#17 Gino’s East

May 26th, 2016

Chicago, IL

After a morning run to burn off some of that pizza from Pequod’s, we made our way downtown for our second pizza stop in Chicago, at Gino’s East. We were excited to try our second deep dish! We’d heard that the lines can get quite long here too, because it is one of the more tourist-y deep dish pizzerias, so we made sure to show up right before the doors opened. The restaurant itself is really unique because the bars, seats, and walls are all covered in graffiti from customers. It was really cool to look at, especially during the long wait for the pizza to come out (which took about an hour). We are really not used to having to wait so long for our pizza. We can see why so many people took to drawing on the walls.

Gino’s East was opened back in 1966, and they have been serving their signature deep dish pizzas the same way ever since.  The secret crust recipe is topped with mozzarella, toppings (we went with spinach and tomato), and then a tangy sauce, and is slowly baked in cast-iron pans. The sauce goes on top so that the cheese doesn’t burn! We didn’t think that the sauce OR the crust was as good as Pequod’s, but I’m sure you’ll find plenty of people in Chicago that disagree with us.

I mentioned the crust at Pequods in my last post, and I’m going to mention the crust of the deep dish here as well because I think that it is interesting to compare all of the different styles. This crust recipe was developed by the same woman who developed the crust at the original Pizzeria Uno (post to come!). The crust at Gino’s East is thick, and yellow-colored (probably food coloring…). Some people speculate that it is made of cornmeal, but that wouldn’t really make a crust that holds up to so many toppings.  More likely, it is a combination of cornmeal and corn oil. It actually tastes kind of like a thick biscuit instead of a dough.

If you want to know anything else about the recipe for the crust or the sauce, you are out of luck.The restaurant owners are notoriously secretive about what ingredients are used.

 

Instead, you’ll have to check out one of their locations around the US (in Texas, Arizona, and Wisconsin, as well as several locations around Chicago). OR you could get their pizza delivered to you! And while you are ordering yourself one, please send us one too.

 

To visit:
Gino’s East
162 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611

#15 Pequod’s

May 25th, 2016

Chicago, IL

The next stop on our Pizza Road Trip was Chicago. Since there were so many pizza places on the Daily Meal list that were in Chicago, we planned to stay in town for several days. We had a cute Airbnb in West Town, some friends to see, and lots to do and see in between eating ALL THE PIZZA. It was our first time in Chicago and we didn’t want to waste a minute!

We were a little surprised when we saw that all of the Chicago pizzas on the Daily Meal list weren’t deep dish! After hearing how filling a deep dish pizza could be, we strategically planned so that we only were eating one deep dish per day. On our first night in town, we decided to try our first deep dish while also meeting up with a friend from high school for dinner.

We chose our first deep dish to be at Pequod’s.  Knowing that we were in for a big meal, I talked Eric into walking to the restaurant from our Airbnb, which was only about 2.5 miles or so. Well, about 15 minutes into our walk it started downpouring.  We were going to be late for dinner if we stopped, so we just kept walking with our one, useless, umbrella.

We were soaked by the time we got to Pequod’s, but at least we weren’t late! We had about a 45 minute wait to dry off before we were even seated, but we did get to stand indoors. Eventually, the three of us got a booth and we ordered a deep dish pie with spinach and onions. It was clear why there was such a long wait to be seated – deep dish pizzas take FOREVER to cook. We were probably waiting another 45 minutes for this pizza to come out of the oven.

I’ll get more into some details of the differences between deep dish pizza styles in the next posts, but I have to mention the crust on this pizza. This is what really makes Pequod’s deep dish stand out from some of the others. You can see in the picture above that the crust looks almost burnt. It doesn’t taste burnt, though, it tastes delicious. That crisp comes from extra cheese that is placed between the back of the pizza and the well-seasoned cast iron pans, which “caramelizes”. The bottom crust is dense and thick, and it makes for a wonderful base to the heavy amount of sauce. We were a little hesitant about the onions being cut so thick, but they actually complemented the sauce really well.

You have to eat this pizza with a knife and fork, as much as it pained us to do so. We had no problem finishing the whole pizza between the three of us, though. Whoever said that you would be full for hours after eating just one slice was definitely lying. Or they just hadn’t met people like us, with bottomless pizza stomachs.

I’m not sure if it was because we had to wait so long for it, or because we were so wet and tired, but we knew when we left Pequod’s that the other pizzas in Chicago had a lot to live up to. I think the wait is part of the experience here. It ended up being our favorite of all of the deep dish pies that we tried.

To visit:

Pequod’s
2207 N. Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

#91 Zaffiro’s

May 25th, 2016

Milwaukee, WI

Our last pizza stop in Milwaukee was one of the classics – Zaffiro’s. Zaffiro’s has been making pizza since the 1950’s, and it has a solid following in the city. It was predominately a bar when it opened, but it was able to expand into the shop next door in the 70’s and it has stayed in the same location ever since, with the same family as owners.

Again, this is Milwaukee-style pizza, and had a super thin cracker crust. The crust holds up to the cheese and toppings here, and there was plenty of both. There was more cheese on this pizza than there had been at Pizza Man, and the cheese layer was definitely thicker than the crust itself.

We ended up choosing to order the “EBF” or “Everything but Fish” pizza. It came with both pepperoni and sausage, mushrooms, peppers, and onions. Also, black olives, which we picked off. I guess we could have ordered it without olives, but we really don’t like to be difficult, and we already had requested that the meat stay on one side of the pizza.

So, the big question is obviously: which pizza did we like better? We both gave the slight edge to Pizza Man. Mainly because it felt fresher and had more unique topping combinations. If you are looking for the traditional pizza (with the Milwaukee-style crust), then Zaffiro’s is where you should go.

There are now offshoots of Zaffiro’s pizza around Wisconsin and neighboring states. Similar to the abundance of Patsy’s around NYC, these seem to be related somehow to the original and they bake similarly-styled pizzas. However, they also have a different website from the original Zaffiro’s that we went to. We’d be interested to see how the other Zaffiro’s Pizzeria & Bar compares.

If anyone is really up for a challenge, those alternate Zaffiro’s have a good one: the “Big Z” challenge.  (Or at least this was going on last year – they may have discontinued it by now). I think that Eric and I could have finished 4 square feet of pizza, especially with that thin crust. But that would have had to be its own road trip.

Also, according to this article, the average person eats 46 pieces of pizza per year. Um, I think we are wayyy past that….

To visit:

Zaffiro’s
1724 North Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202

#90 Pizza Man

May 24th, 2016

Milwaukee, WI

After lunch in Minneapolis, we hopped in the car again for the 5 1/2 hour drive over to Wisconsin. We only had to make one stop on the way into Wisconsin – for cheese, of course! We pulled in to town just in time for dinner.

The first stop on our pizza list in Milwaukee was Pizza Man. We were still a little full from the great pizzas at Pizzeria Lola, so we were glad to see that these were thin crust pies. We ended up splitting the Avantgardener pizza, which was topped with eggplant, ricotta, and peppers, and also a brussels sprouts salad.

If we lived in Milwaukee, this would be on our most-visited restaurant list. The pizza is good, but we’d also go for the wine list and to sit outside on the second floor deck. We obviously didn’t go to the pre-2010 location that was destroyed in a fire, but we love what they’ve done with the new restaurant since they re-opened in 2013. Especially the giant wine bottle chandelier that we wish we could recreate in our house.

This thin crust-style pizza is called “Milwaukee-style”, unsurprisingly. Over here on the East coast, we rarely see pizzas cut into squares like this. In the Midwest, this is really a thing.

We are both history dorks (although me more so than Eric), so of course I needed to look up why and how this cracker-thin crust started. As it turns out, pizza first came to Milwaukee in 1945, at a restaurant called the Caradaro Club. The two owners decided to combine the round, Neapolitan style and the square, Sicilian style, and this is what they came up with. It is easier to eat while drinking beers than slices, and so this style of cutting is also known as a “tavern cut”. You can read more about this here, if you are interested.

Milwaukee-style pizza also typically has a sweet sauce that is spread just so that it covers the crust. It is usually, but not always, topped with shredded mozzarella cheese. It was a little surprising how many pizzas were cheese-less, considering Wisconsin is known as the Dairy State. The crust reminded us a little bit of Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis, or Tappo Thin Crust in NYC, although neither of those is cut “tavern style”. The thin crust was really appreciated by our waistlines, because this was pizza #5 in three days (and there was plenty more to come).

We followed up our pizza dinner with a quick tour of some of Milwaukee’s breweries. We really wanted to try this beer, but after a bit of Google searching, we realized that the brewery was closed. We went to Lakefront Brewery, though, and also found ourselves in the Sugar Maple bar, which had an excellent selection of beers on tap.

 

To visit:

Pizza Man
2597 N Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Lately around NYC…

We’re doing something a bit different today and interrupting our stories from our Epic Pizza Roadtrip last year. Although we haven’t been flying around the country for pizza this summer, we’ve been exploring our hometown of NYC, and all of the amazing pizza that it has to offer. So, we thought we’d give you a look in more detail at the pizzas we have been tasting the last couple of months.

June 28th
Farinella Bakery, Manhattan

We decided to check out Farinella Bakery after hearing a recommendation from my cousin, who lives nearby. We went to the location in East Midtown, since we didn’t feel like hiking all the way up the Upper East Side. This was Eric’s first time trying this Roman-style of pizza (I had tried this in Stockholm). The pizzas are called “palams”, and you can order them whole or by the slice. We decided to order a variety of slices. Our favorite was the Caprese and the Felice, which had burrata, arugula, and parmesean. The slices are a bit pricey, but they are delicious.

July 5th
NY Pizza Suprema, Manhattan

Where has this slice joint been hiding all of our lives and why isn’t it on the Daily Meal list? Please, can someone answer that question? I walked by this place every week on my walk from PennStation and never noticed it (which may be because I walked by at 6 am, when there was no line out the door). Anyway, we finally made it. We tried the Margherita, an upside down, and a marinara slice. We say it is worth fighting the Penn Station crowds at the end of the day to get some slices here. There will be a line, but it moves fast!

 

July 26th
Tappo, Manhattan

We wanted to switch it up one day and headed up to Tappo. This place was PACKED for lunch. These pizzas have seriously thin crusts, almost like a cracker. It was a nice, light lunch, but the personal sized pizzas wouldn’t have been enough for us for dinner. We also had an order of the bruschetta. We tried the ‘shroomtown pizza and also a Formaggio Blanco with arugula. You really should make sure you like mushrooms before you get the ‘shroomtown.

It’s located in prime location for a business lunch rush, and they have great lunch specials, but if thin crust is your thing, this place should be on your list.

 

July 29th
Pizza Barn, Yonkers

One Saturday, we were going to head to Philly but our plans changed last minute. We decided to drive up into Yonkers to Pizza Barn, home of the “super slice”, which is just over 2 feet long. One “super slice” costs $12, and it was PLENTY to feed both of us.  They actually cut the slice into smaller “slices” for you.

We kind of wished that they hadn’t cut it at all because it would have been fun to eat uncut. In full disclosure: this isn’t a real “slice” of pizza. They make it on a baking sheet, one “slice” at a time. It has a full crust around it when they bake it, but then they cut the side crusts off to shape it into a “slice”. But don’t worry – we asked, and they use the discarded crust for breadcrumbs.

August 2nd, 2017
Don Antonio, Manhattan

Don Antonio is operated by the same chef and owner of Kesté, and we could see the similarities between the two Neapolitan pizzas. Don Antonio is located up in Midtown, and we were worried about the crowds when we went in for dinner one night after work, especially since the restaurant is tiny. We luckily grabbed seats at the bar. We tried the Margherita here, and one of the Rachetta, which is part pizza-part calzone, but we didn’t get to try the fried pizza. We liked the hint of salt on the crust. Don’t try to go here with a crowd, it is very tight inside.

Let us know if we haven’t made it to your favorite NYC pizza yet! We’ve got a list going and are always looking for some new options!

#60 Pizzeria Lola

May 24th, 2016

Minneapolis, MN

Next on our very detailed Epic Pizza Road Trip itinerary was Pizzeria Lola, in Minneapolis. We stopped here for lunch on our way out of town, after a nice morning of running around the lake and visiting a nearby waterfall. Minnesota is so pretty, and we only got to see one of the 10,000 lakes!

We were expecting Pizzeria Lola to be just another Neapolitan pizzeria, but we were pleasantly surprised by the menu. The pizzeria was started by Ann Kim, who left the west coast and a former career as an actress to become a pizzaiola (making her one of the only females that we’ve come across to do this!) She also merges her Korean heritage and food culture into the pizzas that she creates. The menu is one of the most creative that we’ve come across, probably only bested by some of the newer Neapolitan restaurants in LA and NYC.

We tried the Korean BBQ pizza, which had beef short ribs and arugula and was covered in a soy chili dressing. The arugula was dressed so perfectly and the dressing provided just enough sweetness that this really worked on the pizza. This is probably still one of our favorite and one of the most interestingly-topped pizzas that we’ve tried. We also tried one of the “Old Reliable” pizzas, which was essentially just a regular cheese. The wood-fired crust on these was almost Neapolitan, but it wasn’t quite as fluffy, and it was more like a NY-style crust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Um, also, they have homemade soft serve.  I’m not sure it can get any better.

Next time we find ourselves in Minneapolis (not exactly sure when that will be) we want to check out Ann Kim’s newest restaurant, Young Joni, which just got ranked as one of Eater’s 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

To visit:

Pizzeria Lola
5557 Xerxes Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55410

#79 Punch Neapolitan Pizza

May 23, 2016

St. Paul, MN

After our second night in St. Louis, and our spur-of-the-moment trip to Memphis, we left bright and early for the drive to St. Paul/Minneapolis. This was one of our longer drives – about 8 hours north. We got in to St. Paul for dinner before checking in to our AirBnB.

Punch Neapolitan Pizza was the first stop on our list. They make true, Neapolitan-style pies that are quickly baked in a 900-degree oven. We went with the “Margherita Extra” pizza. This is a step up from the traditional margherita pizza because it is topped with mozzarella di bufala (fancy words for “buffalo mozzarella”, or mozzarella from an Italian breed of water buffalo). We should have had a taste test to compare with the regular margherita pizza (which I’m assuming was regular cow’s milk mozzarella, although I’m not really sure about this). We really liked the taste of this cheese, but we’d need to compare it side-by-side with regular mozz to tell if it’s worth the extra $5.

To round out our pizza, we also got an arugula salad that was served in a warm pita. We felt like we needed some vegetables to go along with our pizza, and this salad was awesome. We highly recommend trying it.

The pizza itself was good, but it wasn’t our favorite Neapolitan. It wasn’t as good as Hog & Hominy (but, yes, that wasn’t a VERIFIED Neapolitan pizza). On average, we find traditional Neapolitan pizzas too thin and flimsy. They can get a little watery with too many toppings or thin sauce. We definitely appreciated the freshness of the mozzarella and tomato sauce, and we like the taste of a doughy crust, but we also need our crust to have some weight. So, Punch gets points for staying true to its style, but loses some for letting the fancy mozzarella slide off the crust when we picked it up.

Another plus: the location that we went to had a really nice patio outside, which was so enjoyable after sitting in a car for 8 hours.

Fun fact learned while writing this post: Did you know that to make 2.2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, you need 18 pounds of cow’s milk, but only 11 pounds of buffalo milk? If you want to know more about buffalo mozzarella, this article was really fascinating.

To visit:

Punch Neapolitan Pizza
704 Cleveland Ave S
St Paul, MN 55116

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#59 Hog & Hominy

May 22, 2016

Memphis, TN

Picking up the story from my last post, we were staying in St. Louis and cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals, who were losing, on the first weekend of our epic pizza road trip. We were getting a little bored of the game and Eric had an amazing idea: we should drive down to Memphis!

Memphis has one pizza place on the 101 list, Hog & Hominy, and we weren’t planning on hitting it during this road trip. However, Eric pointed out that it was only a 4 hour drive from St. Louis, and it would save us a weekend of flying. If we left right then (it was around 3 pm), we’d be down there just in time for dinner. That sounded like a lot of driving to me, but Eric volunteered to do all of the driving so I couldn’t say no.

   

Of course, on our way into Memphis we had to stop at Graceland. We couldn’t really be tourists because Graceland had already closed for the day, but we got to stand outside and peer over the stone wall. We took a couple of pictures and then drove down to the restaurant.

Hog & Hominy is known for their wood-fired pizzas, but their other Southern-inspired vegetable and pork-based menu items also get rave reviews. We started out with the poutine (we were hungry!) and then moved on to two pizzas – the Prewitt, with fontina, mozzarella, sausage, and scrambled egg, and a Margherita. We really loved both of these. The “Prewitt” was the most interesting combination on a pizza that we’d had so far, and we do love egg on a pizza. The crust was also one of the best Neapolitan-style crusts that we’d had, being the perfect amount of fluffy and also having a nice char around the edge. Not too much cheese and not too much sauce to weigh the crust down – just how we like it!

Eric liked these pizzas so much that Hog & Hominy made it into his top 20. I ended up ranking it at a decent #36.

Their other pizzas all have really interesting combinations of toppings, too! If we were ranking some of the most unusual and delicious combinations of toppings on pizza, Hog & Hominy would be pretty high up on both of our lists. For example, the “Red Eye” is topped with pork belly, egg, fontina, celery leaf, and sugo and the “When I was in Tuscany” has tomato sauce, gorgonzola, spicy pork sausage, and fried capers. We could have tried all of them if we weren’t looking forward to 10 more days of eating pizza on this road trip.

Can we also just say how cute this restaurant was? It was very homey and rustic. They also have an outdoor patio and I’ve seen around the internet that they have bocce too, but I can’t personally confirm that because it was after 8 pm by the time we got there and we weren’t going to be playing bocce in the dark!

We were glad to have made it to Memphis for this pizza, although it would have been nice to explore the city a bit more. We drove through downtown on our way out and it was pretty raving and the neon lights were intense. Luckily, it was *only* a short 4 hour drive back to our hotel. 🙂 Maybe we will make it back there in the future.

To visit:

Hog & Hominy
707 W. Brookhaven Circle
Memphis, TN 38117

#81 Pi Pizza

May 22nd, 2016

St. Louis, MO

It was easy for us to drive around the Northeast to try the pizzas on the Daily Meal list. We took the opportunity to fly to the West Coast to visit friends, and drove down to Florida to visit Eric’s brother. So, that just left the Midwest. And there were A LOT of pizza places in the Midwest. There were a couple of problems here:

  1. We didn’t have money to fly every weekend to a different city in the Midwest.
  2. Doing this would have taken too much time and too many weekends.
  3. We don’t know anyone who lives in these cities.

So, our solution? We planned an epic pizza cross-country road trip. We decided to hit all of the major cities in the Midwest that had pizza places on the list, most for only a night or so. It was going to be a lot of driving. It was going to be A LOT of pizza. It was going to be awesome.

We left from NJ on a Friday night and drove out to stay in Pittsburgh overnight with friends before we made it to the first city on our pizza list, St. Louis.

We got to St. Louis late in the evening. It was about 9 hours from Pittsburgh, and we had to make a few stops along the way. We made it to town in time for a late dinner, which we had at Pizzeoli. This place wasn’t on the list, but they follow our Instagram and their pizzas always looked really good. It didn’t disappoint – they serve good Neapolitan pies!

We checked in to our hotel for the evening and then woke up bright and early to check out the city. We walked to the Arch, went to the original Panera for coffee, and then made our first pizza stop from the list at Pi Pizza. There are a few locations of Pi around the city, but we had tickets to the Cardinals game at 1 pm, so we stopped at the location right downtown.

Pi has a nice selection of pizzas, both thin crust and deep dish. We figured that we’d be eating enough deep dish when we stopped in Chicago, so we went with the traditional thin crust here. The pizza that sounded really interesting to us was the Lincoln Park. This one had mozz, zucchini, tomato, and feta. We’d never had feta on a pizza. We loved the thin crust and were pleasantly surprised how much we liked the feta on the pizza. It was the perfect light lunch before the baseball game.

We made it over to the stadium for the start of the game. Unfortunately, the Cards were losing. It was not a good day for them. Around the 6th or 7th inning, we had had enough of the game and the sun, and Eric had a *brilliant* idea. You’ll have to wait until our next post to hear all about it 🙂

 

St. Louis was a great place to start our road trip. We really liked the two pizzas we tried here. On a side note, the pizzeolis at Pizzeoli have a new place they just opened in St. Louis that is serving New York-style slices, Pizza Head. It looks awesome, and if we ever find ourselves back in St. Louis we will definitely be stopping there.

Also, fun fact: Pi Pizza is supposedly one of Obama’s favorites. You have good taste, Obama.

To visit:

Pi Pizza
610 Washington Ave
St. Louis, MO 63101

#84 Roseland Apizza

May 18th, 2016

Derby, CT

Do you remember back in this post when I mentioned that Eric and I tried to hit the top 20 best pizza places in New Haven county a few years ago? And that we made it to 18/20 before we moved out of CT and into NJ? Well, Roseland Apizza was one of the two that we didn’t make it to. Not that we didn’t try. One Saturday we drove all the way out to Derby for lunch, only to realize that we hadn’t checked the opening hours. Of course, it didn’t open until 3 pm.

 We were really excited to see that Roseland made the Daily Meal’s list, because it gave us an excuse to go back there. We had the chance last May, when I was driving back from a work event in Boston. Eric took the train out to Milford, where I picked him up and we made it to Roseland for dinner.

The drive had been long, and we got to Derby on the later side, which was actually good because we only had a short wait for a table. We were amazed that it was so packed, even at 8 pm!

We ordered a regular New Haven-style tomato pie. It is hard to say that any tomato pie is as good as Pepe’s or Sally’s, but this one certainly comes close. The pizzas here are round, not oblong, like those at the two Wooster Street greats. The crust is crispy and holds up to the amazing amount of tomato sauce, and the pizza is sprinkled with the perfect amount of grated cheese. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

What made this pizza stop even more memorable was that this was the first place that we were recognized! Roseland pizza followed our Instagram from the very beginning, and they actually knew who we were when they sat us! They also knew we were from New Haven, and it was great to talk to them about how amazing New Haven pizza is. We were glad to be able to give them a raving review.

(By the way, we still rarely get recognized. You’d really think we’d be famous by now.)

We’d agree that this is the most underrated pizza in New Haven. It definitely ranks in our top 5 in CT, and above some of the “classics”, like Modern. We haven’t tried the clam pie to compare, but that just means we’ll have to go back.

To visit:

Roseland Apizza
350 Hawthorne Ave
Derby, CT 06418