2207 N. Clybourn Avenue, Chicago IL 60614 (map); 773-327-1512 pequodspizza.com
Pizza Style: Deep Dish
The Skinny: Excellent pizzas with trademark caramelized crust are taken to another level with extra cheese and sauce
Price: 12" deep dish pizzas start at $12.95
Notes: Second location in Morton Grove; thin crust pizzas are also available
I could spend weeks putting together a list of Chicago pizzerias that I could describe with the phrase, "I'd be happy eating there regularly." But a much shorter list is one of pizzas that are truly crave-worthy; pies that make my mouth water whenever I think of them. Pequod's is one of those places.
Pequod's has been satisfying pizza cravings in Morton Grove since pizza genius Burt Katz opened the place in 1970. Fifteen years later, Katz sold the place (and he's since opened the more widely-acclaimed Burt's Place), but Pequod's continues to thrive under current owner Keith Jackson. Today, Pequod's has a second location in Lincoln Park, which I visited for this review, and next year the Morton Grove location is going to move into a massive new building.
The chunky, juicy sauce is a shade on the sweet side, but not distractingly so. There's some generic Italian herbiness going on, primarily oregano, but it's secondary to the rich tomato explosion atop the pizza. The cheese is a well-melted and gooey commercial mozzarella. Both the sauce and cheese are applied with a fair amount of restraint for typical deep dish pizza.
There is no restraint involved with the massive hunks of sausage scattered all over the pizza. There is no fennel to speak of, which is usually a big no-no in my book, but these crisp and tender chunks of juicy pork are loaded with flavor . This simple sausage pizza, about as basic a pie as you can get at Pequod's, is a great pizza. However, the thick bottom crust leaves the pizza slightly unbalanced. Fortunately, with a couple easy ordering twists, the pizza elevates from merely delicious to truly extraordinary.
Earlier I mentioned the restrained hand used to put cheese and sauce on the pizza. Pequod's offers a wonderful remedy for that restraint; it is one of the few pizzerias I've encountered that has extra sauce and extra cheese listed among the available toppings. If you want a pizza that is almost hedonistic, ask for both. It makes the pizza a bit more cumbersome, but surprisingly more balanced.
I went with pepperoni, onion and garlic (plus extra sauce and cheese) on a second, more ambitious pizza. In larger quantities, the sweetness of the sauce is a bit more at the forefront, so more potent toppings like garlic and onion are the key to balancing out the whole pie. The pepperoni is run-of-the-mill salty stuff that's perfectly satisfying but not close to on par with the sausage.
The crust at Pequod's is unquestionably the most distinctive and arguably the best component of the pizza. I imagine some will look at the above photo and say the pizza is burned. I'd encourage those people to resist judging what they have not tasted. When the pizza is placed into the pan, extra cheese is placed between the back of the crust and the well-seasoned, decades-old cast iron pans. This is a trademark left over from when Burt Katz owned Pequod's, and the result is a crispy and chewy piece of bread that might be the most satisfying deep dish pizza crust in Chicago.
There is nothing gourmet about the pizza at Pequod's. And there is no single ingredient I can point to as being close to the best in Chicago. But the way everything comes together at Pequod's, especially with extra sauce and cheese, makes for a ridiculously satisfying pizza that makes my mouth water every time it crosses my mind.