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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Pizza’

Capri Pizza Review, Merrillville, IN


Capri Pizza ReviewI have driven through Merrillville, Indiana countless times and never stopped’ it just happens to be perched at the intersection of a number of highways leaving (or entering) the greater Chicago area(I-65, 90,80, 94, and US 30).  So if I ever have stopped and simply don’t remember it, the stop was either for gas, or to pee, or to grab a Slim Jim or something.

Seems I was stuck here recently due to snow, tho, and found myself holed up in a motel that had no services nor anything around it, so I fired up the screen on my phone and perused my choices.

Having narrowed them down (no sushi or Mexican, thanks),  I have to cross reference them on Yelp, then go back to GrubHub to order.  So I spot Capri Pizza and note they have been making pies in the Chicago area for decades, and I saw one line somewhere in their puffery that “they grind their own meat daily.”  Me too!

I’m a sucker for great sausage on pizza, so I took the plunge and ordered a sausage (only) pie and hoped that while I was too wimpy to drive that night, that the pizza driver would not be.  I know he would be well rewarded for the effort.

The pie came. Still hot. Take in the aroma.  Ahhhhhh.  It’s thin crust, “tavern cut,” as they say around Chicago (squares, not slices), so l lift one out, it’s got heft, from a lot of cheese, which is seriously melty, and I note the chunks of sausage are ample size and hand pulled.

And yes, it was great. Crispy but chewy crust, gobs o cheese, light sauce, and TERRIFIC SAUSAGE.  Ground daily and hand pulled!  So satisfying!

Here’s their dope and menu.  I’d go again, hell yes.  Menu, locations.

Capri Pizza Review
Capri's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Capri Pizza Review

Capri Pizza Review




Napoli Pizza Review, Woodstock, IL


Napoli Pizza Review WoodstockI love being surprised (in a good way).

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.

Napoli Pizza Review Woodstock

House Special

Napoli Pizza Review Woodstock
Napoli Pizza Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Napoli Pizza Review


Sals Pizza Review, Huntley, IL


Sals Pizza Review HuntleyI’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.

Sal's Pizza Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Olive Theory Pizzeria Review, Downers Grove, IL


Olive Theory Pizzeria ReviewI 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.

Olive Theory Pizzeria Review

Sausage, pepperoni, olive pie

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.

Olive Theory Pizzeria Review

“Buddha’s Karma”

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

Menu 1


Olive Theory Pizzeria Review

Menu 2






Olive Theory Pizzeria Review


JJ Twigs Pizza Review, Palatine, IL


JJ Twigs Pizza ReviewWe first started going to JJ Twigs shortly after we moved to the Chicago suburbs in the 80s, and my kid was just a sprout.

They had peanuts on the table, and she got a huge kick out being able to throw the shells on the floor…. being messy on purpose!

I liked the thin crust pizza (OK, and the peanuts, too), the restaurant uses fresh made Italian sausage, and whole milk mozzarella, which gives the cheese a nice stretchiness quality. They had a smattering of herbs which I find pleasing, as well.

The original location was overlooking serene Lake Zurich, IL, but that location burned down in 2004. They moved up the road inside the arcade building at a mini golf, and I stopped in there once or twice over the years, but only for take out.

Finally they moved to their present location, on Highway 14 in Palatine, into s cozy building that was previously another pizzeria, which I can’t JJ Twigs Pizza Reviewremember the name of. It’s smaller than the original location, but a warmer decor, and they offer their entire lengthy menu of pizza, sandwiches, and entrees, along with a full bar.

JJ Twigs is known for their unique “double decker” pizza, which is two fully topped thin crust pizzas, one atop the other, sealed together with a thick hand-turned outer crust.  I’ve never tried it.

I had my “usual,” a thin crust sausage with green olive, and double cheese. And it was fabulous. Chased it down with an Italian beef, (and a shot of insulin) but took most of both home, of course. The pie is every bit as good as I remembered, and I’d stop by more often, but it’s quite a hike for me.

They have quite a few TVs as well as a separate room, JJ Twigs would be a fun place to have a small party or catch the game.

There are four additional locations, one in Wauconda, IL, and three in St. Louis. Same menus, recipes. Here’s the local pizza menu. JJ Twigs menu is competitively priced for the area.

JJ Twig's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
JJ Twigs Pizza Review


Eataly Pizza Menu – Chicago location


Eataly Chicago Menu

Eataly Pizza Menu


Papa Saverios Pizza Review


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


Click to add a blog post for Papa Saverio's on Zomato

Papa Saverios Pizza Review


Reggios Frozen Pizza Review


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


Jimanos Pizza Review – Chicago / Denver


Jimano's Pizza ReviewJimano’s is a mini-chain based out of suburban Chicago; they started in 1997, have about a dozen locations and have started franchising.  Their first Denver, CO location was named the best pizza in the city by a local television station after only four months of operation.  They have the requisite Chicago accompaniments on the menu, including Italian beef and other sandwiches, hot appetizers, salads, ribs, and pasta.  They offer both dine in and delivery, catering, and most locations offer online ordering.  They have their own app to facility your order.

They state that they have a commitment to using the highest quality  ingredients.  They offer a daily special which is quite economical – for instance on Monday you can get a 16″ pie with up to five toppings for $16.99, and that can result in a savings of 25% or more.

I took advantage of the Monday special, stopped in a store, ordered, and waited 10 minutes or so for the pie to be done.  The store employs a ‘carousel’ type oven, which I had heard of, but not seen.  With multiple decks revolving like a ferris wheel, running off gas or electricity, carousels let you pack a whole lot of baking capacity into a small footprint.

Jimano’s thin crust pie was great.  The cracker thin crust has a hint of cornmeal, the pork sausage was very flavorful, the sauce was not overpowering, and the cheese in a unique blend.  A heavy dose of herbs finishes off the pie.

If I  lived in the Chicago area, Jimano’s would be one of my regular go-to pizzas, for sure.  Locator. Menu below (click on for larger image).

Jimanos Pizza Review

Thin Crust Sausage & Olive

Jimano Pizza Review

Exterior – Fox River Grover, Illinois

Jimano's Pizza Menu

Jimano's Pizza Menu
Jimano's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Jimanos Pizza Review


Lou Malnatis Frozen Pizza Review


lousLou Malnati, and his father Rudy, managed Pizzeria Uno, one of the first outlets for “Chicago Deep Dish” pizza. Although Uno (now Uno Chicago Grill) claims to have invented the pie, local food historians give the credit to Rudy.

Lou and his wife Jean opened the first Lou Malnati’s in 1971, in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood. The rest is history, and the company now boasts 40 shops in the Chicago area and ships frozen pizzas nationwide.

The main difference between “Chicago deep dish” and similar pies in other parts of the country, is that in Chicago, the tomato sauce goes on top; many restaurants that offer a deep dish sausage pack the bottom of the crust with a blanket of cheese, then the sausage (or whatever you choose) and then  the sauce.

No matter which restaurant you chose to patronize (Malnati’s, Uno, Gino’s or local mom and pops) be prepared to wait for your dinner, as it takes awhile to cook up these pizzas.

I reviewed Gino’s frozen a couple years ago, and another Chicago deep dish, Edwardos,  so a follow up with Malnati’s seems like a good idea.  Baking instructions call for 425 and 35-40 minutes for the sausage pie.   There’s a slight variance in the directions than you (we) are probably use to:  “remove pizza from pan, wipe off any condensation that has formed, lightly oil pan (I used spray) and return pie to pan prior to placing in oven.”

After 40  minutes, I took this beauty out.  In appearance, it closely resembles its restaurant cousin.  It’s about 1 1/2″ deep, 9″ across, and weighs 24 ounces.  I paid $12.99,  ( @ .54 ounce) which is probably more that you will see it most groceries, I was in an “up market” store.   At a Malnati’s restaurant, the same pie will set you back about the same amount.  A large sausage goes for $20.25 at the time of this posting.

I’m really pleased with the end result;  this is one of the more flavorful frozen pizzas I have encountered.  Many people don’t understand that a “Chicago deep dish” is a THIN crust pizza, and is deep due to the ingredients.  The crust was appropriately crispy, the cheese has really nice “pull,” the pie is wall to wall with the sausage, and the (chunky) tomato ‘sauce’ just pops with flavor.

When you look at the ingredient list, there aren’t any of those words you can’t pronounce or have no idea what they are. Example, the sausage is pork, salt, and spices.  I’d do it again.

According to the packaging, these pies are made at USDA factory number 18498, at 3054 S. Kildare Ave., Chicago, which is apparently owned and operated by Home Run Inn pizza for their frozen pie operation. (factory pics below) HRI makes one of my favorite frozen thin crust pizzas.

If you’re rolling into Chicagoland, and want to hit a Malnati’s restaurant, you’ll find them here (note, some locations are carryout/delivery only).

Lou Malnati's Frozen Pizza Review

Lou Malnati's Frozen Pizza Review

Out of package, before oven


Lou Malnatis Review

Back of Factory

Lou Malnatis Review

Front of factory abuts an HRI location

Lou Malnatis Frozen Pizza Review

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