Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. —The Mgmt.
225 Harrison Street Oak Park, IL 60304 (map); (708) 358-8555; trattoria225.com
Getting There: Blue Line to Austin
Pizza Style: Thin
Oven Type: Wood
The Skinny: At first glance, everything seems to be in place for excellent pizza; first glance is very wrong.
Price: 11" pies range from $13 to $16
Oak Park, the picturesque suburb just west of Chicago, has a lot going for it: Tons of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (he lived there), fantastic schools, relatively stable economic and social diversity, and a downtown that looks like it was borrowed from a movie set designed to glamorize small town America. But the question remained whether the proudly liberal town has delicious pizza. To find the answer, I headed to Trattoria 225.
Opened in 2007 and recently sold to new owners, Trattoria 225 shows many of the signs of being a great pizzeria. The pies are cooked in a wood-burning oven that holds steady at 685 degrees. Even more promising is the fact that they grow much of their produce in their rooftop garden. Nifty ovens and homegrown produce would seem to indicate a level of commitment to quality that results in a delicious pizza. And perhaps there are nights when the pizza there is delicious. But on my recent visit, that was decidedly not the case.
The first pizza I tried was the Margherita. The sauce dominated the pie and that was not a good thing. Made in-house from tomatoes from the rooftop garden, the sauce seemed unseasoned with possible exception of sugar. A sauce made from tomatoes can be delicious, but either they overcooked the sauce or are using particularly not juicy tomatoes because the sauce just way too pasty. The medallions of fresh mozzarella were not that much better as they were particularly resistant to a clean bite.
The second pie I sampled was The Goat, which features roasted red peppers, sausage, goat cheese, basil pesto, and the "house cheese." I liked this pie more, but it did not particularly excite me. In fairness, roasted red peppers are not my favorite and they provided the dominant flavor, so big fans of those might like this pie more than I did. The pesto, which seems to have been applied by the ladle, was refreshingly mild. The sausage was present in tiny crumbles that had been cooked into submission. I actually forgot about the sausage and did not realize it was on there until someone pointed it out after I'd had a slice.
The most disappointing part of the pizza was the crust, which was abnormally chewy and completely devoid of flavor. I don't eat the end crusts of my slices once or twice a year at most, but that's what happened at Trattoria 225. Oddly, around the outer edge and on the bottom, there are a number of little holes dotting the crust. The going theory my table was that holes were poked to limit air bubbles. But that would be a decidedly silly thing to do with a wood burning pizza and doesn't do much to explain the holes on the bottom. Do any breadsmiths out there have any theories?
Needless to say, barring a glowing report from a source I trust, I will not make a return to trip to Trattoria 225. I haven't given up on Oak Park though. Surely any town that can produce Betty White can also put out a delicious pizza.
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