Flour & Stone
355 East Ohio Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611 (map); 312-822-8998; flourandstone.com
Pizza Style: "Brooklyn Style"
Pizza Oven: Gas Oven
The Skinny: Light hand-tossed that needs more time in the oven.
Price: Margherita, $15.25; Classic, $15.75; Mushroom, $17.75
Oh, the weight of expectations. For the past six months, I've eagerly anticipated the opening of Flour & Stone, mostly due to the restaurant's claim that it would serve "Chicago's Brooklyn style pizza." Now, I know what you're going to say. What the hell is Brooklyn-style pizza?
Two things immediately popped into my brain. First come all memories of the pizza I ate while living in the Brooklyn—the pilgrimages to DiFara's and Totonno's, the simple and stunning toppings at Franny's, and my weekly pie at Lucali's. But just as quickly, there flashed images of Domino's "Brooklyn Style Pizza" and that commercial where some streetwise lady tells a cabbie to fold his pizza "like a man." My scars have yet to heal. So, on one hand we have some of the greatest pizza anywhere, and on the other we have...well, Domino's.
Any doubts as to where on this spectrum Flour & Stone would fall were also heavily influenced by a manifesto of sorts on the restaurant's website: Crust, they declare, should be "perfectly crunchy on the outside, delightfully chewy on the inside—just like a good loaf of bread." This sounded exactly like the kind of pizza I love. I couldn't wait to check it out.
But I knew something was off the moment the Classic ($15.75) with pepperoni hit the table. Though the crust had some color, it was far more blonde than browned, and the whole pie had a soft, squishy look to it.
Flour & Stone claims that they "love bubbles in our crust," but a profile view of the pie proved otherwise. The ends had some rise to them, but they still looked way too dense and uniform, with none of the hole structure I was hoping for.
A peek underneath revealed a crust with almost no char. Instead, it was nearly white. Obviously, this pizza just needed some more time in the gas oven (which the restaurant claims hits 600°.). For a few minutes I sunk into something of a pizza depression, the kind of illness that afflicts me when my obscenely high expectations of a pizzeria are sent tumbling down. But I regrouped and pressed on. Perhaps Lucali's wasn't going to open in my city, but what did Flour & Stone have to offer?
As the Margherita ($15.25) soon revealed, Flour & Stone serves up satisfying thin-crust pizza in a neighborhood that has few other options. There's a little too much cheese, but at least its tangy and distinctive, playing well off the tart and acidic sauce. And while the ends are soft, the crust is fairly thin.
I wouldn't want to eat it often, but the aggressive and salty pepperoni on the Classic made for a satisfying couple of slices. Still, I wouldn't let this one sit around for too long, or it gets greasy. But hey—all the more reason to feast quickly.
Only the Mushroom ($17.75) failed to connect. I blame the watery and bland mushrooms, which even sharp red onion slices couldn't wake up.
Perhaps it was my fault. With the memories of my favorite Brooklyn pizzerias bouncing in my brain, I set Flour & Stone up to be something it clearly could never be. Luckily, without all my baggage, it fairs better. The residents of Streeterville obviously agree: It was packed to the breaking point on my visit, as customers crowded the area next to the register waiting for their pizzas. Plus, it will take time to figure out the oven before they can kick out a consistent product. I'll be back soon to check it out.