Archive for the ‘Pizza’ Category
Tommys started in 1980 and has expanded to six stores in the Northern and Northwestern Suburbs of Chicago. They offer a very lengthy, typical “Chicago menu,” with hot dogs, burgers, Italian beef, fried food and pizza.
I’ve driven by a couple of Tommy’s many times, have never stopped by, because frankly, the exteriors look a little dated, and I was afraid that would be matched inside, both in the decor and kitchen. And near one of the ones that is close to me, there is a shiny new Chicago type hot dog place, replete with neon, gleaming chrome and so on. Here’s my lesson. I’ve been in that place, and it was shiny inside, as well, but the food was awful. I mean dreadful.
So I thought I would swing into a Tommys last week, and I was the first customer of the day. Not in the mood for dogs or burgers, I decided to get their “Humungous” Italian Sub, with vinaigrette, salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, and all the trimmings. Also opted for a side of fries (one size only).
And you know what? It was great. They were great. Both the sandwich and the fries. The sandwich is far and away multiple times better and fresher than any of the chains, great bread, quality meats. Hot, fresh fries, lightly salted, in size between shoe strings and steak fries, I don’t know what that size is called, but I liked them. A lot. And BTW, the inside was immaculate.
They have a HUGE menu (below). I’ll be back to try a lot more of their offerings. Locations.
Tommys Red Hots Review
The brothers first immigrated to Argentina and subsequently to the US. Upon arriving in America, Efren began working at a pizzeria in Chicago, but he was not satisfied with the pizzas he tasted and decided to open his own restaurant, Roma.
When Joseph came to Chicago, Efren has stated they decided to open a restaurant using their old family recipes and after experimenting over several months developed the stuffed pizza, finding Giordano’s in 1974.
Their specialty is “stuffed pizza” which is a form of deep dish, but unlike most of the chains “deep dish” that focus on way too much dough, the emphasis here is on quantity of ingredients and the sauce is always on top.
We were at the St. Charles, IL location and served by Ilona. She did a great job, maintained her humor, despite (it seemed to me) having too many tables she was responsible for.
We ordered the large stuffed, sausage only, and it was superb.
The pizzas REALLY DO look like the ones in the TV commercials. One large pie (served four and their were leftovers, 1 beer, 3 soft drinks, tip, around
Giordanos Pizza Review
Giordanos Pizza Review
I also love having an experience exceed my expectations. Both were the case at Napoli Pizza, in the distant Chicago burg of Woodstock.
You may not recognize the name of the town, but you would if you were dropped into the town square – it’s where most of the exteriors of the movie “Groundhog Day” were filmed. There’s even a commerative “Ned Ryerson” plague on the sidewalk.
So I saw Napoli by accident some time ago, and it looked old timey. Not much about it online, other than their facebook page, which says they have been family owned for 26 years. Carry out, delivery or dine in, pizza, pasta, apps, sandwiches. Open 7 days from 11AM.
I ordered a thin crust house special (sausage, pepperoni, green and black olives, onions, mushrooms, and green pepper).
I can vouch that the dough is blended in-house, because I spied a hunk of it bigger than me, being worked in the kitchen. Their “thin” isn’t as thin as some other Chicago area pizzerias, more like the thickness of what the chains referred to as “hand-tossed.” Regardless, it was very flaky at the exterior and nice and chewy as you worked your way in from the win.
Toppings were plentiful, and I mean PLENTIFUL. I was surprised when I was first handed the box, this sucker was HEAVY. Excellent hand pulled chunks of flavorful Italian sausage. The sauce is slightly sweet, but in the way it’s supposed to be, from tomatoes. Hearty. And massive amounts of cheese, I’m sure the quantity would qualify as “double cheese” at most places. Really, really nice.
I wished I lived closer, Napoli would be my go-to place. Luckily, every few months I’m up that way. I’ll be back. I so admire mom and pop sized operators. It’s gotta be tough every day to compete against the major chain pricing gimmicks, and of course the breaks chains get on purchasing monster quantities of ingredients.
Thanks for a great pie! Menu below.
Both superb in their own right. I’ve hit a couple smaller ones in Chicago that are also enjoyable.
This weekend I ran across the best of the best, in my opinion, in Kenosha, WI of all places.
Tenuta’s has been operating since 1950, and have aisle after aisle of imported grocery goods, as well as locally packaged ‘fixins’ like many different kinds of pastas, herbs, spices and such.
In their deli counters, they have prepared Italian dishes you can purchase by the pound, as well as in-house made sandwiches and delicious items like meatballs. Fresh take n bake pizzas, too!
Not incidentally, they have one of the largest selections of craft beers I have ever seen anywhere. Rows of shelves and coolers that run the whole length of the store.
It was hard not to spend my kid’s inheritance there in one day, but I did manage to score some goodies.
Having lived in New Orleans, and always eager to eat the local NOLA sandwich the “muffaletta,” I was pleased to see Tenuta’s had their own version, and at about half the price you’d pay in New Orleans.
Their “small” will feed 2-3 people and comes in at a very reasonable $6.99. It IS their own version tho, if you’re used to have the New Orleans ones, which have a layer of “olive salad,” you won’t find that here. Instead they have opted for adding pickled green pepper pieces, and lettuce, neither of which you’ll find in the NOLA versions.
I also bought a container of meatballs, the ingredients listed include: beef, pork, breadcrumbs, textured vegetable protein, ricotta, romano, soy, flour, salt, garlic, spices, parsley, brown sugar and flavoring.I have to say, they are quite flavorful and the texture is to my liking. (I hate “mushy” meatballs). They come in different quantity packs, I got the ‘small’ which is 15 balls for around $7.
I don’t know what they include in their ingredients under “spices,” my personal preference, and how I make them at home, is to include a bunch of dried fennel seeds. It’s a strong flavor, and many people don’t care for it. Tenuta’s meatballs are perfect for the average consumer tho, nothing at all objectionable!
The store is open 7 days, and also does catering. It’s truly a wonderland. I shall return. You should visit too.
There are two or three frozen pizzas I rate as exceptional on every level, but unfortunately, as one might suspect, none of these are in the ‘mass market’ offerings.
DiGiorno (Delissio in Canada) was created in the mid 90s by Kraft.
Apparently bored of the segment, they sold off their pizza brands to the international robber barons of water, Nestle. (DiGiorno, Jack’s, Tombstone and California Pizza Kitchen). Kraft picked up $3.2 billion. Nestle got the #`1 frozen pizza brand.
“It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno” goes their commercials. Good thing it’s not delivery, I would have asked for my money back.
The “Bacon Me Crazy” stuffed crust pie (crust rim is stuffed with cheese and ‘bacon’) falls into the higher price range of thin crust frozen pizzas, at about $8. Taking it out of the box, frozen, it looks more like the one dollar variety pies from Totinos. At least to me.
The box informs me this pizza is made at USDA establishment number 1682 A, which is a contract manufacturer called “Nation Pizza,” in Schaumburg, IL. They manufacture frozen foods of all ilks. I’ve driven by the plant many times. (Pictured below, as well).
Following the baking instructions precisely, the crust remained rather doughy, and the minuscule diced toppings might not have even been there. They didn’t really provide any flavor or tactile experience to the pie. The sauce leans towards the sweet side. The “smoke flavoring” is very present.
Whether or not the rim is actually ‘stuffed’ is open for debate.
I had two squares, and then did something I NEVER do. Tossed the rest. Perhaps the raccoons will like it. I sure didn’t.
Lots of ingredients: Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Part-Skim
Mozzarella Cheese with Modified Food Starch (Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese [Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Modified Food Starch,
Methylcellulose), Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese (Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Applewood Smoked Cooked Bacon (Bacon [Cured with Water, Salt, Sugar, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrate], Smoke Flavoring), Tomato Paste, Genoa Salami (Pork, Beef, Salt, Dextrose, Spice, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Wine, Flavoring, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Citric Acid), 2% or Less of:
Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil and/or Corn Oil), Yeast, Bread Crumbs (Bleached Wheat Flour, Yeast, Sugar, Salt), Vegetable Oil Shortening
(Palm Oil, Natural Flavor, Beta Carotene [Color]), Sugar, Salt, Seasoning Blend (Salt, Spice, Dried Garlic).
Nation Pizza photos from their website. Product photos are my own.
DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza Review
It seems like there’s always something “new” in their freezers. (There are four, 30 foot long freezers of pies!). This week it is Pep’s Drafthaus.
Pep’s Drafthaus Pizza is from Hansen Foods of Green Bay, a 100+ year old company that started as a local dairy. Primarily in the fundraising business, Hansen is a company you go to if your school, church, scout troop wants to have a money-raising project, by selling nearly any kind of food: cheese, candy, meat snacks, and yes, frozen pizza.
Prices for products sold by fundraisers are considerably inflated over retail store prices, providing a great opportunity for your group to make some real cash.
I picked up the Taproom Double variety, which has two kinds of sausage and two kinds of pepperoni.
I’m loving the ingredient label, about has pure as it gets, like sausage being pork and spices, and actual mozzarella.
I don’t know how long Hansen has been in the retail pizza biz, this is the first I have seen the brand in a local store, and it was in the medium range of spendy, $7.99.
400 at 18-20 minutes produced great results. The crust is a little thicker than my general preference – say it’s the equivalent of “hand tossed” at the national chains.
VERY GENEROUS supply of nice hand-pulled sausage, flavorful pepperoni, and I think more cheese than I’ve ever experienced on a frozen pie. Akin to if you ordered “double cheese” from your local pizzeria, IMHO, and I appreciate it. Has a nice “pull” to it.
Four times a year Hansen has a ‘factory direct’ sale where you can stock up on cases of these pies. Schedule of dates and details here. Or follow them on Facebook. Pep’s easily moves into my top four for regular frozen pizza purchases.
Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review
Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review
Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review
I’ve previously opined about the original Sal’s Pizza location, an unassuming walk-in/delivery (only) storefront on the backside of a strip mall in Algonquin, IL.
If you read that piece, you’ll remember I found no fault with their pizza, in fact, for my personal tastes, I found it to be superb.
This review is about Sal’s Pizza newer location in Huntley, IL, which has a full menu, seating, full-service bar as well as video gaming area.
I had been in this joint under its previous ownership, and I really can’t even remember the name or how I felt about the product. But it’s of no consequence now that Sal’s has landed here. It’s the same great menu as Sal’s in Algonquin, with pizza, sandwiches, dinner entrees, including pasta and chicken.
I gotta say again, I love Sal’s Pizza. I’ve tried so many different places in the NW burbs, and disappointment after disappointment, I’m back to Sal’s. And while carryout and delivery is fine, it’s nice to take a little drive to Huntley and have a relaxing dine-in experience with the same great product.
Sal’s thin crust is flaky around the rim, and chewy as you work your way in, just the way it should be. Sauce is flavorful, on the thicker side, yet not overpowering. I love their sausage, don’t know where they get it, but it’s large ‘hand-pulled’ chunks of flavorful, seasoned pork, not those pre-cooked nuggets so many chains used.
Finally, their cheese blend is applied in very liberal quantities, has great flavor, melt-quality, and pull. You’re going to experience that ultimate pizza cheese experience where you lift a slice and see those delicious stretches of cheese. To me, that’s living. Especially when you do that and the toppings don’t end up falling into the pan. It’s very important that each slice of pizza remains intact until it gets to your mouth, I say.
Pies are cut into square slices, common in Chicago and the Upper Midwest, and sometimes referred to as a “tavern cut.” Again, that’s one of my ideals for pizza perfection.
At the table, we also had the fried chicken and an order of onion rings. No complaints there. The coating on the chicken is crispy and flavorful. The rings are thin cut with a little cornmeal in the batter.
Service was attentive. Didn’t catch the waitresses name, she had a bit of (my thought) accent from somewhere in the British isles. In any case, she was attentive without being overbearing.
Good show, Sal’s. Of course, we’ll be back. Sal’s also offers great value catering for your family, company, or school event.
Papa John’s Pizza is an American restaurant company. It runs the third largest take-out and pizza delivery restaurant chain in the world, with headquarters in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville.
The Papa John’s restaurant franchise was founded in 1983 by “Papa” John Schnattertaking a small corner of space of his father’s tavern, in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He then sold car to by some used pizza equipment and began selling pizzas to bar customers .
Its slogan is “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Papa John’s.”
So they rolled out a new “deep dish” pizza. I’m not sure which chain was first in using “deep dish” to describe a pie that isn’t. The big chains offer a pie with a thick, bready crust and call it deep dish, but the original model, Chicago deep dish, doesn’t have a thick crust, and the emphasis is on the toppings.
For a limited time, Papa Johns is offering the new pie, in a 12″ version, with up to 3 toppings, for $10. That’s fairly good deal for the “value priced” end of the chain spectrum.
I ordered mine with sausage and olives, and a plain cheese with “classic crust,” for my friend.
We each had some that first night, bagged up the rest and threw it in the frig. If you’re a regular reader, you know I think the true test of a great pizza (for me) is how it tastes the next AM.
Not thrilled at all with this hot out of the box, it was even more disappointing the next day. Both pies were undercooked, to begin with. The “spicy sausage” isn’t, and the toppings are skimpy in quantity (including the sauce and cheese). The sauce tastes like it comes right from a can, and the cheese? Just not satisfactory.
Taste and texture aside, the ‘classic crust’ failed on all the same levels, and as well for pure aesthetics. If you owned a pizzeria would you be proud of a pie that looked like the one below?
If I’m to consume faux deep dish pies, my preferences would be to put this at third, behind Jet and Little Caesar’s bacon wrapped, but ahead of Dominos and Pizza Hut. Ultimately, my choice would be to pass on all five in favor of any local mom and pop shop.
Papa John, I don’t like your pizza, tho I could guzzle the garlic dipping sauce, even tho it’s probably not real food! 2 pies, 2 liter soda, deliver, tip, $27.
Papa Johns Deep Dish Pizza Review
A new franchised location of Marco’s Pizza opened down the block from me this week; Marco’s, out of Ohio, is the 12th largest pizza chain in the US, and will hit 1000 stores this year. It was started by an Italian immigrant, Pat Giammarco, in 1978.
The advertising claims “Authentic Italian Pizza” and I don’t know about that, but for my palate, Marco’s is a better product than
the “big 3.”
They offer a thin, “classic” and thick crust option, I went for the middle, which has a puffy chewy exterior. The usual variety of toppings are available as is online ordering in delivery in many locations. One difference with their online payment system from other chains is there is no option to add a tip to your order, so you’ll have to have some cash available for the driver.
Several years ago, Marco’s hooked up with Family Video, one of few remaining national video rental chains (750) stores, to put pizzas in about half the stores. The stand alone pizza shops also offer videos, one free rental with an order of over $15. You can pass on this option, of course.
In addition to pizza, satisfy your cravings with other menu items including salads, subs and wings. Mandatory delivery charge is $2.50.
I ordered a 14″ sausage pie, I did like the sausage, tho it isn’t very spicy, it appears to be sizable hand pulled chunks, which is always my preference.
Topping wise, they seem a little light on quantity, same with cheese. You’ll compare both to a Domino’s pie.
Marco’s is big on local flyers for marketing, with any number of special deal coupons on each flyer.
Find your nearest Marcos here. Will I order again? Sure, with the right coupon. I wish these guys a lot of luck, like most Chicago neighborhoods mine is glutted with pizza places, both national and local. The location these guys chose has been home to several operators in the past few years.
Marcos Pizza Review
Such is not the case with The Italian Village, really three restaurants under one roof in downtown Chicago, is the city’s oldest Italian restaurant, serving the ‘old-school classics.’
Opened in 1927, on the top floor, you’ll find “The Village,” serving all of America’s favorite Italian appetizers and entrees. On the ground floor, Vivere takes a contemporary approach to an Italian menu, and own a flight of stairs, “La Cantina,” serves some of the age-old favorites of the restaurant and adds a selection of steaks and chops to the offering, in a more casual atmosphere; those meat selections run from $29 – $40.
I was last in the Italian Village about 35 years ago, and had fond memories of it. Had my memories been jaded by time? Would it not live up to my memory? I’m delighted to say it exceeded my expectations on every level.
Service, quality of ingredients, size of servings, and value. At the table were spaghetti and sausage, clams in pasta (available but not on the menu), appetizers of a caprese salad, beef carpacio, an extra side of meatballs, and a mostacoli in a spicy arribiata sauce. (red sauce with chili peppers and garlic). And bread. And butter. And olive oil. In seemingly endless quantities.
Many of the entrees are cooked to order, and the menu cautions you on the wait time for those.
The food was delicious, service attentive but not intrusive, interesting decor to look at, and private booths tucked away in little alcoves if you’re desirous of a more discrete event.
The restaurants are open seven days for lunch and dinner, with private faclities available for small and medium size parties.
Dinner for four, ample glasses of wine, gratutity: $240. Valet parking at the door for $12. You know, I didn’t ask, but you might when you call, if it’s a concern. I don’t think there’s an elevator to the top floor restaurant, I made my way up a rather lengthy flight of stairs that lands at the front door.
(photos are from the internet)