Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. --The Mgmt.
1400 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607 (map); (312) 850-0303; onesixtyblue.com
Getting There: Green or Pink Line to Ashland
Pizza Style: Grilled
The Skinny: Creative rendition of a Margherita falls short thanks to soft crust and overly smoky flavor
Like other pizza addicts, if I see a pizza on a menu, barring extraordinary circumstances, I'm going to give it a shot. Most of the time, that's a fairly obvious decision, since pizza is typically served in pizzerias and eating pizza is the purpose of the visit. But my pie-addiction really shows itself when I'm at a restaurant where pizza not the focal point. If there's a pizza, I've gotta have it.
A few weeks ago, I headed to one sixtyblue in order to try their burger for A Hamburger Today. Chef Michael McDonald is a very talented chef, and the burger was excellent. Unfortunately, though McDonald shows impressive creativity, his pizza comes up short of delicious.
There is only one pizza at one sixtyblue and it's only available in the bar. The pie is a twist on a traditional Margherita that comes with fresh homemade mozzarella and a smoked tomato sauce. The wood-grilled crust had, I thought, strong and weak points. I really liked the gentle flavor imparted from the burning wood. But the texture was just too soft for my taste.
The housemade mozzarella on this pizza was a highlight, though I'm not sure I've ever eaten bad freshly made mozzarella. The basil was straight from the restaurant's backyard garden and was a nice addition. But the pizza lost me with its smoked heirloom tomato sauce. I'm a big fan of smoked food, so conceptually, I like the idea of incorporating smoked tomato into a pizza sauce. But the smoke not only dominated the tomatoes; it overwhelmed the mozzarella, basil, and bread. There was just too much smoke for this pizza to handle.
While I was not a big fan of the pizza, I think McDonald could be on to something here. I suspect that someone else is making pizza with a smoked tomato sauce, but so far this is the only one I've encountered. I'd love to see a pizza incorporating a slightly more subdued sauce, or a variation on this pie with some stronger-flavored toppings to balance it out. Have any of you come across a great pizza with a sauce made from smoked tomatoes?