Chicago: Trying (and Failing) to Uncover a Hidden Gem at Old Chicago
Old Chicago Pizza Company
742 E. 79th Street Chicago, IL 60619 (map); 773-873-7428
Pizza Style: Thin Crust and Pan
The Skinny: Edible, loaded with garlic, but ultimately not that good
Price: Break-down was unclear, but the large thin and medium pan totaled just over $23
In this age of the interwebs, hidden gems in the restaurant world are increasingly rare. So I was particularly excited to read the long and passionate comment that Foffee left on the United States of Pizza: Illinois (Chicago Edition). Foffee convincingly wrote that a place I'd never heard of, Old Chicago, has the best deep dish pizza in town. Was it really possible that this unheralded pizzeria in Chatham on the South Side of Chicago actually dished out one of the best pizzas in town?
As much as I'd like to tell you I've been chomping at the bit to introduce most of you to a new found delight, the sad news is that I don't think the pizza at Old Chicago is that good. On the bright side, Old Chicago is some of the cheapest non-chain pizza you can find.
Let's start with the deep dish. The cheese is on top, which is more in line with a pan pizza. The flaky crust (more on that in a minute) is the variety most often seen on a stuffed pizza. The sausage, which is buried under the cheese, was plentiful but not all that flavorful. The sauce which had the dullness of a canned version, wasn't much better. There was a significant garlic taste to the pizza, but I couldn't tell you where that came from.
As someone who loves stuffed pizza, it is rare that I eat pizza and think there's too much cheese on it. But most places that serve stuffed pizza use 100% real cheese, not a greasy pizza cheese substitute. From what I can tell, the thick layer of chewy cheese at Old Chicago falls into the latter category. This is the kind of pizza that would go down quite nicely after a whole lot of drinking, but not so much in the middle of the afternoon.
The crust, texturally, was a mixed bag. The bottom crust, in terms of flavor and texture, was like several slices of bread pressed together. The end crust was a totally different story. It was flaky and moist in the way that I would love more end crusts on stuffed crusts to be (they are often very dry). The problem with that nice texture was that it came from an overdose of shortening that negatively impacted the flavor.
I liked the thin crust more than the pan pizza. This one came with pepperoni, onions, garlic, garlic, and more garlic. The shop uses fresh garlic and piles it on in abundance. The sauce, which was much more noticeable on the thin crust, was the same pasty sauce that was on the thicker pie.
The texture and balance of flavors were both pretty good on this pizza. Thanks to the much more restrained use of cheese, the toppings came into play a lot more. And the crust, which suffered from the same shortening affliction described above, was crisp throughout, giving the whole thing a pleasant chew.
As much as I was hoping Old Chicago would blow me away, in comparison to the many great pizzas available in Chicagoland, it just doesn't measure up. But it's cheap and it's definitely edible and, unfortunately, I don't know of a better option in the neighborhood. In any event, are there any Old Chicago lovers out there who can tell me what I'm missing? Did I get it on an off day?