Serious Eats contributor Daniel Zemans 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.
4643 N. Broadway Street, Chicago IL 60640 (map); 773-271-2273
Getting There: Red Line to Wilson, walk 1 block north; or take #36 Broadway bus
Pizza Style: New York thin
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Solid option for Chicagoans seeking a New York pizza fix
Price: 9-inch slices range from $2.60 for cheese to $3.25 for sausage and pepperoni; additional toppings are 50 cents each.
Rumor has it that there are people in Chicago who occasionally crave a New York style pizza. I'm not talking about high-quality coal-oven pizzas, but rather the true New York style: the greasy, foldable slices that are available on every block in Manhattan, the style that all 472 iterations of Ray's put out on a daily basis. When people in Chicago want some of that kind of pizza love, their options are rather limited. Some of the more popular choices for best New York slice in Chicago are Santullo's in Wicker Park, Renaldi's and Cafe Luigi in Lakeview, and Gigio's Pizzeria which is where I went this week.
Gigio's was opened by the Buttitta family in 1965 after they moved to Chicago from Palermo, Italy. The original location was about 10 blocks south on Broadway. That neighborhood got a lot nicer and rents went up, so in 1993 John Buttitta moved the restaurant to a part of Uptown that does not appear headed for dramatic increases in property value any time soon. There are a few other Gigio's in the area, most notably one in Evanston, but the only Gigio's that is tied to the Uptown one is the D'Gigio's Pizza, which is far west on Belmont and also offers catering services.
Up first was a slice of cheese pizza that came on a very thin crust that had no chance standing up to the pile of Wisconsin mozzarella on top. The cheese was covered with droplets of grease, but there was not quite enough to create the pooling effect. There was some sauce on the pizza, but it was almost unnoticeable. I isolated some to give it a try and found it to be fairly unseasoned. The crust itself had a nice browning on the bottom and was chewy and crisp, but its role was more as an assistant to melted mozzarella than as the base of a solid piece of pizza. That's not to say the crust was bad at all - it has a nice freshly toasted flavor to it, but it just wasn't strong enough for all the cheese.
Other than the sauce, the slice of sausage pizza was better than the plain slice in every way. The sausage, which Buttitta says is house-made, was actually very good. It seemed fresh and had a good amount of fennel mixed in. There was a good amount of sausage spread all over the slice, which was particularly surprising given that a slice of sausage only costs a nickel more than its plain counterpart. The crust on the sausage pizza was a bit thicker than on my previous piece. I'm not sure if this was by design or not, but the thicker crust, which had a relatively nice hole structure, was much better at balancing out the cheese, which made for a better pizza-eating experience.
Gigio's can seat 28 people, but I think most of their business is carry-out and delivery. Gigio's is particularly popular late at night when the restaurant benefits from being close to the
The Riviera as well as a decent number of bars and independent theater companies. I've heard some complaints about their customer service, but I've never had a problem in my limited experience there. It's not often that I am in the mood for the style of pizza I ate too much of during my three years in New York, but whenever I'm in the mood for a grease-laden, soft-crusted piece of pizza in a dingy environment, Gigio's more than fills the role.