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Daily Slice: Mortadella Pizza at Great Lake, Chicago
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
When Alan Richman told the world the mortadella pizza at Great Lake is the best pizza in the United States, he neglected to mention that the tiny Andersonville restaurant regularly changes its menu. Mortadella has made very rare appearances since Richman's article appeared and its stay has always been short.
Owners Nick Lessins and Lydia Esparza have grown even more committed to locally grown products, so the imported mortadella that Richman loved is no longer an option and finding a suitable local replacement has proven difficult. But thanks to a new source, the rich man's bologna is back and it's going to stick around for a while.
The Butcher & Larder was certainly the most eagerly anticipated butcher shop in Chicago when it opened a few months ago. Rob Levitt, the meat master behind the shop, puts out an excellent mortadella that Lessins is buying in large quantities for Great Lake. The meat goes onto the hot pizza as soon as it comes out of the oven and it slowly melts into the pie. The mortadella is a shade heavy on clove, but the extra sweetness isn't a big deal at all; this is delicious charcuterie.
The crisp, chewy, yeasty crust is the kind of bread that wheat parents hope their little wheat babies grow up to become. The vibrant sauce, still made from Italian tomatoes for the time being, shines through in each bite.
When I had the pizza last week, it was topped with Lessins's homemade mozzarella and Mona cheese, which provides a wonderful blend of creaminess and tanginess. The constantly tinkering Lessins has since replaced those cheeses with organic farmers cheese and some Dante aged sheep's milk cheese, which I expect offers a similar blend of creamy and tangy dairy goodness. The pizza is topped off with fruity olive oil and a healthy dose of flavorful herbs which complete an absolutely spectacular pizza.
I'm not one to make grand pronouncements and declare any pizza the best in America, but if anyone wants to call this pizza the best in America, there's no way I'm going to tell them they're wrong.
1477 W Balmoral Avenue, Chicago IL 60640 (map)