Archive for the ‘Pizza’ Category
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)
Grover’s Grill and Bar, at 412 Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove, IL, sits across the highway from the FRG Metra station. It’s been Grover’s for maybe 3 years. I think it was a Mexican restaurant before that, I had never been in there.
They did some remodeling before opening, took out a couple walls, added a game room, video slots, and a raft of wall-mounted big screen TVs to catch your favorite game.
The menu includes all the Chicago-area favorites: thin crust pizza, cheese cruds, sliders, nachos, tacos, Italian beef and other sandwich favorites, soups, wraps and salads. An extensive selection of custom ‘burgers’ is available as well. Choose from a beef, turkey, chicken breast, tenders or veggie patty, and graze on one of their signature configurations like “The Norge” (bacon, blue cheese and frizzled onions), “The Grover” (Pepper jack cheese, roasted pablanos, red onion and chipotle mayo on a pretzel bun).
Or build your own from a selection of a wide host of toppings.
Pizzas are available in 10, 12, 14, of 16 inch sizes, with an extensive list of ingredients you can choose for toppings, including many not available at most pizza places. Gluten free pies are available in one size, 11″.
I had the Norge burger and it was WAY above my expectations. The amply-sized angus beef patty had great flavor and texture, and the toppings were all fresh and plentiful. It was accompanied by fresh cut fries, also great. Affable, courteous service, too. I’d do it again. I will do it again.
Grover’s is open til midnight Sunday thru Thursday, and til 2AM Friday and Saturday. And they deliver in the area. www.groversgrillandbar.com
“Exceeds Expectations,” the package of Emil’s Pizza boasts. And you know what? It did, for me. And I was surprised that it did. Making “Real Good Pizza Since 1961,” Emil’s is based in Watertown, WI, and must be another one of those Upper Midwest pizzas that got its launch as a local mom and pop selling frozen pies to bars. (I’m guessing).
I picked up the traditional thin crust sausage pie, which weighs in at 21.6 oz (Now 20% larger!). It was $6.99 at one of my local grocers, which puts it in the “medium value” range for frozen pizzas.
After taking it out of the package, I was immediately leery of the diced approach to the cheese, figuring it would not be adequate to cover the pie. I also noted that there was an ample quantity of sausage, but the pieces were relatively small.
Well, surprise! It did exceed my expectations, and I’d buy it again. It’s a good crisp version of the thin crust, the Wisconsin cheese melted and covered nicely, the sauce did not have an intrusive flavor and the sausage was fine.
Good job, Emil’s!
Emils Frozen Pizza Review
I’ve been in a Pizza Hut maybe three times in the past ten years, once in a small town in Western Kansas, the place was filthy, the pizza worse. I liked Pizza Huts in China, tho, it was before the Chinese became amenable to liking “cheese” and the menus said the pies had “melted topping.” Selections were ample and the salad bar (which the Chinese adored) was always well stocked.
Went into a Godfather’s Pizza Buffet a few years ago, and that was dreadful. Pizza Ranch, a fast growing chain based out of Iowa, has so-so pizza, but drop dead fried chicken and a lot of other choices. And it’s a good value.
Round Table, based in California, has a pretty fair buffet.
But Pizza Hut? At least this one? Ugh.
They had six pizzas out, nothing exotic, either standard thin or thick crust. I went in because I thought it would give me the opportunity to sample some of the innovations they have been bragging about lately – stuffed crusts, added flavors, blah blah. But this operator was interested in minimizing costs and maximizing revenue, so choices were pretty basis. There was a single bin of plain spiral pasta and plain red sauce to accompany it. One bin of “dessert bread sticks.” No salad. No chicken. I expected wings, since Pizza Hut has that whole “Wing Street” thing going. Buffet price, without drink $6.99 plus tax and gratuity.
I had a slice of sausage, a slice of pepperoni, one with pork pellets, one with ‘everything’ and one with cheese. The plain cheese was the best, despite being drastically under-cooked. To me, Pizza Hut just doesn’t taste like much. It will always be in a three-way tie for pizza of last resort with Dominos and Caesar’s.
The joint was clean. The help was friendly. They seem to have some ‘regulars,’ at least based on overheard conversations.
It is next door to a KFC which was empty at high noon. No buffet there. KFC buffets are kind of hard to find, but they can be a real treat!
The basic menu is below, I notice they have “rebranded” their specialty pies as “Flavor recipes,” and I also see they no longer offer salads or other alternatives at all. But speaking of rebranding, remember about 5 years ago or so, they made a big hubbub about how they were going to become just “The Hut?” Whatever happened to that? It was about the same time Radio Shack announced they were going to start calling the stores just “The Shack,” but that ultimately changed into “The location permanently closed.”
(August 1, 2016) Most of the major frozen pizza manufacturers have been busy rolling out new variations of their products over the last couple years, apparently in an attempt to acquire more freezer frontage in the store, which hopefully translates into sales.
Tombstone, which started in Medford, WI, (map below) as a supplier of frozen pies to bars, grew into a substantial manufacturer before being sold off to Kraft, and then to Nestle.
One of their latest labels is the “Roadhouse” pizza, offering ‘double cheese,’ a crisp crust, and loads of toppings. I picked up the “Bring on the Meat” style, which is topped with Genoa salami, pepperoni, and sausage.
This might be OK as an addition to the value priced end of the frozen pizza spectrum, but unfortunately, it falls into the upper mid range, running about seven bucks at my WalMart.
The salami is a pure pork/beef product, but they’ve mucked up the pepperoni by adding chicken, who knows why. The sausage is more like a plain crumbled pork, with little to no seasoning.
The larger shreds of cheese (see unbaked pic below) are a welcome addition. While they are very few frozen pies that have slices of cheese instead of shreds, the larger the pieces the better the tactile experience, in my opinion. The crust is ok, not ultra thin, but crispy enough for my taste, but the sauce borders on horrid, like most frozen pies, you can easily imagine it coming out of a 55 gallon drum labeled industrial strength pizza sauce.
It also is flavorless, with no indication is was originally birthed by tomatoes.
I had a couple pieces and then my guests heard me say something no one has ever heard me say in my entire life: “I’m throwing the rest of this out, ok?” No one objected. If you’re a regular reader, you know I try and find something positive in every post. Unfortunately, this pizza is dreadful.
Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review
Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review
My best bud in college was from Rockford, Illinois, and we’d go down there on occasion; I returned with him a little later in life for his first (of 4) wedding, and when he relocated from Rockford to San Jose. He invited several of us to help with that move, unfortunately, he bought several cases of beer PRIOR to us helping, so you know how that went. Then he and I headed across country in his 240-Z testing its upper limits of MPH, and that tale has a number of anecdotes that don’t belong on a G-Rated website.
Back then, Rockford was really a blue collar, manufacturing town, producing heavy machinery, furniture, and even bombs for awhile. These days the largest cmployers are hospitals and government, tho twenty miles east, in Belvidere, IL there has been a huge Chrysler plant for a number of decades. Currently they are puking out some Jeep models.
During our visits, we used to hit a favorite dive bar of his, and I went in search of it during a recent drive through town. It’s still there, but no longer qualifies as a ‘dive,’ the menu is all chi-chi now and they even take reservations.
So I zipped around in search of a new dive bar, and found one on the south side of the city, “Opsahl’s Tavern.” It’s on the southern edge of the city, just a bit off US 20. I think it fits all the requisite definitions for a dive bar, no fancy interior, a crowd of regulars early in the morning, in a constant state of remodeling, bits and pieces to be installed sitting around.
But they have a very pretty menu (below) and are “famous for their burgers and pizza.” So I ordered a pizza. My usual, sausage, green olives, double cheese, thin crust. Double cheese was a mistake as they are very generous with the cheese in the first place. This is a pie with a lot of sauce, and it’s flavorful. Sausage chunks were a nice size, and the sliced olives were the “Sicilian style” (marinated and herb-y) that pizzeria supply houses sell, and I like a lot.
My pic of the pie is not as pretty as it was in real life — as I had a pizza catastrophe going out to the car – I dropped the box. Which tended to shift some of the toppings – drastically. I didn’t actually cry, but I could have. Anyway, it’s a great pizza. The local radio station apparently did a review, he wasn’t as enthused as I was, course I’m the expert, aren’t I? Check out Opsahl’s if you get to Rockford. Two locations now.
Opsahls Pizza Review
I have so much admiration for people who start a restaurant with just a concept in mind and build a business from the ground up. It’s a really tough, competitive segment – the best statistics available recently show 60% of new restaurants fail within the first three years. Any start-up is tough, I know, because I’ve been involved in dozens.
I have ten times the admiration for people who start a restaurant as an independent operation in a segment that is rapidly growing and has some tough competitors already in place.
Undaunted by that notion, the brothers Kwok created “Olive Theory Pizzeria” in the Chicago western suburb of Downers Grove. They had done their research, dined at a number of the established concept outlets and contemplated and investigated acquiring one of the franchise operations instead of going it alone.
In the end, they believed the restrictions of the franchisors would inhibit the Kwoks creating their vision of the restaurant – one where they could offer the highest quality ingredients, as well as menu items that wouldn’t be permitted under any of the franchise operating guidelines.
All that is fortunate for Chicago area diners in search of high quality “made on demand” wood fired pizza.
They call it “Olive Theory” as a reference to a tale from Greek mythology, wherein the olive tree, a most bountiful gift, was created in a contest to please the King. It’s the Kwok’s goal to offer bounty to the community, while maintaining an operation based on sustainability.
It’s quick and easy to order – grab a menu card (pictured below) at the counter and describe the pie you want or order one of the house specials. For a (low) flat price, you can have as many toppings as you like atop a cracker thin crust, cooked to order in minutes. One thing that differentiates Olive Theory from similar operations is the restaurants commitment to “fresh- prepared in store,” and the highest quality ingredients they can source locally. Outlets of chain operations aren’t allowed the flexibility to chase either of those ideals.
The dough for the crust is made in-house daily, allowed to rest and raise as proper dough requires. The classic tomato sauce is made from what many chefs consider the finest tomatoes in the world, San Marzanos from a particular region of Italy. If you’re in the mood for something other than red sauce, you have six other choices to contemplate. There are five cheeses available, a host of meat and vegetable toppings, as well as “finishing touches” like garlic or truffle oil.
Looking for something a little different, try Olive Theory’s version of a calzone, the “Pie-Sandwich,” your choice of pizza ingredients in a folded over version of their dough, and baked til golden brown. Salads and a daily soup are also on the menu.
The Kwok brothers had invited our party of four in for a tasting, and we had a diverse selection at the table, including the house special pies of “Buddha’s Karma,” “Titan’s Unleashed,” and “Goldbergs Big Five;” each of these pies have a special combination of ingredients that are nearly musical in the way they come together. Truly. I’m a fan of Italian sausage and pepperoni in nearly any form, but Olive Theory’s are spectacular to me.
In addition to being a great place to grab a quick lunch or dinner, dining there or taking it home, it occurred to me that it’s a wonderful destination for families – the pricing is such that it provides a wonderful family outing at a really great value, and the kids will love the “build your own” concept, knowing they aren’t going to have to eat around whatever ingredients dad usually insists on.
Families concerned about the quality of what they eat and where it comes from can also take comfort in the offerings. I feel the ambience/atmosphere is also conducive to families and groups, with large tables, good lighting, and soft background music.
Olive Theory has a selection of beer, soft drinks, and iced tea to go with your meal, as well as some really great dessert offerings, including fresh baked cookies, hot from the oven.
I asked when and where location # 2 will show up, and they just smiled. They did say “no” to locating it my garage, even tho I thought that would be an outstanding site. You need to go to Olive Theory!
They are located in Downers Grove in a small strip mall on the north side of Butterfield Road, at 1400A, just east of I-355, and are open from 11AM -10PM every day. If you’re nearby and want to pick up, you can even order online. Phone is 630-519-5152. Catering services available. Click on menus to enlarge!
Olive Theory Pizzeria Review
Now I’m gonna stop right there for a sec and say personally, I don’t think Chicago pizzas should be called “deep dish,” as that term has been hijacked by pizza makers all over the country and almost always describes a pie with a very thick crust – lots of bread under the usual toppings.
“Chicago-style pizzas”(which you shall refer to them from this day forward) are DEEP, yes, but not because of a thick bready crust. They are DEEP because they are cooked in a deep pan, and have a HIGH but THIN crust. The depth hides all the deliciousness stuffed in, in the “Chicago order,” crust cheese, meat, tomato sauce. That’s right, sauce on TOP. Are we clear?
There’s more than a couple guys who say they invented this concept. I go with the Ike Sewell version, who cooked up the first one at Pizzeria Uno in
downtown Chicago in the early 1940s. Let’s leave it at that. Ike’s pies were so popular that soon he created a sister restaurant (Pizzeria Due, natch) and started franchising, with the license for the first four going to a group of businessmen in Boston.
When Sewell died, the Boston group bought out the original restaurants, name and recipes, and set off a go-go growing a chain of restaurants that bore a limited resemblance to the originals; the chain is called Uno Pizzeria and Grill.
They stuck with the original pizza offering, but have a very extensive menu in addition, like nearly any fast casual restaurant these days. They are in about 20 states, find one here.
Although a bit spendy, the Uno frozen pizza is about as good as it gets in this segment. It bakes up well (about 40 minutes), has a nice crisp outer crust, fresh chopped tomatoes in the thick sauce, ample cheese and flavorful sausage. (I had the sausage variety, there are others).
I have one beef…er pork…about the pie. The sausage bits in pretty small, and other “Chicago style” pies feature a slab of sausage covering the entire pie, crust to crust. As a sausage lover, I like that.
So the sausage bits on an Uno aren’t a deal killer for me.
The Uno frozen division also makes a more traditional round thinner crust. Their USDA inspected factory in Brockton MA is pictured below.
UNO Deep Dish Pizza Review
Up in the front of WalMart, near the deli counter is a supply of ‘fresh’ (not frozen) take and bake pizzas. WalMart has been expanding the choices in these pies, and all of them are a great value compared to most frozen pies and nearly any pizzeria. They now have a “flatbread” with pepperoni slices and chunks, as well as mini-balls of real mozzarella. As it’s not frozen, it doesn’t take long in the oven, 10-12 minutes.
Instructions call for putting it on a baking sheet, which works to the detriment of creating a crisp crust, but it’s an awkward size and shape, so I understand why they suggest this method.
I liked it, except for a not crisp crust which could be rectified. The “fresh” mozzarella is great and I think the manufacturer (Chicago area “Great Kitchens“) (subsidiary of a Swiss company) uses a different grade and type of pepperoni, it’s extremely flavorful.
It’s less than $4.
Also, up near the take and bakes, you’ll find these packs of pizza dough (below) for a buck, if you want to make one at home. Or you can throw the ball into a bread pan, let it rise a couple hours, bake 35 minutes at 350 and voila, fresh loaf. Easy. Nice. If you want to have a fun kids party, get several of the balls, divide into thirds each, let the kids pound out their own crusts and have bowls of healthy toppings for them to slap on their own pies!
WalMart Flatbread Review