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.
Apart Pizza Company
2205 W. Montrose, Chicago IL 60618 (map); 773.588.1550
Getting There: Brown Line to Montrose Avenue, walk 3 blocks west; or take #11 Lincoln Avenue bus to the corner of Lincoln and Montrose
Pizza Style: Neapolitanish, but not really
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: A thin crust pie that defies all categories other than delicious.
Price: $6 to $6.50 for a 10-inch pizza
Until last night, every time I had eaten near the corner of Montrose and Lincoln in Lincoln Square on the north side of Chicago, I had gone to Taqueria El Asadero (reviewed here on Serious Eats). For those unaware, as good and varied as the pizza offerings are in Chicago, the Mexican food may be even better. And El Asadero, home of arguably the best carne asada in the city, is all but impossible to pass up with an empty stomach. But on this snowy evening, I headed to Apart Pizza Company determined resist the siren call of fresh carne asada two doors away. I was glad I did.
The first thing I noticed about Apart was that virtually no thought seemed to go into the design of the place. The result is not a charming little hole-in-the-wall, but rather a pizza kitchen with a couple of tables. Apart is overwhelmingly a carry-out and delivery pizzeria. There is one counter at the window looking out at Welles Park and three or four small tables. The pizzas are served on cardboard disks and we were not offered plates. And all of this irrelevant to the quality of the pizza, which were very good.
Apart offers 23 combinations of toppings. There is no list of toppings on the menu for a build-your-own option. The pizzas are divided into two categories, Italian Basic Pies and Apart Signature Pies. All are offered in 10, 14, and 18 inches, with the small ones priced at $6 for the basic and $6.50 for the signature pizzas. In an effort to maximize variety, we tried three different 10-inch pies, the APART, the Quattro Formaggi, and the Capricosa.
The first pizza to come out of the three-deck Blodgett oven was the APART, the restaurant's eponymous pie, which comes with sausage, fresh champignons, and pepperoni. The sausage came in moderate-sized crumbles and was full of fat and fennel; very high quality. The pepperoni was better than Hormel but with very few exceptions, pepperoni is just not going to be particularly good. The fresh mushrooms were very good and stood up well to the salty meat. The crust was, like a good Neapolitan pizza, paper thin in the middle and a bit soggy.
But unlike Neapolitan pies, that get considerably wider toward the outer edge, Apart's pizzas don't get much thicker, which is more in line with traditional Chicago thin crust pies. The owner, Torsten Reiss, was born in Germany and lived there until he was 10 when his family moved to Bolzano-Bozen, a heavily German province at the far northern edge of Italy. According to Apart, the pizza they serve is the same type served in Bolzano. If anyone has experience eating in that part of the world, please elaborate in the comments.
The second pizza was the Quattro Formaggi, which included two slices each of goat, parmesan, bleu and brie. There was also mozzarella on the whole pie, but apparently it does not count as a cheese. Aside from the brie, which I am a fan of on its own but didn't quite work on this pizza, I was a big fan of the four-cheese pie. All of the cheeses had strong distinct flavors that came through, but none were so strong that they overpowered the sauce. Speaking of which, the sauce is made from imported Italian tomatoes (the brand was Mama Francesca) and is thin and slightly sweet. I did not notice too much additional seasoning in it, but the flavor was excellent and it was never overpowered by the toppings on any of the pizzas.
The final pizza was the Capricosa, which comes with ham, artichoke hearts, and fresh champignons. Like the other two pizzas, this one came with a lot of cheese for such a thin crust, another feature much more akin to Chicago thin crust than Neapolitan style. The ham was a bit of a disappointment in its blandness. The mushrooms were delicious and the lightly seasoned (pickled?) artichoke hearts were a real treat. If the ham were replaced with prosciutto, the Capricosa would have been an exceptional pizza. As it was, it was very good.
The crust on all three pizzas was consistent--good amount of chew with only a little char. It worked very well for dinner at the restaurant and for dessert at home a couple hours later.
Apart Pizza Company has shown a demonstrated commitment to supporting the arts. The company envisions itself as a patron of the arts and in that capacity has supported a variety of Chicago artists, musicians and theatre companies. I have heard that there was a partial shift in ownership recently, but was unable to confirm it and Reiss is still listed as the owner. It is unclear what impact that (or the economy) is having on Apart's support of local artists, but according to their website, they have not sponsored an event since April 5.
A few final notes worth mentioning. First, Apart has one of the more innovative delivery options around. You can arrange for Apart to pick up a DVD at Darkstar Video around the corner and they will bring you a movie with your pizza. Second, delivery is free and their delivery area is surprisingly large: from Diversey to Lawrence, and from Kimball to the lake. Third, there is a second location in Andersonville at 5624 N. Browadway.
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