Serious Eats: Chicago
Pequod's: Come for the Carmelized Crust, Stay for Great Pizza
Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. Daniel also blogs about Chicagoland pizza with his friends on the Chicago Pizza Club blog. --The Mgmt.
2207 North Clybourn Avenue, Chicago IL 60614 (map); 773-327-1512. Additional location: 8520 Fernald Avenue, Morton Grove IL 60053 (map); 847-470-9161 pequodspizza.com
Pizza Style: Deep dish and stuffed crust
The Skinny: One of the better deep dish pizzas in Chicago. The thickness of the crust may upset the balance between the crust and toppings, but that the crust is caramelized by a thin layer of cheese results in a great, unique chewy texture. The sweet, chunky sauce goes perfectly with the sausage.
Pequod's was founded by Chicago pizza legend Burt Katz a little over 30 years ago. He sold the place in 1986, but Pequod's has remained one of the most beloved deep dish spots in Chicago. There are two locations: the original in the Northwest suburb of Morton Grove, and another in the Lincoln Park neighborhood (where I went for this review).
Before heading to the restaurant, I took advantage of a trick that many deep dish and stuffed pizzerias allow—I preordered, which is like calling ahead for takeout, except when you get to the restaurant, you sit down and eat. Since these pies take 40 minutes to cook, it makes sense to call ahead so you don't have to wait long before starting your meal. I phoned in an order of half sausage, half pepperoni pizza before eagerly making my way over to Pequod's.
In previous experience at Pequod's, I have been disappointed with the balance of the ingredients. The bottom crust, while quite tasty, is thick and a bit dense—it blocks my ability to savor the cheese, crust and toppings. To balance out the crust during this visit, I added a little twist to my order by asking for extra sauce and extra cheese, a wise decision.
The Famous Caramelized Crust
The first thing everyone notices about a Pequod's pie is the caramelized crust. Some critics call it burned, but they're wrong. Before cooking the pizza, the chef spreads a thin layer of cheese along the outside of the crust. While the resulting flavor is merely decent, the texture is magnificent—the caramelized cheese gives the back of the pie a chewiness that doesn't exist in most pizzas.
Good Vs. Bad Chewiness
This type of chewiness is not to be confused with that a bad, greasy New York slice that's been sitting on the counter for half an hour; that is bad chewy. This is a firm chewiness allowing diners to savor each bite in a way that's not generally possible—otherwise known as good chewy.
The cheese is basic mozzarella, and with so much of it, there's more than sufficient gooey delight. Those of you who are horrified by the concept of eating pizza with a knife and fork should avoid asking for extra cheese, as it slides off the sides. After a couple minutes of cooling, there's sufficient congealing to prevent sliding, which is good for the second and third slices.
The Glorious Meat Toppings
For those who prefer a sweet sauce, Pequod's chunky version is spectacular. As a tangy sauce fan, I was a bit disappointed--but that needs a major caveat. The sausage, which comes from Scala's Preferred, a Chicago institution, was incredible. And while the sauce was generally too sweet, the interplay between sausage and sauce was perfect.
Pequod's does a special trick with their meat toppings, which adds crispness to the pepperoni and thick pieces of sausage. Not sure if they put the pies in a broiler for a couple minutes after baking them, but the results are: great texture, and a release of juices sitting freshly atop the pie when it arrives at your table.
Given how great the sausage interplays with the sweet sauce, my next trip to Pequod's will involve an order of extra sauce, extra cheese and extra sausage. Before this visit, I liked Pequod's plenty, but now I'm convinced it's one of the better deep dish pizzas in Chicago.
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