Monday, March 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Pizzas

Lately, I've been getting the feeling that we here at the Commissary have been in a little bit of a pizza rut. Mrs. Hackknife grew up eating thin-crust pizza (usually cheese and anchovies) from a prominent South Suburban pizza chain called Aurelio's, which is still going strong today. Since I grew up in a different part of town, we almost always default to Aurelio's when we want takeout or delivery 'za, and it's, well, consistently good, but not really my favorite. In Mt. Prospect, we were fortunate enough to be close to a branch of Geno's East, one of the city's most popular deep-dish pizza joints, so my heart (and associated clogged arteries) belongs more to that calorie bomb variety than thin-crust (there, I said it - sorry, honey. Let the repercussions begin...).

Good deep dish is a little harder to find on the south side of town here, but last year I was made aware of an Italian restaurant in Crestwood called Louisa's (14025 S. Cicero) that specializes in the stuff; in fact, that's the ONLY type of pizza they offer. We gave one of their pies an audition after taking the progeny to a Cubs game and it was fantastic, not the heavy deep dish of my childhood, but actually very light-handed with the cheese/sauce and a buttery, medium-thick crust (is there lard in there?). It immediately rocketed to the top of my South Side deep-dish pizza list (not that there was much competition). Our second, more recent experience with Louisa's came a few weeks ago when we decided to dine in with the kids following a trip to the local science museum. We discovered that, unfortunately, it's not the most kid-friendly place - no kids menu or milk to be served, a 30+ minute wait for the pizza to come out of the oven, etc., but the pie was again very good, if not a little less so than the first time we had it. We live outside of their delivery area and it's a little bit of a hike to get there, so we will probably still stick with Aurelio's for the time being, but it's good to know I have the option to indulge when the spirit moves me.

Now that we have a deep-dish pizza option, we also need a thin-crust alternative and I think I may have found one (although it's not exactly around the corner, either). When I visited Totopo's Mexican Grill last month (see earlier posting), I noticed something called Labriola Bakery Cafe in the same retail development in Oak Brook. I recognized the name Labriola as the provider of some really good artisanal bread loaves at local grocery stores and wondered if there was a connection. There is, in fact, a connection - Labriola the bakers opened the cafe a couple years ago as a retail outlet for bread, pizza, desserts, and other casual fare, garnering a bunch of positive foodie press in the process. When back in the area after visiting my grandmother last Wednesday, I stopped in to try out their Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizza. I ordered a specialty buffalo mozzarella variety to go (being the first day of Lent, I had to pass on any meat toppings, unfortunately) and had to summon all of my willpower to resist tearing into it while careening down the expressway at 70 mph (some people text, I eat pizzas while driving). When I finally made it home about 30 minutes later, I gazed in wonder at the magnificent pie ensheathed in a cardboard box on my counter (see photo above) and dug in. The crust was perfect Neapolitan - chewy, a little charred, nicely flavored - and the toppings were simple (basil, crushed tomatoes, cheese, and olive oil), yet intense. It was wonderful at room temperature, just as good reheated for leftovers a couple of days later. I'm looking forward to my return visit so I can try other pizzas and/or burgers, gelato, and cannoli....

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