Monday, March 22, 2010

Windy City Cooking: Week 31

(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column whose title says it all. Enjoy! -Max)


On Pizza
by Jason Hissong
22 March 2010

The photo you see is my attempt at making a pizza from scratch. I created this two years ago, maybe, when my friend Aaron came over one night. This pizza had chorizo as its protein, and I loaded it with cheese and an imperfectly shaped crust. I remember it being delicious in that 'this is really bad for me but I love it' delicious kind of way. It's becoming more and more evident to me that somewhere hidden in my genetic code is a deep, eternal battle with pizza. I hate pizza. I love pizza. What is pizza? What makes pizza, pizza?

Pizza is my father's favorite food. I think my parents have it at least once every week. And he's not picky. "Let's get a pizza," is one of his favorite sentences to speak. My parents didn't really enjoy Chicago until I took them for pizza at Piece in Wicker Park. My sister and her husband are both lifers, probably, working for a big chain pizza store. She's been working there since she was in high school. I live in one of the two cities that the pizza debate always gets down to- Chicago Style or New York Style. And I spent my formative years in a city that always throws its hat into these debates, but always knows it's small potatoes, comparatively. Still, that doesn't stop St. Louis from claiming its own style of pizza, and rightfully so.

I find myself writing about pizza after having three consecutive weekends in which I enjoyed very different styles. I'm going to write about this in the backwards order of how it happened, because it's freshest in my mind that way.

On Friday, my friend Andy and I went to Wicker Park so that I could sell some books to Myopic. Our plan was to then have dinner at the aforementioned Piece. Piece is a local pizza and micro-brew, and they do a great job at both. It's also extremely popular, and even more so on the first Friday of the men's NCAA college basketball tournament. After checking on the wait- an hour and a half- Andy and I made an audible and walked down the street to Santullo's.

Santullo's is the complete antithesis of Piece. It's not flashy or glamorous. It's quite small. It's dark and a bit dingy. It's an old school cafeteria tray and paper plate place. It serves New York Style pizza- thin, flat, greasy and huge- and other salads and sandwiches, but what's the point? It's good if you know what you're getting, probably jarring if you don't. Andy and I ordered an identical menu- one slice of pepperoni, one slice of sausage, small house salad.

The Friday before I found myself with another group of friends at Pequod's. I had never been to Pequod's before but I must say it was exceptional. It doesn't do the traditional Chicago style, mostly dough pizza. It's a thick, pan style pizza that's covered in cheesy goodness. And some of the cheese falls between the crust and the pan and gets melted and just a wee bit burnt and tastes oh so delicious. There were eight of us and we split a pepperoni, and a half basil, half anchovy.

The weekend before that I enjoyed a pizza by myself. I ordered it from Fornello's, a place I run, and ride on the bus, past often as it's between my home and a train station I frequently use. Fornello's makes a good pizza because they use great ingredients. I ordered a pepperoni, sausage, and jalapeno for myself, and greatly enjoyed it.

So, it seems I can't get away from pizza. It's a great food item. Partly because of its communal nature. Rarely is the time I order a pizza by myself, the above paragraph notwithstanding. Pizza is great because there are so many different styles, and forms, and it's so mutable. Chicago style or New York style? What about St. Louis style with it's cracker crust and Provel cheese? I think pizza is, in a way, a comfort food. It's very much an exhalation of the week's business on those Friday nights when one wants to lay low and enjoy a couple of movies. I've enjoyed a lot of pizzas in my day. I've had pizza almost everywhere I've been. The pizza in St. Louis is very different from the pizza in Florence, Italy, and that's part of what makes it great. Pizza is here to stay in the food culture, in whatever form, and I think it's a worthwhile inclusion. I should make more pizza myself, and this summer is sure to provide ample opportunity to do just that.

Note: I'd like to make the mailbag column an every six week feature or so. So if you have questions please leave a comment or email me. jason dot hissong at gmail dot com. Thanks!

What Others Cooked For Me, What I Cooked, Where I Ate

No one cooked for me again this week. Sadness abounds.

What I cooked: not much. I cooked some leftover rice and sausage for dinner on Sunday. I need to learn to cut how much rice I make because rice is NEVER good re-heated. Most things aren't, but rice seems to be one item that has a 100% strikeout rate when it comes to re-heating.

I had a lot of dinners on the go this week, and most not memorable. There were a couple of nights that I ate hummus, pita, and sliced green and red peppers for dinner. There were other nights I didn't eat dinner.

The two most memorable dining experiences this week came Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Friday night, of course, Andy and I enjoyed Santullo's. Saturday night I couldn't help myself. Fast Super Burrito's siren call called me and I bit, hard. One chorizo burrito suiza, please! Sunday I found myself at Jack's on Halsted, brunching with 19 others. Two dollar mimosas! I only had one, and ordered the quesadilla which was greasy and nondescript and the crab cake eggs benedict or the burger would have served me better.

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