RicksReviews: Stuff It

Chicago deep dish pizza. Photo credit: Alexander Dyachuk.

As I’ve written before, Chicagoans are adamant about their pizza preferences. Of course, there’s thin crust which is the most similar you’ll get to New York style down here in South Florida. 

But even then, there are major differences between the pizzas from the east coast and Midwest. Chicago style thin pizza has a firmer crust, you can’t really bend it and eat it like a taco, as you can with New York style. Even if the crust were pliable enough to do so, it would be difficult because Chicago pizzas are traditionally sliced in a grid pattern (called bar-cut) and served in 3-inch square pieces, giving you the option of outside pieces with crust or the sloppier inside squares.  

Chicago Stuffed Pizza 

238 Commercial, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea

954-533-1808

chicagostuffedpizzamenu.com

The biggest debate about pizza in the Windy City is about whether you prefer pan (also called deep-dish) or stuffed versions. The deep-dish version is more like a traditional pie, with a crispy bread crust, followed by cheese, chopped tomatoes (seldom sauce) and other toppings. The stuffed version offers a similar crust, although the stuffed version is usually a little “breadier,” like the garlic knots served in most Italian places in South Florida. That crust is stuffed almost to the top with lots of ground mozzarella, fillings and then topped with a chunky tomato sauce. Both versions are knife and fork meals. 

While there are a few places that serve “Chicago-style pizza” here in South Florida, none of them have really gotten it right, until Chicago Stuffed Pizza Company opened in Lauderdale by the Sea. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot is located in a strip mall just east of the intracoastal and features just a few tables inside with about a half-dozen more on a small patio next to the parking lot. 

After giving it about a month to settle in we popped by on a Saturday night and who should we run into just leaving, but Island City Stage artistic director Andy Rogow (a former Chicagoan) and his husband Lloyd. They gave us a “thumbs up” sign of approval and we, of course, discussed our favorite Chicago pizza places.

We were able to snag the last two top table inside and placed our order with the single harried, but pleasant server. We ordered a large stuffed pizza with green and black olives (I would have preferred sausage, but my husband is a vegetarian). Since we know these behemoth pizzas take at least 40 minutes to bake, we also decided on a Caesar salad to split while we waited. My husband ordered a Coke and I a glass of the pinot grigio (only $6 a glass). My husband was surprised that instead of a can or fountain drink he was served a bottle of “Mexican” Coke, made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Those of us of a certain age usually prefer this version as it tastes like the soft drink we grew up with. Later, a second bottle was delivered without even asking.  Good service, I noted. 

When our pizza arrived it certainly looked like the pizza from home, at least two inches tall and topped with chunky sauce. It cut like a pie from home too, with strings of melted mozzarella oozing from each slice. However, the proof was in the taste and it was absolutely the same. Chicagoans will know what I mean when I say, “It’s just like Giordano’s,” a popular Chicago pizza chain. The crust was appropriately chewy and studded with plenty of olives amidst the gooey cheese.

Everything was perfect until we got our bill. Stuffed pizzas are expensive, almost twice that of a New York style, but a large will easily serve 6-9 people (one slice is enough for a meal). But that’s not what shocked us; the wine which was listed for $6 a glass on table cards, was billed at $7.99, We were also charged for the soda that was refilled without our asking – plus we were served the bottled Coke instead of the cheaper soda in a can. We asked for the wine price to be corrected but didn’t say anything about the bottled soda. Perhaps the server in her harried state did so without thinking, rather than attempting to pad the bill. I certainly hope so, because Chicago Stuffed Pizza Company is worth a return visit.

These places also claim to serve Chicago style pizza, but I haven’t checked them out … yet!

Chi-Town Pizza

334 E. McNab, Pompano Beach

954-951-6465

Chitownresturant.com

Giovanni's Pizza

175 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton, 

561-299-5347

giovannispizzabocaraton.com


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