Chicago may be the home of the deep-dish pizza, but when it comes to pizza I am always on the lookout for something different. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company, a warm, family-friendly restaurant tucked away on the lower floor of a Lincoln Park townhouse, is known for it’s non-traditional spin on classic deep dish.
The menu boasts an impressive selection of oven grinders – hearty rolls stuffed with meat, cheese and sauce – but the real star of the show here is the pizza pot pie, an individual serving made from scratch with Sicilian bread-type dough and a delicious mix of tomatoes, olive oil, cheese and spices. Even if you arrive hungry, to call these portions huge would be an understatement. The pizza pot pie comes in two sizes: half-pound and one-pound, both stuffed with a homemade tomato sauce and a special blend of cheese, sausage and mushrooms. Vegetarian pizza pot pie can be special ordered and you can choose from white or wheat crust.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the pizza pot pies are made with the same recipe that the restaurant used when it opened in 1972. Your waitress will bring you your pizza in a dish that at first, looks like an overstuffed bread bowl. Then, she will invert it onto a plate, leaving you with said bread bowl, which is full of pizza toppings and doesn’t exactly look pretty, but what it lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste.
If you are eating with a big group of friends and want to start off with an appetizer, the Mediterranean bread is a thin, flat pizza bread flavored perfectly with salt, basil and oregano. After your meal, if you still have room for the dessert, Tortoni is an Italian ice cream flavored with rum, topped with almonds and crushed macaroons that has been made exclusively for Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company.
We can’t talk about the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company without mentioning Jesus, the restaurant’s host who has worked there for over a decade and has the incredible ability to memorize the seating order by just looking at people’s faces as they enter, without even asking for anyone’s name. When you enter the restaurant, he greets you and asks how many are in your party and you’re done until your table is ready – which might be awhile. Once, I arrived at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, half an hour after they opened, and there was already a 35-minute wait. By the time I was seated, the estimated wait was more than an hour (but worth every minute!).
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company, 2121 North Clark Street. For more information call 773-248-2570 or visit www.chicagopizzaandovengrinder.com.
Sarah Amundsen is a senior at Loyola University Chicago, where she is pursuing studiesin in public relations and marketing. In her spare time, she is interested in running, fashion and eating her way through Chicago’s many great restaurants.