House of Cakes: Skippable Slice or Hidden Chicago Pizza Gem?
House of Cakes
6189 N Canfield Road, Chicago, IL 60631 (map); (773) 774-0440
Getting There: Drive
Pizza Style: Bakery
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Extremely oily bakery pizza falls short of delicious
Price: Half a pan for $12
In the days before the interwebs were invented, there was a good chance I never would have heard of a place like House of Cakes, a small Italian-leaning bakery located about as far northwest as you can go without leaving Chicago's city limits. But a couple of months ago, I came across this thread on LTH Forum, the invaluable Chicago food message board. The focus of the thread was on the cheese sticks at the bakery, but when I saw that they had pizza, I was excited at the prospect of finding a hidden gem.
Unfortunately, two things went wrong on my visit. First, they were out of cheese sticks, which I've heard are made of a wonderfully crisp, flaky crust filled with a lightly sweetened cheese similar to what's found in cannoli. They sound delicious, and now that I've figured out that House of Cakes is right off the highway on the way to O'Hare, I suspect I'll get back there to give them a try. The second disappointment, much more pertinent to Slice, is that the pizza I tried was pretty mediocre.
There are two styles of pizza available at House of Cakes. More accurately, there is one style, served in two shapes. The thick bakery pies are sold in approximately 8-inch circles and in much larger rectangles (whole pans and half pans). All of the pizzas sit out at room temperature and the possible toppings are limited to a select group of vegetables, mainly mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and artichokes. I went on a Sunday and got there not long before their noon closing time. Faced with limited choices, I went with half a pan of cheese pizza.
The cheese was ordinary commercial mozzarella and the sauce was perfectly fine, though unexciting. These two merely to complement the thick, extremely soft crust. The quality of the bread was fine, but it was not really a top-tier bakery slice.
The highlight of the pizza was a ridiculously generous pour of olive oil. Not only were there pools of it on top of the pizza, but the oil actually went through the thick crust and soaked the cardboard that the pie was served on. Due to the sheer quantity of oil relative to the cheese and sauce, this was effectively an olive oil flavored pizza. Tasty enough, but it's not a slice that's worth going out of your way to try.