Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pizza Quest: Mail Order Chicago

Lou Malnati's - Chicago
No stars, because I can’t really judge, but I’d order it again.

I was ready to dislike Chicago-style pizza. It seemed like, well, the Cubs of pizza. It didn't merit the intense frothing-at-the-mouth craziness that I could easily muster for California-style (the Red Sox, if you will), because, well, it's barely pizza. I mean, it's cute that they think it's a real, grown-up pie and everything, but, c'mon...you need a fork-and-knife to eat it. Steak: fork and knife. Pizza: hands. It's science. So, it was basically a whim when I ordered four pies online from Lou Malnati's (Why, if it were merely a whim, did I order four pies? One - Shipping per pie is a lot cheaper with four. Two - You don't know me very well, do you?). The pies (plain, sausage, pepperoni, and supreme) arrived parbaked, packed with dry ice in a Styrofoam cooler two days after I placed my order. Tara and I had the plain one first, and much to my surprise we liked it. Quite a lot. Tasty chunks of tomato and sauce topped a massive oozy slab of mozzarella cheese. The crust was flaky and buttery and the pie had a heavy sprinkling of parmesan. Really, really good.

There are problems, however (I imagine most of these disappear if you are actually eating your pizza in Chicago). First, it's hard to tell when it's done (it arrives pretty much golden brown). I wound up simply pressing my index finger into the center of the pie till I burned myself. Also, I kept insisting on eating it with my hands. I scowled at it, broke it into pieces, told it to "act like a pizza," but no: fork and knife it was. Sausage came second and was less enjoyable. They roll out a sheet of sausage in between the cheese and sauce layers. While perhaps tasty at one point in its existence, the sausage wound up tough and chewy. Also, the pie stuck to the bottom of the tin (I haven't figured out why). Pepperoni proved better than sausage, but not really a match for the straightforward pleasure of the cheese pie. Finally, the supreme (sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, and green pepper), which suffered from the same tough sausage as pie #2.

The verdict: It's pretty good. I'd take Malnatti's cheese pie over a few of the pizzerias we've been to and both of the places in my neighborhood, but will skip the sausage in the future. It is, however, something of a Pyrrhic victory for the Second City: It was good, but I wouldn't trade styles with Chicago for anything.

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