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.

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It is always surprising when, in this information age of ours, a brilliant idea is not immediately replicated all over the country, if not the world. And when said brilliant idea has actually been around for decades and remains unique, I am at a complete loss. And so I write in complete and utter shock as I report on Marie's Pizza and Liquors on the northwest side of Chicago.

See, as the name suggests, Marie's is both a pizzeria and a liquor store. And while the restaurant has a full bar, patrons are allowed to head over to the liquor store and pick out a bottle of wine. The store sends the bottle to the bartender, who opens it (for a $2.50 corkage fee) and then pours glasses for your server to bring to your table. If someone can explain why this system has not become a model for pizzerias everywhere, I would appreciate it.

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Marie's has been an Albany Park institution since 1948, and does not appear to have been renovated for at least 30 to 40 years, if it ever was. From the red vinyl booths to the wood paneling to the faux chandeliers, the ambience at Marie's offers a unique treat that only adds to the pizza-eating experience. I went there on Saturday night, and, despite the fact that it was the rainiest day in the history of Chicago, Marie's was packed by the time we left.

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Marie's does sell thicker crust pies (not deep-dish thick, just thicker than their thin crust), but we stuck with thin crust. We ordered two pizzas, a half sausage–half pepperoni and a half veggie–half cheese. When the pizzas arrived, the second pizza was all veggie. Our waitress, who I'm guessing has worked there for some time, told us to keep the one she brought and that she would bring us a cheese pizza on the house. Free pizza equals good pizza.

I'm not sure how, but Marie's pizza is greasier than most. I can't blame the meat, since the pizzas that were animal-free were almost as greasy as the meat-covered one. Understand that when I say greasy, I am writing based on Chicago standard. I did not see a single person take a napkin and press down on the pizza as is common in New York City, nor would there be any need for such behavior. [Only wusses in NYC splotch the grease with napkins! --The Mgmt.]

The pizza itself is very good. The crust is very thin and fairly crisp, though less crisp than the better Chicago thin-crust establishments. It has a good flavor and definitely stands up to the sauce, cheese, and toppings.

091608slice.jpgThe sauce was well-seasoned, though it seems to have more tomato paste than is typical. The vegetables on the veggie pizza were fresh, the pepperoni was of the same Hormel-quality that is consistently found on pizzas across the country, and the sausage had enough fennel to taste, but not much more.

Reading that description, I realize it may not seem like a ringing endorsement, but the pizza really was good, just not great. That said, for me the highlight of Marie's is the ambience (including the attached liquor store). If you happen to be in or near the neighborhood and want some good thin-crust pizza, it is worth checking out. It's just not worth going that far out of your way for.

Marie's Pizza & Liquor

4127 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago IL 60630 (near N. Kedvale Avenue; map); 773-685-5030

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