Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders

>> Friday, August 13, 2010

Chicago is known for pizza. We have deep dish, New York has thin slice. This is nothing new, right? What I am going to tell you may blow your mind - there is something new. Something so new I didn't understand how or what to make of it. Pizza pot pie...

Before you start to jump to conclusions, let me explain. Tucked away on Clark street near Dickens, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders has taken the tradition deep dish and turned it upside down - literally. I'm not sure how this concept of a pizza pot pie came to be and to be honest - I don't care, all I know is that ever since I have moved here I have wanted to try it. So when my friend Sara called and invited me to dinner with her lovely family, I agreed without hesitation.

Walking into a pseudo-beerhall with exposed wood on the walls and beams, you feel like you've just been transported to somewhere in a small Italian village. The hostess greets you and ask how many are in your party, you tell him and he tells you a time and you're done. There's no pen, no paper, no way to peek to see how many people are in front of you, this guy just knows. You are not to question, just simply sit there and wait.

Seated at the bar, we survey every dish that passes us. Huge salads, bread so big it spills over the plate, and bowls of dough covering something delicious. That has to be it - that has to be the pot pie!

Mediterranean Bread
After about 30 minutes were seated. Sara and her boyfriend Patrick are on it - we'll have the Mediterranean bread, and the small Country French salad, oh and a couple more glasses of wine and beers. Our server returns with a circle of bread that would make a large pizza look like a personal pan. This bread is HUGE, flat and covered in Italian seasonings. Hands start flying, bread is torn, we are happy. The outside of the bread is deceptive. You take a bite and think - yeah, I mean, this is good. As you start tearing away and making your way towards then center, you realize you've been a fool - this is the gold mine. Soft, full of butter, and seasonings - this is the jackpot. When I return, my strategy will be to go straight for the middle and save the outside for the gargantuan salad...

Speaking of which, the small Country French salad could seriously feed six people. Really. Six. This thing was the biggest salad I have ever see. It's a small salad on steroids. Packed with onions, peppers, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, and topped with fresh Farmer's cheese this salad is pretty hard to beat. Our server suggested combining the sour cream garlic, sweet and sour poppyseed, and Italian dressing together. Is this place a food laboratory or a restaurant?! While I looked him like, you're obviously drinking in the back, I complied. There is something to be said for taking advice. Out of this world. Really, really good salad. I took some of the bread and sopped up the dressing and honestly I was in heaven. Everything was SO GOOD and we hadn't even come to the main event yet!
The "small" salad
Luckily, our server returned shortly with the pizza pot pies or else he would have seen me face first licking the bottom of the salad plate. We ordered two, one pound pies and as he approached our table I could smell, the tomatoes, sausage, cheese and mushrooms. They were begging to be devoured. He takes the dough bowl covering the "insides" and in some magical hand motions, flips the insides so that you are left with a hot bowl of pizza pot pie. I would love to be able to go into more detail as to how he did this, but I was so intoxication by the smell of the meat I missed it.

Small pizza - taken from their
website because I was
inhaling my food
Biting in, I died. I kept waiting for someone to tell me this wasn't real and to find my totem (side note: mine would be a knife that wouldn't cut food...). Cheese, meat, bread, sauce, mushrooms. I don't know what else to say. Everything came together and were in perfect harmony together. It's truly an experience.

I ate my 1/3 lb of pizza and sighed. It's over. I came, I saw, I devoured.

Bravo Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders. Sure Chicago deep dish is a great tradition, but the next time I have friends coming in town and want something "Chicago" I am undoubtedly taking them here instead.

Oh by the way, the oven grinders are sandwiches, but let's be honest, after what you just read are you going to order a sandwich? I don't think so...

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders
2121 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614



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