Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, 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.
Pat's Pizza has been in Lakeview on Chicago's north side for nearly 60 years, most of which was spent across the street from the Brew & View, which, with double features for $5 and a full bar, could well be the best movie theater in the history of mankind. Pat's was opened in 1950 by Nick Pianetto Sr., who was looking to supplement his truck-driving income. Before long, the truck driving income was no longer necessary.
After staying at the original location (which also served as the Pianetto's house) for about 55 years, Pat's apparently got an offer it couldn't refuse from a condo development a couple years ago and moved about half a mile southwest. The location is new, nicer, and no longer BYOB, but the pizza is still the same, and that's a very good thing. And it's still in the same family, now run by Nick Pianetto Jr.
Pat's does offer pan pizza, which I've had in the past and which is very good, but the reason to visit Pat's, and the reason it makes every serious list of the best pizzerias in Chicago, is for what may well be the best bar pizza (i.e., thin crust) in town. Many Chicago pizza aficionados swear by Vito and Nick's (reviewed here on Slice), and they do make exceptional pies that I would gladly eat daily, but Pat's is at least as good.
The crust at Pat's is exceptional. The thinner-than-a-cracker crust has a texture that I've never seen on pizza elsewhere. It is both crisp and flaky, almost like a cross between a cracker and phyllo—if you try, you can actually peel apart a couple of buttery paper-thin layers. The crust takes three days to make, which is somehow necessary to prevent the yeast from rising (I'm not a baker, I'm just repeating the company line).
On top of the crust is a thin layer of well-seasoned, not-too-sweet and not-too-tangy sauce. I would prefer more sauce, but that's a minor gripe. Get yours topped with sausage—a generous sprinkling of fennel-filled chunks made in house. Topped with a relatively thick layer of perfectly browned mozzarella, it's a combination that makes Pat's a must-try on any serious pizza tour of Chicago.
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