Tuesday, January 20, 2015

East Coast Style Pizza in Chicago

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Where to eat pizza like an East Coaster

Is there anything that gets foodies blood boiling quite like the conversation of pizza? I've seen it for years now. When publications and or websites post or write something about pizza it's a guarantee that the comments section will be flooded. Write about the comparison of two different styles while choosing one in the process might result in death threats, even if they're half assed and from hot headed Tommy in Cicero it's still hysterical to see people get riled up. Today's post shouldn't ruffle any feathers but I will say that when it comes to pizza I am a homer. I love tavern thin square cut Chicago style pizza. I grew up on Pat's and consider Wells Brothers in Racine, WI to serve the best pizza on the planet. I prefer crispy square cut pieces with awesome homemade sausage as opposed to large foldable slices with pepperoni. I always will, and I don't give two hoots what you have to say about it. That said I enjoy pizza in general and can find good in most everything when it comes to food. So today we check off five spots serving an East Coast style of pie, none of which I despise.

Jimmy's Pizza Cafe

Longtime former East Coasters favorite on Lincoln and Foster

Jimmy's Pizza is the first place most anyone will mention when it comes to finding a good NYC style slice in Chicago. Well I have a confession to make, I didn't try it until just last week. Reason being is I have little interest in pizza thats been sitting out ala 7-11 mystery meat rollers. I also prefer sausage as my topping of choice and hate the little deer turd pellets that most East Coast style places use. Still I can look past all that buy ordering a slice of pepperoni and convincing myself this is much better for my health than an entire pizza from somewhere else.

Behind the glass like an authentic NYC slice seller

Sometimes you just need a quick easy fix and want something that's not Papa John's. Well Jimmy's is that and then some. I quite enjoyed my slice of 'roni sprinkled generously with both oregano and red pepper flakes and also loved of the hospitality from the Korean family who owns the place. I'm not this way often but next time I'm riding by it might be hard to pass without stopping in for a slice.

Slice of Pepperoni from Jimmy's

Craft Pizza

Artisan Pizza and other baked goods in Wicker Park

"Craft Pizza & Cafe specializes in small batch artisan pizza, bagels, and coffee. We make everything in-house, using top quality ingredients and specialized techniques." I took that description right off their website to clarify what style of pie is being served here. The fact that they also bake bagels, which from what I've heard are very good, and other little things qualifies them in my book as having an East Coast edge. I have no problem saying that New York City is the homebase of the Artisan pizza movement and Craft is a part of that in Chicago. The pizza that stood out to me on the menu is titled 'Devil in the White City' and it's described on the menu as "the white city pie + hot capicollo, hot cherry peppers, peperoncinis & red onions -add sauce for no charge" which sounded right up my alley so we decided to try that with the red sauce added on.

Devil in the White City (add sauce) 

While the pie wasn't cheap, which of these artisan places are? The product was both substantial and also fulfilling. I love both pepperoncinis and also cherry peppers on my pizza. I gotta give props to the East Coast for using those so abundantly as far as topping selection goes. Some of the pieces were more in place than others, meaning the toppings didn't slide off but other than that I was pleased with the product. Loved the charred bottom but wished they got the crust a little more dark as well.

Nicely Charred

Armitage Pizzeria

Lincoln Park 

It's been a year and change since I tried this place advertising "East Coast Style" in the window. But that's only because I'm so busy gathering spots I havent been to document for the site. I really liked what this spot located across the street from Lincoln Park High School is putting out. So much so that this picture and post have reminded me I need to get back ASAP and order another excellent olive topped pizza and hope I get the same awesome crust and balance I got on my first trip in.

Olive with Red Sauce from Armitage Pizzeria

Piece Brewery & Pizzeria

Locals favorite in Wicker Park

At this point, who hasnt eaten at Piece? If you asked me the most popular pizza place in Chicago that isn't serving Chicago style pizza my immediate answer would be Piece. Going on ten years (wow) since Cheap Trick's Rick Nielson became one of the city's many pizza entrepreneurs. On top of that he's also a beer magnate as they brew some really nice stuff onsite. Every now and then I enjoy a pie from Piece. What attracts me the most is their offering of banana peppers as a topping. LOVE these on most everything including a pizza. My only qualm is the sausage they use here. I wish it weren't the deer turds I earlier described, we have so many places they can get some loose homemade stuff.

Red Pizza with Sausage and Banana Peppers

They offer pies with both red sauce and the preferred in Connecticut white sauce aka no sauce but lots of garlic. If you go during lunch hours you can make yourself a personal pizza with your choice of toppings which I should note they offer an excellent selection of, aside from the sausage of course. I'm a big fan of the white sauce pizza with clams and bacon. It's made me a believer in sauceless pie.

White Pizza with Clam and Bacon

Roxie's by The Slice

Located on the Hipster Highway

The newest offering from the Hogsalt Restaurant Group is a Brooklyn style slice stop. Located on the desolate stretch of Milwaukee connecting Wicker Park and Logan Square they're rocking 28 inch pies resulting in big ass slices made with the toppings of your choice. Said toppings are a step above the average pizza place and include local meats and less seen options like anchovies. It's a dark walkup spot with seats and booze available inside or you can just grab a slice to take home. These slices aren't cheap but they aren't small. Id say they're basically two slices worth making the close to $8 price (with 2 toppings) seem much more reasonable. I got mine topped with cherry peppers and pepperoni and really enjoyed it. Mainly for the toppings which I thought were better than the norm.

Pepperoni and Cherry Pepper Slice from Roxie's

Jimmy's Pizza Cafe
5159 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 293-6992

Craft Pizza
1252 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 442-7238

Armitage Pizzeria
711 West Armitage Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-9111

Piece Brewery & Pizzeria
1927 West North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 772-4422

Roxie's By The Slice
1732 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 987-6543


AT RP said...

I am pretty sure that the family that runs Jimmy's is of Korean origin. You should try a fresh sausage and spinach pie - very good.

Anonymous said...


Every now and then I like to have something different than the pizza I grew up on here in Chicagoland. Usually, for NYC floppy, foldable pizza, I hit Gigio's in Uptown. The owner is from Brooklyn, and I love his plain cheese slice. For a crispier NYC style pizza (even though they bill it as "an American twist on Neapolitan pizza") I like Coalfire. I told the owner one afternoon that his plain cheese pizza with fresh mozzarella (for the extra money the fresh mozz is well worth it) very much reminded me of Totonno's in NYC. The owner agreed.

That said, Coalfire, much like every other NYC pizza I've ever had, makes a terrible sausage pizza. The sausage they use may be from Bari or Publican Quality Meats or wherever, but it was those terrible, tasteless, deer turds you described. Why East Coast pizza can't get sausage right, I have no idea, but Coalfire is no different on that front. I know everybody and their mother over at LTHforum loves the place, but their sausage pizza is terrible. Stick to the plain cheese at Coalfire or the Nduja pizza which is also excellent.

People from out East may not consider this an objective opinion, but it truly is. If you were to put our Chicago thin crust with sausage side by side against their best places out East (i.e. Di Fara, Totonno's, etc.), I'd take our Chicagoland classics cut into squares, with homemade Italian sausage every day of the week. And I'm talking on TASTE ALONE. Places like Pat's, Q's in Hillside, Villa Nova in Stickney, Vito and Nick's, Fox's, the original Aurelio's in Homewood, and Joe's Italian Villa at their new location in Palos Heights are the best, gosh darn thin crust pizzas in America, along with Well's Brothers up in Racine. Q's in Hillside was to me growing up probably what Pat's in the city was to you. And Pizano's thin buttercrust with sausage is one heck of a pizza, too.

In terms of sheer taste alone, our sausage pizza from places like Pat's, Pizano's, Villa Nova, and Joe's Italian Villa make Chicago the pizza capital of the world. Nobody else compares, or even comes close.

Good Eating As Always,

cpd007 (Rob)

P.S. If you get the chance, try Joe's Italian Villa at their new location out in Palos Heights. Joe's, along with Vito and Nick's and Villa Nova, are among 3 of the oldest thin crust places in Chicagoland. Joe's Italian Villa's homemade sausage recipe is truly outstanding. A simple cheese and sausage will do.

And if you're ever in the Hillside area again next summer, stop in at Q's for some great pizza, a couple beers, and a Cubs game. I'll meet you there.


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