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Reviews & Opinions => Pizzeria & Restaurant Reviews => Topic started by: BTB on July 19, 2009, 08:21:31 AM

Title: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on July 19, 2009, 08:21:31 AM
A couple of weekends ago my wife and I visited the Chicago area where I used to reside for many years. We found the traffic to be as crazy, nutty and congested as usual, but that's a way of life in the Chicago city environment, unfortunately.
While there, I was able to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes -- pizza eating -- on a couple of occasions. First, on a warm Friday evening we dined at Pat's Pizzeria on north Lincoln Ave on the near northside of Chicago (single location pizzeria, not any of those with a similar name that sometimes gets mistakenly taken for the great Pat's pizzeria).  Pat's has been written up and claimed by many Chicago media food critics as the best thin crust pizza in Chicago.  Their pizza crust is an ultra thin -- almost wafer thin -- crust that many "connoisseurs" and Chicago pizza enthusiasts believe to be the "best traditional thin crust pizza in Chicago!"  It is -- of course -- not of the recent popular neopolitan genre of which I am definitely not a fan of.  If it isn't the best thin crust, it has to be in the top 5 in my estimation. Fantastic, flavorful, crispy on the ring, firm but softer towards the middle, full of great tasting cheese and toppings . . . I was in seventh heaven downing every morsel of this great, great tasty pizza. 
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on July 19, 2009, 08:22:50 AM
While Pat's serves a deep dish style also (at least I noted so on the menu), I saw no other table -- all of which were completely full -- trying anything other than the thin crust pizza for which they are famous.  Some pictures of this great pizza and pizzeria follow.  Highly recommend this restaurant on any visit to Chicago (just a short cab ride away from the downtown area).  And they have a full menu with other really great food items in addition to their fantastic pizza.  This is definitely one of my favorites.
Pat's Pizza
2679 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: JConk007 on July 19, 2009, 08:23:38 AM
Man does that look good!  Cracker looking type of crust any Idea on the type of cheese?
Thanks for posting
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on July 19, 2009, 08:25:50 AM
On the following Saturday afternoon I met an old friend at a meeting place where we used to lunch together at least two or three times a month during our pre-retirement years when we worked nearby.  And that was at the original and famous Lou Malnati's Pizzeria on far north Lincoln Ave. in Lincolnwood, IL (slightly outside of the City of Chicago proper).  See ( . This was my pizza Valhalla for many, many years and I was so happy to return to this center of pizza heaven after several years absence from the area.  
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on July 19, 2009, 08:27:24 AM
It was great to see the sights and decorations of the old restaurant and we even got served by our old waitress who I've seen dishing out the pan pizzas on many of the TV programs that featured Malnati's in the intervening years since I was last at the restaurant.  As I expected, the pan pizza at the original location was the best ever, . . . . . . a fantastic, most tasty and delicious crispy deep dish pizza that one could ever imagine.  For me, it was a return to pizza paradise.  I only wish I again lived nearby to enjoy this great pizza more often, but unfortunately I now normally live over a thousand miles away.  Some pictures of one of the best pizzerias in all of America follow.                                                              --BTB
Lou Malnati's
6649 North Lincoln Ave.
Lincolnwood, IL 60712
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on July 20, 2009, 03:02:41 PM
John, I'm not certain of the type of cheese that Pat's uses.  But it was soooo good, as was the extraordinary cheese on Malnati's pizza.  For those who may think of a trip to Chicago, the Malnati's Lincolnwood restaurant may be too long a cab ride from downtown, but there are two other Malnati restaurants within an easy cab ride of downtown Chicago.  One is on Well's street and the second on Lincoln Ave (the one closer to downtown).  The one on near north Lincoln Ave. is only a couple of blocks away from Pat's Pizzeria mentioned above, altho it is a much smaller restaurant.  One could get a small pizza at either one and take a nice walk a couple of blocks and get a small pizza at the other.  Can't think of a better way to spend a nice sunny afternoon or evening. (          --BTB

Two Malnati locations mentioned:

Chicago - River North
439 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: 312-828-9800

Chicago - Lincoln Park
Dine In Cafe
(at Sheffield & Lincoln)
958 W. Wrightwood
Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: 773-832-4030

Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: Mad_Ernie on July 20, 2009, 04:52:04 PM
Awesome pictures and very nice report, BTB!   :D

I need to make a stop at a Malnati's some time.  I've been to the windy city enough, you'd think I would've made it by now.  We're supposed to be going to Schaumburg in April of next year, so maybe then we'll find time to go get some Malnati's.  There is a pizza place in Elk Grove Village that I remember from my childhood that I would like to check out, too.

I must say the Pat's pizza really had me drooling!   :chef: ;D :chef:   I'd say the cheese on Pat's looks like it at least incorporates some cheddar.

So many good places for pizza in that town.  And plenty of the independents and smaller chains are still around, thank goodness.

Thanks for posting! :)
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on July 22, 2009, 07:59:01 AM
Thanks, ME.  If and when you ever get to Schaumburg, Illinois, here is my recommendation FWIW for a Malnati's restaurant location nearby.  The Elk Grove Village location that you mentioned was Lou's second restaurant and has generally been above average in quality and I've always thought of it as one of their best pizzerias and restaurants.  It's pretty big and holds a lot of diners.  The Malnati's restaurant in Schaumburg (at Roselle & Schaumburg Roads), however, was the worst of the group in my experience -- several times, admittedly a good number of years ago.  My dining friends and I wondered how in the world the Schaumburg location got to put a Malnati's sign on their door as the pizza was always significantly different (in a bad way).  Who knows.  It's been some time and things may have changed, however.                                  --BTB

Lou Malnati's - Elk Grove Village, IL
1050 East Higgins Road
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
   Phone: 847-439-2000

Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: Mad_Ernie on July 22, 2009, 09:42:32 AM
Thanks for the tips, BTB!  :)

btw, the pizza restaurant I was referring to is called Pope's Pizzeria:

It had a different name when we lived there in '72 - '73.  It was originally either a Jake's Pizza or a Village Inn Pizza Parlor.  I just want to go back and see if it brings back any memories.  I'm sure the pizza is probably quite a bit different from my youth.
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on July 23, 2009, 01:17:52 PM
ME, I see I misunderstood your Elk Grove Village reference.  I don't recall ever seeing a Village Inn in that area, altho Jakes was fairly common back then in the western and northwestern suburbs and some were very good (and some not so good).  I enjoyed many of Jake's pizzas in the Arlington Hts. and Glenview area.  The mass produced franchised "conveyor oven" pizza places (Domino's, PJ's, Little Ceasars, PH, etc.) have killed  off a lot of the old fashioned pizza businesses, unfortunately.  Don't recall the Pope serving pizza back then . . . LOL.                             --BTB
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on September 03, 2009, 04:08:51 PM
I recently had the pleasure of going to another of the Chicago areas' great old fashion thin crust pizzerias . . .  the original Villa Nova pizzeria in Stickney, IL (a close-in southwestern suburb of Chicago).  The pizza we had was a wonderful, tasty meal with a soft, tender, yet crispy crust that I swear tasted close to a pie dough.  It was flaky and tender, yet held together nicely as each piece was not limp or floppy when held out as occurs with some pizza styles.  Villa Nova has a huge following in the southwest suburban area and many consider them to be a chief rival to the great Vito and Nick's pizzeria near Midway Airport (one of my all time favorites). 

I found Villa Nova to be as good as V & N's, but in a different sort of way.  While V & N's is similarly a real thin crust pizza, it still has a slight chew to it and is not really a cracker crust style pizza, altho it is very close to being so.  I think it is because of the regular milk that is an added part of their dough ingredients.  Villa Nova's crust, however, contains no liquid milk and consequently is a little lighter and softer with a slight crunch to it's crust.  But both pizzas are absolutely astounding IMO, however. 

Villa Nova's previous owner (a reputed mob boss figure) recently passed away earlier this year and the family has since successfully expanded into a few other locations in the Chicago suburban area.  Their Stickney, IL location is like a visit back to an old fashion 1950's style pizzeria with a great old fashion deck oven (the best kind).  I highly recommend their pizza for thin crust Chicago pizza enthusiasts.  It is definitely is among the best in the region.  You can see some of their reviews on Yelp at ( if you are in the area and are so inclined to pay them a visit, which would be very worthwhile.

Villa Nova Pizzeria
6821 Pershing Rd
Stickney, IL 60402
(708) 788-2944
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on October 19, 2009, 03:20:26 PM
Another famous place for thin crust pizza in the Chicago area that I tried this past summer was the Candlelite Pizzeria on far north Western Ave. in Chicago (almost in Evanston, IL -- home of the Northwestern Wildcats).  I used to lunch at this place often times when I worked nearby some years ago and hadn't been back to it in quite some time.  I remembered that they had one of the most tastiest and thinnest crust pizzas I had ever had.
As one reviewer recently wrote:  the Candlelite's  "crust is the thinnest, crackeriest (now officially a word) crust I have ever encountered."  See review at (  Or as someone else described, "It's like taking Communion topped with mozzarella and tomato sauce."  And indeed, of all the thin crust pizzas I've had this past summer, the Candlelite's was the closest thing to eating pizza ingredients on top of a crust that was similar in a way to that of a saltine cracker (but without the salt).  It truly is one of the great real cracker crust pizzas in the Chicago area as most supposed cracker crusts are really more of a semi-cracker crust with softer centers. 
When my wife and I visited their restaurant on a very busy Saturday night in early September, I was aware that they were also famous for their garlic fries as an appetizer.  While tempted, we regretfully decided to pass on that in favor of just filling ourselves up on their great pizza.  And we were not disappointed in the least when our server brought the piping hot, thin pizza cut in the traditional "Chicago squares" (is there any other way to cut a pizza? ? ?).  See pictures below.             
7452 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL  60645
    773-465-0087 (
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: TZekos on October 27, 2009, 10:51:58 AM
As a long time resident of Chicago, I don't believe there is ONE best Pizza restaurant there. I've always said you can't discuss politics, religion or pizza in Chicago unless you are prepared to fight for your beliefs.

If you're visiting from out of town I would ask a local neighborhood resident where you would get a good pie (thick or thin) and be your own judge.  You sure will sample some great and not so great pizza based on your own taste preferences, but you sure will have a good time.

Lets face it Pizza is kind of like Sex, even mediocre pizza/sex is better than no pizza/sex.  But most of the time you will find some Great Pizza in Chicago you just have to remain open to the variety and stick to the privately owned establishments for a unique experience every time.

Because of where I grew up and lived, Palermo’s at 3751 W 63rd St Chicago, IL 60629. (773) 585-5002 is my favorite thin pie and Giordano’s for deep dish. That's just my preference. I'm sure you'll get many other opinions in this thread.

Just my two cents,

Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on November 05, 2009, 10:40:37 AM
Some had emailed and asked which was my favorite Chicago pizza this past summer.  I only had deep dish pizzas from two special deep dish pizzerias this past summer --  Lou Malnati's and Due's (original Uno's sister restaurant) -- and found both to be excellent (rated A plus, plus in my book), so I consider them to have been a tie for best deep dish.  For thin crust (a totally different animal), all were excellent, too, but Pat's stands out in my memory as having been especially delicious, nutritious and fantastic (and this summer was my first time there).  Check out more information about Pat's at Pat's Pizza: House-made Sausage and a Perfect Crust Make One Great Pizza ( (
Incidentally, a couple of people told me that they took my suggestion and got a small pizza at Pat's and then afterwards walked down a couple of short blocks on Lincoln Ave. to Lou Malnati's and then had a small deep dish pizza there, too.  What a great way to spend a nice summer afternoon in Chicago. 

One of my all time favorites, however, was Home Run Inn, and unfortunately I had not had the opportunity to visit there since the summer of 2008.  They were great then, though, and I wish I had the opportunity to have been there this past summer, too.  But my memories of HRI were captured, however, in some photos.  --BTB

Original Home Run Inn
4254 W. 31st Street
Chicago, IL 60623
  (773) 247-9696
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on November 08, 2009, 12:49:38 PM
Here are a couple more file pictures of pizza at the Candlelite that I mentioned above.  They serve one of the greatest cracker crust pizzas worthy of trying when visiting the north Chicago area.
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on November 08, 2009, 12:54:53 PM
And a few more pictures.  The first two are from Marie's pizzeria on Lawrence Ave. which is the favorite of many Chicago thin crust pizza aficionados.  The third picture is from the original Vito and Nicks on South Pulaski Road and the Chicago Sou'd Siders would tell you their pizza is the best in the world.

Marie's Liquor & Pizza
4127 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60630 
  (773) 877-3918

Original Vito & Nick's Pizzeria 
8433 South Pulaski Road 
Chicago, IL 60652 
  (773) 735-2050
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: Mad_Ernie on November 09, 2009, 09:33:05 AM
I love your pics of the pies, BTB.  I am a bit of an oddball when it comes to Chicago pizza in that I am not as crazy about Home Run Inn as most folks are.  However, your pictures of the Candelite make my mouth water and yearn for the day when I can return to Chi-town and indulge in my favorite past-time ... pizzeria-hopping!! ;D

Marie's and Vito & Nick's are two others that I would like to solicit some wonderful Italian sausage pizzas from. ;)
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on November 14, 2009, 10:42:03 AM
Hey ME, I see our Jayhawks and Sooners aren't doing so well in football this year.  I'm hopeful my Gators, tho, can hold on till the end.

It would be great to return to Chicago for some more pizzeria hopping.  I understand what you mean about Home Run Inn.  Some like it and some don't.  It's good that pizza tastes are different.  And in the Chicagoland area, there are so very many, many great alternatives. I've traveled far and away across the country and have not found that to be the case anywhere else.

When I returned to the original HRI in 2008 I had been forewarned that they've changed somewhat.  They used to be characterized as having a "thick-thin" crust.  Now it is just regular thin crust just like they package somewhat for their thin crust frozen pizza business.  But I found their pizza still to be amazing and learned that in at least two big 2009 surveys, they again won the No. 1 Best Pizza award in the Chicago area.  It is so in CitySearch for 2009 (see ( and it AOL's CityGuide's City Best (see (  HRI often alternates for best pizza award with Lou Malnati's.

While I do think HRI is often great, the others I've mentioned above can be just as great on any given day also.  Yesterday I tried a frozen HRI pizza that I surprisingly found at a local grocer down here in Florida.  I wouldn't get it again, however, as nothing tasted similar to the pizza served at their original restaurant, despite what they say on the box.

And for the thick crust Chicago Style pizza aficionados (i.e., those with special gourmet tastes . . . lol), here is the great stuffed, deep dish pizza from the famous Giordano's.  I suggest it always be ordered with "extra" sauce on top as they often have a tendency to put so little on that it often comes with a very "dried out" top to the pizza after it's baked.  But when done right, it is super delicious.  And you might want to order "double" whatever ingredient you prefer (like mine is Italian sausage) as they are rather frugal with their ingredients. But still one of the best in the world when done right.
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on November 14, 2009, 10:45:26 AM
And here is an example of the original deep dish "Chicago Style" pizza that was started way back in 1943 with Ike Sewell's Uno's and Due's deep dish pizza (that later came to be called "Chicago Style"), even though there is a very distinct Chicago thin cracker crust style pizza also that gets little to no recognition as "Chicago Style."  This deep dish pizza pictured here is from Due's and use to be, until recent times, the best in the world IMHO until the Chicago business got "associated" with a Boston business that is called Uno's Chicago Grill, which almost ruined the reputation of the great Uno's and Due's of Chicago.  But the pizza pictured here is still great.  Just don't expect to eat anything as good as this anywhere in the U.S. under the Uno's Chicago Grill label or brand that's used across the country . . . except at original Chicago's Uno's and Due's restaurants.
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: Mad_Ernie on November 14, 2009, 07:04:41 PM
Nice responses and GREAT pics, BTB.  Keep 'em comin'!
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on February 17, 2010, 05:33:48 PM
Before I delete some of the pictures on my digital camera, I thought I'd close out or complete some quick reports of some of my 2009 visits to pizzerias last summer that were kind of in the Chicago/midwest area (actually southwest Michigan). While not in Chicago proper, some may find information about these two pizzerias interesting as I've seen no recent reports about them on this website. And they are great places that someone ought to say something about.
The first being in St. Joseph, Michigan which is about an hour's drive from the south end of the Chicago metro area . . . up and around Lake Michigan on Interstate 94 a bit.  Silver Beach Pizza is a relatively new comer to the southwest Michigan area but had rapidly risen in fame and popularity among thin crust pizza aficionados both in the area and by the many, many Chicago visitors that travel on by St. Joseph.  And the biggest reason for that simply is . . . they make great thin crust pizza. 
Silver Beach Pizza is located about a couple of blocks from Lake Michigan near the site of the old, famous Silver Beach Amusement Park (like a Riverview) that existed there right on the shores of Lake Michigan a half century ago (and I barely remember it as a kid - but it is no longer in existence . . . sob . . . sob).  It is uniquely situated in an old railroad depot alongside passenger railroad tracks that are still in operation today (between Chicago and Michigan destinations . . . I guess). 
It is a great place to stop by for a cold beer and some of the greatest pizzas ever in southwest Michigan.  For lovers' of the great Aurelio's pizza in Illinois, you will be shockingly surprised to see how remarkably similar the Silver Beach Pizzeria is to an Aurelio's pizza.  They are very, very similar.
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on February 17, 2010, 05:38:08 PM
While their pizza is one of the best in southwest Michigan, I have one small caveat, however.  Every aspect of their pizza is really good and super tasty, but one small drawback I've found is that they hardly put any sauce on their pizzas (which I think is apparent from the pictures).  Even my wife who doesn't like a lot of sauce on her pizzas remarked to me . . . "next time order extra sauce!"  And that's what I advise all to do when they visit this great pizzeria . . . at least if you like a modicum of tomato.sauce on your pizza.  But on the other hand, they are immensely popular and crowded, so many may like their extremely light touch of tomato sauce.

Silver Beach Pizza
410 Vine St
St Joseph, MI 49085
    (269) 983-4743 (

Some reviews at ( and ( .
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on February 17, 2010, 05:45:00 PM
Fricano's is one of the very special ultra or wafer thin crust pizza places that I've long raved about.  It is unique among thin crust pizzerias in my experience.  For instance, they only serve one . . .  repeat, one size pizza (12") and only offer a choice of 5 ingredients on their pizzas (Italian Sausage, Pepperoni, Mushroom, Green Pepper, Anchovy, but  NO ONION).  I don't know why, but they make a big point of stressing no onion.  They are one of only a handful of pizzerias that I've ever seen that make up their dough skins long in advance of baking their pizzas.  They make them in house and have many dozens of pizza skins prepared earlier that are sitting around their kitchens separated by parchment or some other kind of paper.  I think if you travel through their website, you will be favorably impressed with their pizza business, as well as get very hungry upon viewing their extremely tasty looking thin crust pizzas.  See ( .

They have only five locations throughout southwest Michigan, each one owned by one member or the other of the Fricano family.  I've been to all five but found the original location, Fricano's Pizza Tavern in Grand Haven, Michigan, to be uniquely the best of the famous pizzeria group.  Only the original location there in Grand Haven usually assures one of a very crispy crust pizza from the rim to the center of the pizza.  The other locations, while very good, are a little bit hit and miss in this regard.  My recommendation to all who try their great pizza is always to order your pizza (usually one per person) cooked crispy or well done.  Note the good old fashion deck ovens -- the best kind for making pizzas.
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on February 17, 2010, 05:50:55 PM
The original Grand Haven location is unique in another kind of way.  It is a medium size restaurant serving pizza only, seating about 40 to 60 people and in the hot, sweltering summertime is the only business in Grand Haven, Michigan that does not have air conditioning. Their extremely hot ovens are in full view of most of the tables in the restaurant making for a very warm experience in the middle of an average hot summer.  Despite that there is usually a line of people out the door waiting for a table on the weekends in the summertime.  It is really a sight to see.  And thousand of pizzas are gobbled up on those weekends during the summer. 
I am far, far away from their pizzerias and only wish that someone down here in Florida could make a unique wafer thin crust pizza even half as good as the great Fricano's of southwest Michigan.

Fricano's Pizza Tavern
1400 Fulton St.
Grand Haven, MI 49417
    (616) 842-8640 (

Some reviews on Yelp at (

Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: BTB on March 01, 2010, 10:03:04 AM
In regards to St. Joseph, Michigan, here is a link to the sights, scene and events around the Silver Beach area.  And most of this is within a walking distance of the Silver Beach Pizzeria mentioned above.  Makes for a nice drive or weekend in the spring and summer.
See (
Title: Re: Chicago Pizza Trip -- Through Thick and Thin
Post by: malvanova on March 14, 2010, 01:27:16 PM
Hello everybody,just to review and share my visit to Union pizzeria in Evanston IL. as far as the locale its very trendy and attractive, the oven was built by an Assyrian I was told told by one of the workers, I don't think  the chimney has a good draw by the darkened front arch, but irregardless the heat was fierce inside ,timed a pizza at 2.5 minutes not bad at all the pizzas were at the table in about 10 minutes after it was ordered, it was very busy, on the style of pizza, very good taste and crispy bottom cracker style pizza, I prefer a more chewy outer crust crispy bottom myself more Napoletana style, all in all it was very pleasing trip, next stop Nella Pizzeria when I get a craving for a good WFO Pizza, I have not fired up my oven for pizza yet, to cold to spend time outside cooking pizzas ye :'(  :(  but I'm itching badly, resorted to finding WFO Pizza establishments in Chicago, I prefer my own if you all know what I mean to each their own ;D, my indoor pizzas are not to my liking, ,its all or none my taste buds say,WFO :pizza: rules,