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Pizza reviews in the Chicago area.

Chicago: Q's Restaurant Lures with Old School Charm

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[Photographs: Above picture by Sarah Reaume; all others by Daniel Zemans]

Q's Restaurant & Pizzeria

4841 Butterfield Rd, Hillside IL 60162 (map); 630-833-2402; qsrestaurant.com
Pizza Style: Midwestern thin crust
The Skinny: West suburban legend, still exceedingly popular in the area, but the old school charm is bigger draw than the pizzas.
Price: Medium pizzas start at $10.75; large at $12.75
Notes: On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, pizzas are buy one get one free

Going into my inaugural visit to Q's Restaurant & Pizzeria in the western suburb of Hillside, the place had everything going for it: The place has a solid reputation; I was starving when I got there; I'm a sucker for old-school places with kick-ass neon signs (see my review of Sano's in Chicago and La Casa Pizzaria in Omaha).

Q's opened its doors over 50 years ago and the current owner, Mike Allred, is the second generation in his family (through his mother's side, the Ferrainas) to run the place. From sponsoring Little League teams to participating in neighborhood festivals, there is little doubt that the restaurant is an active member of the community. I visited on a recent Saturday night and the large restaurant was absolutely packed with families who I'm convinced have been making regular treks to Q's for years. Every table I looked at seemed to be filled with people who were more than happy with their food and I expected the satisfaction at my table to follow suit.

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Pizzas are available in two styles at Q's, thin crust and double dough, the latter featuring a crust twice as thick as the regular style. For my normal thin crust pie, I kept things simple with a sausage topping; the pizza that I've found this type of place to knock out of the park. But from the look of things upon arrival, this was going to be one greasy pizza. That combined with the flavorless crust did not add up to the stuff legends are made of.

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Still, Midwestern thin crust, tavern-cut pizza is typically not known for its crust and, when eating that style of pizza, I'm happy to let a dull crust slide when the other components can pick up the slack. But the oily pizza parlor cheese and slightly sweet tomato sauce (which had a cooked down flavor that tasted more like unseasoned, canned marinara) weren't up to the challenge. But the real killer was the sausage. Where was that great fennel flavor that is the hallmark of good Chicago sausage? The too chewy sausage was lacking seasoning all around.

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I did get a pleasant surprise on my double dough pizza with Italian beef and giardiniera. The crust, while identical to the regular crust in terms of flavor, was much crisper and also helped along by a far heavier dusting of cornmeal on the bottom. While it added nothing in terms of flavor, I did enjoy the extra crunch on this pizza. However, the topping flavors, similar to the sausage pie, were out of balance.

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I've never had a pizza with as much giardiniera as this one. The small parts of the pie that did not have any chunks of the jalapeno-heavy veggie mix seemed to have gotten more than their share of the spicy oil. In fact, the spice overpowered the pie to the extent that it was difficult to discern if there was any sauce on it or what flavor the beef was going for.

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From the waitress who was more than happy to let me settle in at Q's for the night, to the paper placemats that advertise local businesses (those things need to make a comeback!), to the festive atmosphere that pervaded every inch of the place, I really did like everything about Q's except for the pizzas. Fortunately for the family that runs the place, they've done fine without me for 50 years and I hope they stick around for 50 more.

About the author: Daniel Zemans writes for Slice, and A Hamburger Today. He thinks more food writers should aspire to be like Marilyn Hagerty.

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