices after all. But to my defense, my first slice was really thin. And the leftovers we had, made it all the way back to Chicago with us. Luckily there was a mini fridge in the hotel with us. How we didn’t scarf that down before we left? I don’t know. I have to say Indiana, I was pleasantly surprised with your local pizza establishment off of a highway exit in Elkhart, IN. I would rate this pizza establishment as a 3.

DaVinci's Pizza 2

The One and Only… Lou Malnati’s

Ah, those three little words that every girl dreams of hearing… Lou. Malnati’s. Pizza! Ok, well maybe not most girls. But what can I say, if you mention those three words to me you will most likely hear a pitched squeal coming out of me, followed by jumping up and down or something.

Lou Malnati’s has been a tradition in our family since before I can even remember. Any time the our entire family was  getting together (and it wasn’t a holiday) there was a good chance we were ordering Lou’s. In fact, a few of my cousins even worked at Lou’s at one point in time. Man, I sure miss those family discounts!! And speaking of family, I just so happened to be at my parent’s house for dinner last night and we had…. you guessed it, Lou Malnati’s. So my first review of pizza should be a really easy one for me since Lou’s happens to be my favorite pizza in the world!! :)

So, on to the pizza then. I typically get the same thing every time I go to Lou’s. Deep dish with sausage pieces. Most of my family will just get the whole darn layer of sausage (My dad actually prefers a double layer of sausage). But it wasn’t til my cousin Paul recommended trying the sausage pieces that I even realized they had this option. So now, that’s what I go with. It’s the perfect amount in my opinion. Last night’s pizza had mushrooms and a full layer of the sausage though, since majority wins.

Lou Malnati's Pizza

It was delicious as usual. Absolutely nothing compares to Lou’s crust. It’s so buttery, crispy and flaky. I really wish I knew how they got it that way or what they put in their dough. And I love love love the sauce with all the fresh, chunky tomatoes in it. It’s got that sweet flavor that you just can’t get anywhere else. I actually watched Bobbly Flay’s throwdown show on Food Network once where Bobby Flay challenged Lou Malnati’s to a pizza throwdown (Lou Malnati’s won of course). I learned from this episode that Lou’s actually grows their own special tomatoes for their sauce. I’m not surprised. It’s goood!

Lou Malnati's Slice

Many people aren’t aware that they can get Lou Malnati’s just about anywhere in the US. You can order the pizzas online by going to http://www.tastesofchicago.com/category/Lou_Malnatis_Pizza. They come nicely packaged in dry ice and right to your front door! I have sent these as gifts from time to time and believe me, they have been greatly appreciated from the out-of-towners I know that can’t get them here anymore!

Not only can you have Lou’s shipped to you, just recently Lou’s began offering their own Lou’s-to-go dough for sale in their restaurants. I believe you can purchase this dough at the above link as well. I haven’t tried this dough yet, but don’t you worry, I will definitely be trying this in the future and will be blogging about it for sure. I’m very excited to try it!

So if I had to give this pizza a rating from my newly created pizza rating scale I’d definitely give Lou’s a 5 slice rating. Lou’s always has, and always will be my #1 favorite pizza. But that being said, I suppose going on this journey of trying several new pizza places will definitely be an eye opening experience for me and soon we shall see if any other pizza can try and compare! Bring it on pizza..bring it on!!!