So, I know it may be a little cliche to talk about the weather here in Chicago, but last night, Pizza Club was treated to a delightful evening of mid to high thirties with light wind and crisp, clear air as we rode to Lakeview. Our Pizza Palace this week was a shop that has a few titles and goes by a few names, but is most easily known as Panino's. This Wrigley/Boystown eatery is on Waveland, between Halsted and Broadway, though the address is technically 3702 North Broadway. It's a cozy little spot with warm lighting and pleasant two and four-top tables in a fair sized dining area. In fact, the environment was further complimented by the fact that we walked into a birthday party for a one year old; giant novelty balloons and all. It seemed to be prior to any kind of dinner crowd as it was about 5:30 when we arrived. We were promptly seated at a cozy four-top in the corner away from the happy family celebration. The service was really nice overall; present, not overbearing, and knowledegable. Upon hearing the discussion between Soup and myself about beer, he suggested an imported Italian beer that they carry by the name of Collessi. They had three varieties in 750 mL bottles: a lager, an amber, and a stout. True to our drinking nature, ordered the stout to split between us: the Imper Ale - Nera. It was a tasty treat indeed, lighter mouthfeel than a lot of bigger bolder stouts, a very deep red color when held to the light, a sweet light malt taste, but enough body to still qualify as a stout. The bread/oil/parm starter that was brought out first was also pretty killer. The bread was almost like a sliced focaccia; very light and airy with a good crust and lots of flavor. Great way to get our stomachs in shape for the main event...
So, this week we opted to go with two different pizzas. In weeks past we had been a little ambitious with over ordering and bringing leftovers back home (always a bonus for roommates and girlfriends). We thought maybe this week we should be a little more modest, especially after eating a good amount of the bread prior to the actual meal. The first pizza we ordered was in a style based on the Neapolitan style; a thin and crispy yet chewy hand-stretched dough, lightly charred to perfection. We decided as we had not had a pizza with red sauce in weeks to try and keep this week a little more traditional, so we went with the ever classic Margherita. I have to say, I've had a lot of classic pizzas, but this pie was killer! The tomatoes were subtle yet fantastic. Lots of flavor and incredibly fresh. The mozzarella was honestly some of the best I've ever had (in your face Bar Toma!). This stuff put me in some sort of euphoric paradise that allowed my tastebuds to prance about free of the bonds of the rest of my body and roll in the playground of fresh ingredients that honestly make a classic pizza taste like something new.
The second pizza ordered was at the other end of the Italian spectrum: the mighty Sicilian Pan! This pizza is usually noted by a thicker dough, often cooked in a pan, taking significantly longer than does the Neapolitan. It timed very well to order one of each, the Margherita was just being polished off when the Sicilian came to join us. We often like to lean on the idea of house specialty pizzas, but this week we opted to construct our own marinara monstrosity. Jeremy wanted Italian Sausage while Jason was feeling Artichokes, so the easy answer was to throw both on there. Hooray for compromise, and not the kind that ends up causing you tears, apology letters, and maybe therapy... So, anyway, about this pizza... The dough was thick, but impossibly light and chewy with a crispy crust around the pan. The sauce was a little sweet with a touch of basil and oregano to give it a little zest without drowning out the tomato. Definitely made fresh in house. Now, as for the artichoke/sausage combo, it was freaking awesome! The sausage was super savory and seasoned, with good sized chunks that honestly paired better with the artichoke than I could have imagined. It was seriously superb and filled every last little bit of our respective stomachs. A pleasant but not overfilled feeling with three extra slices. Pizza Euphoria.
In summary, this little piece of a three part chain had a commitment to fresh ingredients and handmade treats that paid off for me in a big way. It fills a great place in a part of this city with a lot of different food options. A great spot for a casual date; intimate yet without pretense. Also, for me, it was a great way to warm myself up for a night filled with Doom Metal from seasoned sludge vets from Eugene, Oregon: YOB, who played a great show last night at Chicago's own Empty Bottle. A great way to spend a Wednesday night, satisfying my senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and sound!