Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans 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.
3913 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago IL 60613 (map); 773-404-8955; pizzarusticachicago.com
Getting There: Red Line to Sheridan, walk 1/2 block south
Pizza Style: Roman
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Underappreciated Roman pizzeria serves up very good pies with crisp, oil-soaked crusts
Price: Slices start at $2.80
Notes: BYOB, but with $1.75/person fee
Wrigley Field is unmatched as a sporting venue for reasons that are too innumerable and unrelated to food to get into here. But for pizza lovers, I offer this irrefutable claim: there is no stadium in the world that comes close to matching Wrigley Field in terms of proximity to a diversity of high quality pizza. I have already written about numerous pizzerias that are within a half hour walk (1.5 miles) of Wrigley: Lou Malnati's (deep dish), Giordano's (stuffed), Pat's Pizza (Chicago style thin), and Ian's Pizza (thin with a tasty gimmick).
Adding to Wrigley's pizza diversity is Pizza Rustica, a cozy little pizzeria that sits just over two blocks north of Wrigley Field's right field corner. While owner Stefano Romano's restaurant is in the shadow of Wrigley Field, it is largely unaffected by its proximity to the stadium. The bars and restaurants that are frequented by the large party that accompanies virtually every home Cubs game are south and west of the stadium, so Pizza Rustica lives on as a quiet neighborhood restaurant.
Pizza Rustica cooks up Roman-style rectangular pies and offers them in slices as well as half and whole pies. All slices are made to order and each one is cut into six smaller pieces for easy eating and sharing. We ordered five slices, four of which were served together as one pie. Both the pie and the separate slice are served on pizza peels, which I thought made for a nice touch.
The golden crust on Pizza Rustica's pies are light, crispy and full of flavor thanks to the generous amount of olive oil. The sauce, which seems to be nothing more than crushed lightly sweet tomatoes, was refreshing and light. The cheese is nicely browned and has an enjoyable gooey texture. The toppings varied in quality.
The half pizza pictured above included two slices of the Tutta Pizza, and one each of the Margherita and the Quattro Stagioni . The Tutta features sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, black olives and bleu cheese. The Tutta was absolutely packed with flavor, particularly the bites that had bleu cheese. I was disappointed in the sausage, which appeared in tiny bits below the cheese and did not have any discernible flavor. Pepperoni, which I am normally not a big fan of, added some very good salty flavor and, because it was well-crisped, some great texture. The mushrooms had an okay flavor, but they were canned mushrooms and that is never a good thing.
The Margherita and the Quattro Stagione both suffered from the less than flavorful fresh tomatoes. The Stagione also was hurt by the same canned mushrooms that were on the Tutta. The artichoke and ham on the Stagione were both good and helped out that slice. But while both those pies had disappointing toppings, they were still pretty good slices of pizza thanks to the excellent crust. The approximately one-half inch thick crust was airy, but flavorful enough to stand up to and balance out the rest of the parts of the pizzas.
My favorite slice was the Patate Rosmarino, which featured some soft, perfectly cooked potatoes and some dried rosemary. I'm not sure if there's something particularly special about potato toppings on Roman pies, but I also loved the combination at I Monelli (reviewed here for Slice). The softness of the potato and cheese is well balanced by the crisp crust, and the blandness of the potato is solved by the rosemary and the olive oil in the crust.
It is worth noting that Pizza Rustica has a good-looking menu full of non-pizza items that I've heard good things about but never tried. Also, Pizza Rustica is BYOB, although they charge a $1.75 per person drinking fee.
I Monelli: Excellent Roman Pizza in Chicago
Lou Malnati's: Home of Flawless Deep Dish
Giordano's, a Stuffed Pizza Classic in Chicago
Pat's Pizza: House-made Sausage and a Perfect Crust Make One Great Pizza
Ian's Pizza: Built for Drunk College Students, But Good Enough for the Rest of Us