Serious Eats: Chicago
Santullo's Eatery: Satiating Chicago Hipsters' NY Pizza Fix
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.
1943 W. North Avenue, Chicago IL 60622 (map); 773-227-7960
Getting There: Blue Line to Damen; or take #72 North Avenue bus
Pizza Style: New York thin
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Better than average New York slices featuring a number of creative toppings combinations
Notes: In addition to whole pies, slices are readily available
Price: 20-inch specialty pies are $28; build-your-own pies start at $19.50; slices range from $3.25 to $4
The hipsters are starting to get angry in Wicker Park. Just a couple of decades after the almost exclusively Puerto Rican neighborhood was overrun by white alt rockers, artists and comic book readers, a fancier breed of Caucasian is taking over. The result is a lot more Starbucks and banks, and a lot fewer places like Swank Frank, the much missed spot that people went for their fried Twinkie fix. But all is not lost in the near-Northwest side neighborhood - the pizza scene remains strong.
In the heart of the Wicker Park/Bucktown area, at the intersection of North, Damen and Milwaukee, sits three popular pizzerias, each of which offers a distinctly different style of pizza. There's Piece, the New Haven style pizzeria reviewed here for Slice. Around the corner and about half a block away sits a Lou Malnati's, reviewed Lou Malnati's: Home of Flawless Deep Dish">here for Slice. In between the two is Santullo's Eatery, one of the city's top purveyors of New York pies.
Santullo's menu features 10 different specialty pizzas, along with a build your own option and individual slices. All pies are 20 inches across. I opted for the Spinach to Finish, which has baby spinach, oven roasted tomatoes, portabello mushrooms and Asiago cheese in addition to mozzarella and tomato sauce.
The vegetables were fresh and were well represented all over the pizza. The oven roasted tomatoes were particularly welcome since there could not possibly have been less sauce on the pizza without categorizing it as a white pie. The spinach, which seemed to be fresh, added good flavor without too much of the extra moisture that spinach can bring to a pizza. The portobellos added some heft to the pie as well as the nice meaty flavor that those mushrooms always bring.
The crust was a bit too chewy for my taste, but that may have been due to the 15 minutes between the pizza leaving the oven and when I ate it. Other than the slightly off texture, I really liked the crust - it had a nice flavor that was made even better by the sprinkling of some kind of flour (corn meal?) underneath it.
I wouldn't go out of my way to eat at Santullo's again, particularly with two better pizza options so close. But if I was in the neighborhood just looking for a slice, I'd be happy to drop in again, particularly if it was between 3:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon during the week when Santullo's sells slices of cheese, sausage and pepperoni for $2 each as part of their Pizza Happy Hour. That said, for those who are big fans of standard New York slices, Santullo's is the second best I've had in Chicago, behind only Gigio's (reviewed here for Slice).