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.
Marcello's (Father & Son)
2745 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago IL 60647 (map); 773-275-7080; marcellos.com/
Getting There: Blue Line to Logan Square, walk 1/3 of a mile south on Milwaukee or take #56 Milwaukee Avenue Street bus to Sacramento
Pizza Style: Thin crust and pan/deep dish
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Classic Chicago thin crust is definitely worth a visit; deep dish/pan pies are an added bonus
Price: 14-inch thin and crispy pies start at $10.45; 12-inch pan/deep dish pizzas start at $13.95
Father & Son has been selling classic Chicago thin crust pies in Logan Square since it first opened in 1947 at the corner of Diversey and Whipple. Seven years later, 24-year-old Marshall Bauer became the pizzeria's third owner, and the restaurant has truly been a family affair ever since. Upon taking over, Bauer was guided in the ways of the pizza business by family members who owned Rossi's, a southside pizzeria. A few years later, Bauer brought his father into the business, where he would stay until he passed away 30 years later. In 1962, the restaurant was doing so well that Father & Son relocated to the larger Milwaukee Avenue location I visited for this review. Today, the company is still in the Bauer family, with Marshall's son Bill in charge of day-to-day operations. Marshall's other son, Jay, runs Nation Pizza Products, which makes frozen pizzas and related products. Marshall Bauer remains the CEO and Chairman of both companies. His third son, Jack, is not directly involved with either company, but he does keep the pizza-eating world safe by fighting terrorists.
In addition to the Logan Square location, there is a huge restaurant and banquet hall on the border of Old Town and Lincoln Park as well as a new place (2 years old) in the northern suburb of Northbrook. Twelve years ago, Father & Son added a catering division it dubbed Marcello's, a name the company applied to its pizzerias two years ago. While the name has changed, the pizza is still very good and understandably popular. And between the catering business and three spread out pizzerias, Marcerllo's serves the entire Chicago area. They were the first or one of the first pizzerias in Chicago to offer delivery and today, they make between 8,000 and 10,000 deliveries per week.
Marcello's offers three different styles of pizza: Thin and Crispy, New York Style and Pan/Deep Dish. My first pizza of the night was a Thin and Crispy, Marcello's original style, with mushrooms on the whole pie and sausage on half of it. As is common for tavern-cut pizzas, this one had a thin, cracker crust. It had some nice toasted flavor and more, importantly, a solid, crispy texture. That texture was necessary to balance the overflowing amounts of tangy, herbalicious sauce, the nice layer of whole milk mozzarella, the piles of fresh mushrooms and the large chunks of garlicy sausage.
Marcello's does not have the best thin crust pizza in Chicago. I actually don't think it's really in the discussion. But for really satisfying classic tavern-cut pizza, it's definitely worth checking out if you are in the slowly gentrifying neighborhood.
The New York Style is billed as being like the Thin and Crispy, but with a thicker crust, more sauce and more cheese. While New York slices do have a thicker crust than traditional tavern cut Chicago pies, they rarely have more cheese and, in my experience, never have more sauce. I was curious about their version of New York pizza, but opted for the pan/deep dish pizza instead.
I was intrigued by Marcello's categorization of pan/deep dish. I have noticed that the two terms are often used interchangeably in Chicago. In my mind, the distinction used to be pretty clear: deep dish had a thick crust, often made with some corn meal, and was topped with cheese and toppings with sauce on top; pan had thick flour crust (though not nearly as thick as deep dish) and was covered with toppings and sauce, all of which was topped with cheese. But there are so many variations of both styles the distinctions in my mind do not (and may never have) held true. It is certainly true that there are pizzerias that serve pies that fall under my definition of deep dish, but refer to them as pan pizzas. Marcello's does nothing to help clarify the situation.
The pan/deep dish pizza is what I think most people would refer to as deep dish, though the crust is a bit thinner than is common. Places like Uno's (reviewed here for Slice) and Lou Malnati's (reviewed here for Slice) offer the deep dish archetype with a thick crust, but there are plenty of places that offer the same construction, albeit on a thinner crust; Pizano's (reviewed here for Slice) and Burt's Place (reviewed here for Slice) jump to mind. The corn-meal infused crust at Marcello's is buttery and light. It is thin enough that eating multiple pieces in one sitting is easy, but flavorful and sturdy enough to stand up to generous amounts of sauce and cheese and, in this case, a pile of fresh shredded spinach. In addition to the mozzarella, Marcello's adds a nice serving of Parmesan on top of the pizza which gives the pies an added tang that I enjoyed, but could have done without.
The deep dish at Marcello's is good, but if you are going there for one pie, I'd recommend sticking with the Thin and Crispy that made them famous. And you may want to check out one of their dessert pizzas that I was too full to try. They offer both Hot Toffee Apple and Very Berry.