Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

The Norwood neighborhood of Chicago, just off I-90 about 12 miles west of the Loop, has become a Little Italy of sorts; I’ve counted around two dozen Italian-centric restaurants, delis, bakeries, markets. Once every couple months I make a run down there and hit two or three of my favorite establishments.

Last Saturday was no exception,  I hit Sicilia Bakery for a New Orleans style muffuletta sandwich, some fresh bread and imported cheese,   over to Rex Italian Foods, for sausage, meatballs, more cheese, before ending up at Dino’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant.  Dino’s has a very extensive menu featuring all of your Italian favorites appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees.  I’ve only had the pizza and not been back since the “before times.”

So I was delighted to stop in and grab a 16″ thin crust sausage, green olives, and double cheese thin crust pizza, square cut, which we call “tavern style” in Chicago and it’s far more popular than deep dish.  About the latter?  Some people call that “tourist pizza.”  Maybe so.

For my money (and I’m the only vote that matters here) nobody makes a finer tavern style pie in Chicago than Dino’s. Crispy crust on the outside, chewy as you move inland.  Their hand-pulled sausage is just superb in taste, texture, and size.  Sauce is flavorful but not overpowering. Cheese is the perfect amount and melt-factor.

If I’m on my own, it’ll take me 2-3 days to work through a 16″ pie.  In my “salad days” (what?) I could have polished one-off in a single sitting.

The restaurant has a few large seating areas, offers party / event catering and delivery.  Six days a week there are specials, listed here, ncluding some AYCE deals.

I’d sure like to hit some of those, but they’d rue the day I sat down for any of them!

Dino’s is just five miles east of O’Hare if you’re stuck with a long layover or are on your way downtown.

In the meantime, here’s your “objet d’ drool.”

Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

Dino's Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

Ginos East Frozen Pizza Review

Ginos East Frozen Pizza Review

Ginos East Frozen Pizza Review

Gino’s East is a downtown Chicago restaurant that specializes in one of the versions of “Chicago Deep Dish.”  They opened just off the Ginos East Frozen Pizza Reviewmagnificent mile in 1966.  They subscribe to the version that is “crust, cheese, toppings, sauce.”

Other versions  in the same segment are more focused on the amount of cheese, and can be labeled either “Deep Dish” or “Stuffed.”

Gino’s has opened other outlets around Chicagoland and out of state with mixed results.  They have, however, been very successful in capturing a sizeable portion of the frozen pizza market, both in the deep dish and thin crust categories. (Crack thin crust, square-cut pizza, often called “Tavern style” is also very popular in the Chicago area.

One aspect Gino’s is noted for is the “sausage patty” deep dish.  Instead of bits of sausage as a topping, there is a solid patty of sausage which stretches crust to crust.  Their sausage is very gently seasoned.

They use a quality cheese, with good stretch, and their tomato sauce leans towards slightly sweet and chunky.  Crust is flaky, both top and bottom.  The frozen pie weights two pounds, and I paid $5.99 for it this week.  It’s usually a bit higher.

Ginos East Frozen Pizza Review

Festive Foods Plant

I’ve probably purchased these 4-5 times, and candidly, I’ve never had what I would call a 100% success rate with them. I can’t get them to bake evenly. They’re in the oven for 45  minutes plus, but invariably I end up with hot/cold territories, even if I spin in during cooking.

Don’t know why.

Gino’s are made by a company called “Festive Foods” (pictured) a contract manufacturer in Waupaca, WI, a town in the north-central part of the state.

If you never get to Chicago and can’t find the pies in your local grocer, you can get a five pack shipped to you, for about $25 a pie, including shipping.  That’s about the same price you’d pay at the restaurant, not including beers, tax, and tip.

 

 

 

 

Ginos East Frozen Pizza Review

Ginos East Frozen Pizza Review

 

Dinos Pizza Review – NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

Dinos Pizza Review - NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

Dinos Pizza Review – NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

Dinos Pizza Review - NW Suburban Chicago IllinoisThere still exists a “Little Italy” near downtown Chicago, but there’s not much Italian left to it, ‘cept or a once a year weekend festival. No, for me, Chicago’s “Little Italy” is more likely to be found around Harlem Avenue, south of I-90, in the NW suburbs of Norwood Park, Norridge, and Harwood Heights.

Got to be more pizza joints per square mile than anywhere else in Chicago.  I’m counting 16, and that’s not including the Italian deli/groceries,  of which there are several.

I’ve made the journey to the delis before, notably (reviews) “Nottoli” and “Rex.”  If I was forced to choose one or the other to patronize the rest of my life, it would be a very close call, but “Rex” would win out.  They have fewer groceries than Nottoli, but more hot “to go” meals, and for me, their meatballs are way ahead of Nottoli’s.

All that being said, there are 16 pizza places to check out, and one, in particular, I’ve wanted to hit for a long time.  Officially named “Dino’s Italian Restaurant” I suspect most patrons go for the pizza.  They have been around for over 60 years and that’s always a plus for me.

I ordered to take-out, but the joint was bustling for a post lunchtime Saturday afternoon, and it was one of those places where everyone seems to know each other. (“Hi, Norm!”).

Servers were affable, eager to please, and knew how to do their jobs.

The interior is homey and ‘neighborhood-y.’  Boy, I am making up the words today.

The Pizza

On to the pizza. I fully realize every person has their own preferences for pizza, and in Chicago, we have so many choices. Thick crust, deep dish, stuffed crust, double crust, pan,  sausage crust, no crust, and the one I prefer, a thin crust referred to in many local establishments as “tavern-style.”

Using Italian pastry/pizza flour (many places use regular flour, which for me, doesn’t give a great outcome, the ideal thin crust pizza sports a crust that is cracker-like, but not flakey.

It has some good “chew” to it, and because tavern-style pizza is cut in squares instead of triangular slices, there’s no “hang,” that is, the cheese and toppings aren’t going to slide off your slice when you pick it up.

Dinos Pizza Review - NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

16″ thin crust pizza with sausage

For my taste, Dino’s is perfect.

A medium application of flavorful tomato sauce, not too much, not to skimpy, and it tastes like (surprise!) tomatoes!  Too often pizza joints use sauce that has corn syrup solids as fill, and it becomes ultra-sweet – if it’s your thing, find, it’s just not for me.

Ample cheese, real cheese, again, not the kind blended with fillers.  Nice stretch, great taste, well melted.

Finally, the topping.  I went simple, Italian sausage.  Fantastic.  Hand-pulled chunks of sausage with fennel and garlic, great texture, nice size, not those god-awful preformed sausage pellets so many places use.

I bought the pizza to take home, a 40 minute drive, laid it carefully in the back area of the SUV. Thought I’d just sneak a peek before driving off. Damn, the aroma.  Ok, maybe one slice before I go.

Back in the driver’s seat, slice devoured, “Ok, maybe just one more.”

Managed some self-restraint after that second slice and drove away.  OK, I managed for about ten minutes.  Then another ten minutes.  A stop for a cola. Then another ten minutes.  And by the time I pulled into my driveway, the massive, 16-inch pie I had purchased has shrunk by half.  Oops.

Dino’s Italian Restaurant has a very lengthy menu that includes appetizers,  sandwiches, salads, soups, pasta, chicken dinners, fish, ribs, veal, steak and dessert.  You can see it online here, or there is the pizza page below.

Heck yes I will return. But next time I’ll know well enough to get one for the ride, one for home!

 

Dinos Pizza Review - NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dino's Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Dinos Pizza Review – NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

Dinos Pizza Review – NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

La Pizza Via Review – Fox River Grove, IL

La Pizza Via Review

La Pizza Via Review

Where else can you go that offers nearly every regional type of pizza from across the country??? La Pizza Via has NY/New Haven thin crust, Pan pizza with a thicker crust, baked in a square.

Of course Chicago’s favorite, cracker thin, cut in squares (many people call it “tavern style).” And what I went for, “Detroit style” which is a square pie, a focaccia like crust, caramelized edges, thick but very airy, cheese and toppings over that, then a few ladles of tomato sauce across the top.

I find fault with none of it. It’s a hearty, thick tomato sauce from one of the country’s premier suppliers to pizzerias. Hand pulled chunks of Italian sausage, flavorful, great texture.

Really nice pepperoni, no cupping or charring, and a great cheese blend. (If you want to win me over forever, add thick sliced “Sicilian” (marinated, herbed) green olives!

The shop has an order at the counter arrangement, but an attached dining room. Pastas, calzones, stuffed breads, sandwiches and snacks fill out the menu. Daily specials. Daily slices.

It’s gonna cost you less than Chicago’s regional chains, by 15-20% in my experience.

The Detroit takes about 15 minutes in the oven.  They are open seven days and deliver using some of the third party services.

If you’re from Detroit, this will more than satisfy your cravings, and you won’t have to go home and suffer through your relatives company just to get a slice.

Great product. Nice people. I hope they have great success  Full menu.

La Pizza Via Review

Detroit Style Sausage and Pepperoni

La Pizza Via Review

Properly caramelized crust

 

 

 

La Pizza Via Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
La Pizza Via Review

La Pizza Via Review

Vito and Nicks Pizza Review, Chicago, IL

Vito and Nicks Pizza Chicago

Vito and Nicks Pizza ReviewArguably the oldest pizzeria in Chicago, Vito and Nicks started as a tavern only in the 30s, before adding pizza a few years later.

While most people in America associate “deep dish” pizza with Chicago, it didn’t really come along til a decade or more later. Til then, and even today, what we all “tavern style” pizza is the city’s favorite.

It’s a very thin “cracker” style crust, some would say “overcooked”, sliced into squares. If you’re lucky, you’ve landed at a place that is going to dot the top with fresh, mouth watering Italian sausage, like Vito and Nick’s does. It is really superb sausage. I wouldn’t mind bigger chunks, but it’s not a complaint.

I waited a long time to get there, and I planned an entire day in the city around the visit. Arrived at about 1:30P on a Saturday afternoon, and it was moderately busy, but there were still a few empty tables.

Not so by the time we left when the place was rocking and a crowd was crammed into a tiny space by the bar, waiting — overheard the waitress say it was an hour at the point – maybe 3 or 3:30.

Speaking of servers, we drew the lucky straw and get “Mary,” a veteran who greets you like you’re an old-timer, makes you feel like you’re the only customer even while she’s juggling a dozen tables. Noticing there was a set-up for a large group coming in, she suggested we get our order in pronto. Appreciated that.

Vito and Nicks Pizza Review


Large Sausage and Green Olive

I ordered a sausage and green olive, large pie, and it was perfect. I was delighted that the green olives were the kind I prefer on pizzas, I’ve heard proprietors refer to them as “Sicilian Style”, they are small, sliced, greens that have been marinating in a brine chock-a-block full of Italian style herbs. Some of them end up on the pie, of course, an additional layer of flavor.

Couldn’t finish it, of course. Ate some for dinner at night, and the rest was calling me at 3AM, and I polished it off while binging House of Cards on Netflix.

Vito and Nick’s is close to Midway Airport, a hike from downtown.  If you’re driving Route 66, it’s just a few miles south of Ogden, which is Route 66 out of the city, and it’s worth a detour.  PBR and Old Style on tap.

I shall return.

P.S. There are frozen Vito and Nick’s pizzas in area groceries. One of the best in the frozen segment.

Vito & Nick's Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Vito and Nicks Pizza Review
Vito and Nicks Pizza Review

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 Grubhub.com 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

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