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Archive for the ‘Pizza’ Category

Bandito Barneys Beach Club Review – East Dundee, IL

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Somebody else was buying, so they picked, and they picked Bandito Barney’s.  I’ve never been there, I’ve even walked by it and didn’t notice it, the outside is an older home, and there’s only a smallish, faded sign over the door.

But walk inside, and the whole world turns upside down, with massive outdoor bars and patios, sunlit, busy, and all aswarm with attractive server-type women.

Bandito’s menu has ‘something for everyone,’ sandwiches, salads, burgers, pizza, flatbread, appys, and of course, a full bar and plenty of beer. Daily specials, too, like AYCE pasta and the Chicago Friday traditional fish fry.

Burgers come in two sizes, 5 and 8 ounces, with a variety of cheeses and toppings to choose from.  The restaurant is able/willing to cook to order, and my medium rare was just that.

I went with regular tots as a side, which were deep fried to a nice crisp.  My pal encouraged me to try sweet potato tots, but they are just not for me. Sweet potato dishes are one of those things that puzzles me at restaurants – the raw product costs less than the regular potato, yet they charge more. Go figure.

It’s an above average burger, but not spectacular, on its own.

Bandito Barneys Review

 

Bandito Barneys Review
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Bandito Barneys Beach Club Review

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Digiorno Self Rising Pizza Review

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logoIt may not be delivery, it’s “Digiorno,” but for me, another “d” word motivates me to buy this brand: “desperation.”

Translation? I’m in the mood for a frozen pie and happen to be someplace where this is the only thing available. In the case of last night, at a 7-Eleven, where the self-rising pepperoni was priced at $6.99.

Opening the box, right away I don’t like it, there’s a weird “chemical” smell from the box, which isn’t from the vacuum sealed pizza, but rather ingredients or ink in the cardboard? In any regards, it’s unappealing to me.

Pie-wise, I’m not a fan of thicker crusts. I prefer more cheese and toppings make up the calorie count, rather than bread.

Digiorno is owned by Nestle, along with Jack’s, Tombstone, and some other brands, it was part of a 2010 $3.7 billion acquisition from Kraft, who needed to raise money for other acquisitions. Regardless of what I personally think, apparently Digiorno is the number one frozen brand in the U.S. There’s a reason, I’m sure and it’s not to do with ‘value pricing,” though I did see a woman earlier in the day at a grocery picking up a half dozen, as they were on sale for less than $4 a pop.

It’s a very “non offensive,” pizza, mild toppings, mild sauce, fairly adequate cheese, and it’s probably very filling for a family meal, due to the calories in the bread.

In all fairness, before this pizza hits by pie hole, it has been seriously altered at home, with more toppings, spices, and herbs. So it’s not a very unbiased ‘review.’

The pies are made at a massive factory in Little Chute, Wisconsin, at USDA establishment M5754. Little Chute is parked along the Fox River adjacent to the Appleton-Neenah area. (pix below).

The pies have a whole raft of ingredients, including the dreaded mechanically separated chicken, something I try and avoid.

INGREDIENTS: ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, LOW-MOISTURE PART-SKIM MOZZARELLA CHEESE (PART-SKIM MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), PEPPERONI MADE WITH PORK, CHICKEN AND BEEF (PORK, MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, BEEF, SALT, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SPICES, DEXTROSE, PORK STOCK, LACTIC ACID STARTER CULTURE, OLEORESIN OF PAPRIKA, FLAVORING, SODIUM NITRITE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, PAPRIKA, NATURAL SMOKE FLAVOR, BHA, BHT, CITRIC ACID), TOMATO PASTE, SUGAR, 2% OR LESS OF WHEAT GLUTEN, VEGETABLE OIL (SOYBEAN OIL AND/OR CORN OIL), DEGERMINATED WHITE CORN MEAL,YEAST, SALT, DEGERMINATED YELLOW CORN MEAL, SEASONING BLEND (SALT, SPICE, DRIED GARLIC), BAKING POWDER (BAKING SODA, SODIUM ALUMINUM PHOSPHATE), DATEM, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, ASCORBIC ACID (DOUGH CONDITIONER)

CONTAINS: MILK, WHEAT.

Digiorno Review

Before baking

Digiorno Review

Side view slice

Digiorno Review

Wisconsin Factory

Digiorno Self Rising Pizza Review

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Papa Saverios Pizza Review

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Papa Saverios Pizza ReviewThere is some relationship between two Chicago-based chains, Rosati’s and Papa Saverio’s, but there aren’t any clues to that online.  I don’t think they share any ownership, but they both list the same Italian immigrant Papa Saverio Rosati,as their inspiration and recipe source. Probably some sibling or cousin dispute, but no matter.

Rosati’s has really taken off in the past few years and now has over 200 locations around the country. Papa Saverios started in a Chicago suburb in 1997 and is up to 15 locations, all franchised except the original location.

The pizza recipes are similar, but for my personal tastes, I’m now giving Papa Saverio’s a slight edge.

The crust is a wee bit thicker than Rosati’s, the sausage more flavorful, and they use more cheese. The cheese is so evenly distributed in thickness, I’m almost tempted to say they used sliced product, instead of shredded.  They use the ‘spiced Silician’ green olives, which I prefer as well.

You can find a Papa Saverios here, and learn all about owning one, too. Check out their menu.

Papa Saverios Pizza Review

 

 
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Papa Saverios Pizza Review

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Iltaco Pizza Puff Review

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Iltaco Pizza Puff ReviewA family-owned Chicago food manufacturer founded in 1927, Iltaco (originally Illinois Tamale Company) makes frozen snack foods for retail, food service, and c-stores.  They have two frozen pizza labels, “Big,” and “Bella,” sell frozen tamales and burritos, but probably their biggest presence is in the niche category of “Pizza Puffs ™.”

A pizza puff is savory ingredients surrounded by a soft flour tortilla and baked til ready to eat.  Flavors include:  gyro, pulled pork, buffalo chicken, reuben, original, pepperoni, taco, deluxe,ham & cheese, 4 cheese, and beef.

The products are manufactured at Iltaco’s plant on Hubbard, about a mile west of the Loop (pictured below).  Frozen puffs can be baked, microwaved, or deep-fried.   I went with the bake method, the results shown below. (20 minutes, 425).  I like these.  The crust is flaky/crispy, the sauce and cheese flavors are very pleasant, as is the pepperoni.  I think the cost was less than $1.50.  Be good to have some in the freezer to ease a sudden pizza craving.

Good for an after school snack, too.

Obviously these guys were way ahead of the “Hot Pockets” people, which didn’t hit the grocery stores until the mid 1980s.

Iltaco Pizza Puff Review

Frozen, from Packaging

Iltaco Pizza Puff Review

Hot from the Oven

Iltaco Pizza Puff Review

Sauce, cheese, meat!

Iltaco Pizza Puff Review

Chicago Factory

 

 

 

Iltaco Pizza Puff Review

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Reggios Frozen Pizza Review

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Reggios Frozen Pizza ReviewI’ve written about Reggio’s before; this one, and competitor Home Run Inn (HRI), were both born in Chicago pizzerias, 40-50 years ago. The companies are still in the restaurant business, and do a good business making frozen pies for regional distribution and nationwide shipping direct to enthusiasts.

I’d venture a guess that these two pies do about the same amount of business, and they certainly get the most freezer face at stores I go to, even tho there must be – what – two dozen frozen pizzas out of the Chicago market?

They look the same, pretty much taste the same, and are usually priced the same, but Reggio’s seems to offer sales more often than HRI.

Both boast of a “butter crust,” and you really can taste it. Both are a hair thicker than traditional Chicago thin (cracker) crust, more like “hand tossed” thickness at most places.

Reggio’s has some good sausage and pepperoni, in fairly ample quantities. The 20 ounce pie is described as “dinner size.”

Ounce for ounce, dollar for dollar, I think Reggio’s has proportionately more cheese than most frozen pies, and it’s quality cheese at that, with good stretch.

If you’re in the city, and want to check out a Reggio’s restaurant, you’ll find them here. Or you can order them online, have them shipped to you, four 20 oz pies, including shipping for less than $80. That’s considerably less than most pizza shipping deals in my experience.

In other words? I like Reggio’s pizzas, and they are in my oven as much as any other brand.

Reggios Frozen Pizza Review

After 14 minutes at 400

Reggios Frozen Pizza Review

Showing the Depth of Cheese ( I added olives)

 

 

 

Reggios Frozen Pizza Review

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Pie Five Pizza Review

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Pie-FiveArguably at the top of growth chain for the fast casual dining segment, the relatively new “made on demand” concept  pizza places appeal to customers on three points:  value pricing, quality ingredients, and fast service.

There are quite a few entrants into the category already, including Blaze, MOD, and Pie Five, which was started and isowned by the same group that owns the successful chain, Pizza Inn (I like their buffets).  I think that gives them a leg up on the competition.

It works kind of like Chipotle or Subway, you walk through a line, pick one of the specialty pies, or design your own, choosing your crust (including a gluten free option), sauce, cheese, and toppings, all for one price.  The pie is popped into a scorching hot oven and one in just a few minutes, as opposed to the quarter hour a conventional pizza deck or conveyor oven take to go through the same process.

I tried out two today, at a pre opening fete.  The “Athenian” comes with a thin crust, olive oil, herbs, chicken, garlic, olives, onion, peppers, feta, mozzarella/provolone blend, fresh basil, and sun dried tomato puree.

The “High Five” is their version of an all meat pie, on a pan crust, with marinara, pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon, ham, and a cheddar, mozz, provolone blend.

The “assembly line” is fast and furious, as is the oven time.  At the end, they will ask you “for here or to go” and whether you want additional Parmesan or pepper flakes; if you’re eating in, those add-ons are also on the table.  Pie Five has the ‘magic’ coke dispensers, when you can crank out one or a combo of a hundred beverages, and also three kinds of ice tea, as well as some bottled drinks.

The 9 ” pizzas were excellent, I preferred the thin crust, bubbly and charred, to the pan personally. High quality and kudos for the processed pork toppings.

You can find Pie Five locations here, and take a gander at the menu  (also below)to see what’s in store for you. (pizza, salads, desserts).  The company has about fifty units open, and are aiming for five hundred, coast to coast.  Wanna own one? Inquire.

Pie Five people?  Great job.  Great pizza.

Pie Five Review

Makin’ Pies!

Pie Five Review

High Five Pie

Pie Five Review

Menu

 

Pie Five Pizza Review

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Pizza Ranch Buffet Review

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Pizza Ranch Buffet ReviewI wonder if they thought of the name “Chicken Ranch” but had to discard it due to an unsavory association with a Nevada business of the same name? The only reason I am wondering about this is while the pizza is good at Pizza Ranch, the fried chicken is the star of the show. In fact, their “sub slogan” is “the best chicken in the country.”

Now I’ve had fried chicken in every corner of the USA, including in small town, backwater soul food kitchens in the deep south, seemingly at the heart of fried chicken country. I’ve had fried chicken made by a 100 year old woman who’s been cooking chicken in the same single cast iron skillet for her four table restaurant for decades. If Pizza Ranch doesn’t make the best fried chicken in the country, I don’t know who does. It’s certainly the best I’ve ever had.

Pizza Ranch started in small town Iowa and has grown to nearly 200 locations in a dozen states. It is a set price buffet restaurant, with pizza, fried chicken, mashed potatoes/gravy, potato wedges, vegetables, a salad and dessert bar.

I visited the outpost in Wisconsin Dells, and service, food, presentation and cleanliness were all over the top. The experience far exceeded my expectations.

The price seems to vary somewhat from restaurant to restaurant, but it is generally in the range of $7-$10, less for kids, sometimes there are two fer coupons, and some locations include a beverage, some charge extra. One nice note on the hospitality scale, when you pay (on your way in), they ask you what your favorite pizza toppings are, and they rush to make it, deliver the first hot slices to you, and place the pie on the buffet….which, incidentally, presents 12-16 pizzas at a time and is constantly refreshed. So different than some pizza buffets I have been to, like Cici’s, Shakey’s or Round Table.

The pizza is clearly levels above Pizza Hut, Dominos, Little Caesars, Papa Johns and the like. In many ways, it reminds me of the way Godfather’s prepares theit pies, a little thicker crust, a sauce that leans towards sweet and ample cheese, nicely melted.

But as you might have guessed, I buried myself in fried chicken. Hot, crispy, nice breading, very juicy birds, and amply sized. They are certainly not buying diminutive chickens like Popeye’s and KFC.

Pizza Ranch is worth a stop, especially for families. I’d go again. Here are their locations, menus. and a further description of the buffet.

They also deliver, and have a drive through.

No alcohol, BTW.

Pizza Ranch Buffet Review

Fried Chicken and a Slice

 

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Culinary Circle Ultra Thin Crust Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza Review

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Culinary Circle Pizza ReviewCulinary Circle is a house brand for SuperValu stores, which include a gaggle of brands:  Jewel, Albertsons, Cub, Bristol Farms,  Save A Lot and more. It’s based in Minneapolis and is the 3rd largest grocery company, after Kroger and Safeway. Super Valu’s total outlets number over 2500, and they are the primary supplier to over 2,000 other stores.

This pie was on sale today, 2 / $7, which is an attractive price.  The “ultra thin’ crust was cracker like, which I enjoy, and toppings, including cheese, were adequate.  The sauce leans towards the sweet side, but I thought the diced tomato bits had kind of peculiar taste to them.

This pizza was manufactured by Richelieu Foods of Beaver Dam, WI, a contract manufacturer, and I wrote a bit about them before because they also make the Aldi take and bake pies, which I really like and are a terrific value.

Culinary Circle Pizza Review

Frozen, out of the box

Culinary Circle Pizza Review

After 425, 12 minutes

 

 

 

Culinary Circle Ultra Thin Crust Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza Review

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Broadway Pizza Review, Minneapolis

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Broadway-bar-original-1953His name was John Spallaci, and he moved to Minneapolis from Italy, bringing his special family pizza recipe with him. In 1953, he opened Spallaci’s Pizza (pictured left) in North Minneapolis, and in 1961, sold the business and recipe to Eddie and Mamie Peck. Cranking out quality pies was a high priority for the new owners, so they ground their own sausage and mixed their own sauce in house, as well as making fresh dough daily.  Those processes won them a lot of loyal customers, so when the new Interstate 94 came plowing through the neighborhood in the early 70s, Eddie and Mamie stayed on the north side of the city and  set up their new operation overlooking the Mississippi, in the heart of the old railroad yards, and the customers followed in droves.

In an homage to the history of the neighborhood, the Peck’s new restaurant took on a railroad theme, including seating in box cars.

In the early 70s, the first time I lived in the Twin Cities, the original location of Broadway was one of my ‘go-to’ places.  Today they have more than a dozen locations, are opening more corporate stores and franchising.

In addition to pizza, they have wings, sandwiches and plate dinners, and they still make the sausage, sauce and dough in house.  Our Minnesota reporter Kawika stopped in the Champlain, Minnesota location, for a sausage/pepperoni, half olive/half mushroom recently, and said it was (to his delight) one of the thinnest cracker crusts he’d ever encountered, and Minnesota is bereft with thin crust choices.

He took a feigned exception to the advertised special of an Hawaiian pizza, having lived in the 50th state for years; apparently to the authentically inclined, the ‘real’ Hawaiian has to have peanut butter as one of the toppings, and certainly not “jalapeno bacon.”  No damage done, hower.

The bar portion of the restaurant was hopping at 11 P on a Saturday nite, and most locations serve food til late.

FullSizeRender_2

 

Broadway Pizza Review Minneapolis

 

Broadway Pizza Review Minneapolis

 

 

 

 

Broadway Pizza Review

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Big Chef Review – Schaumburg, IL

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Big Chef Review SchaumburgClassically trained chefs open burger restaurants.  As sign of the times, one suspects, and capitalizing on an “American craze” the past few years.  I don’t know what started the current infatuation with burgers, tho I thought personally it was a reflection of the economic downturn – people still wanted to go out for beef, but steaks had become a little dear on menus.

In any regard, chef Crisitano Bassani, of the classic Italian Bapi Restaurant in suburban Chicago, got bit by the burger bug and opened “Big Chef” in Schaumburg.  It’s kind of tough to spot, set back in a strip mall, but if you’re heading east on Alqonquin and you hit Meachem, you’ve just missed it.

I was on my way somewhere else and the sign caught the corner of my eye, I made a quick uey into the parking lot and walked in.  Mid afternoon, Sunday, and the (perhaps) 60 seat eatery had one other table of four occupied, and a table of about ten young men who were just finishing up.

Unlike most new fangled burger restaurants these days, Big Chef has table service and linens.  A server brought a large bottle of water, a tall glass of ice, and the menu (how did they know about me and the water thing?).

The menu offers a number of interesting combination burgers (around $12 with one side), brick oven pizzas, and huge salads.  There is a full bar, with about ten stools in front of it, and an open kitchen design with a bar and stools facing it, as well.

Every day there is a special deal for extended hours, whereas any burger, salad, or pizza is $8.99.

I went with the bacon burger, which comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, and a well-melted spicy cheddar (don’t you hate it when there’s a slice of cold, unmelted cheese slapped on a burger – I sure do!).  You have  choice of buns from white, pretzel, onion, or wheat. Patties are a half pound of fresh ground hormone free angus.  Side choices are fries, sweet potato fries, house made chips, rings,  mashed or slaw.

The meat came as ordered (medium rare) accompanied by massive onion rings, with a light “panko-like/herb) coating, very crispy.  I opted for the pretzel roll, which is almost always my favorite, but the results can be good or bad, depending on the recipe.  Some pretzel roll doughs are laden with molasses, and it’s too sweet a bun for a savory burger, in my opinion.

The patty itself was very flavorful, and the vegetables fresh and crisp.  I didn’t feel the need to salt either the meat or rings, which is unusual for me.

I recommend your try Big Chef.  Desserts and ice cream concoctions also available. Full menu.

Big Chef Review Schaumburg

Bacon Burger w/ Rings

 

Big Chef Review SchaumburgBig Chef Review Schaumburg

 

 

Big Chef Burgers on Urbanspoon

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