Tasting Chicago by the Slice

When someone mentions eats in the Windy City, two American staples pop into my head. Of course, garnished with peppers, pickles, tomatoes, onions and relish, Chicago style hotdogs would be one deliciously famous treat. But there is another savory dish that calls Chicago home. And that other specialty, as you may have guessed today’s blog topic, is a handmade deep-dish pizza, one in which the toppings are smothered with a hefty layer of sauce. So, that being said, there is a Chi-town pizzeria chain that, considering it features authentically homespun pies, will satisfy your taste buds and wallet. This slice of Chicago is known as Lou Malnati’s.

My latest excursion is actually my third experience at a Lou Malnati’s. About a year and half ago, I wrote a paragraph about another location, as I recounted a summer trip to the city. I’m writing a full length piece because, each time, I have left Lou’s with a positive experience. And considering we were in the heart of a vibrant and bustling city, this restaurant’s prices are quite reasonable. To add to the allure, there are 57 Chicago Land locations to choose from. I must warn you however, call before you go. Some spots only offer carry out and delivery at this time.

So on with our deep-dish experience at Lou Malnati’s

It’s a few days before spring, and the sun is out. So, we’re striding Chicago’s busy city streets donned with light outerwear. This modest journey began at Museum Campus, and our destination is an excellent pizzeria. We found this nearby establishment via google maps. Actually, no matter where you are in Chicago, bets are, there’s probably a Lou Malnati’s close by.

We’ve googled the closest one, and find it easily. When we arrive, we find a courteous young man who immediately seats us. As we walk into the dining area, I sense, in contrast to the other Lou Malnati’s I’ve visited, a slightly different atmosphere. They’re both laid back and casual, maybe the other location crammed more customers into its eatery, but there are other differences.

This particular location, as it radiates some old world charm, boasts a bit of home town class. Yet, the decor, with vibrant murals that adorn the walls, accompanied by framed black and white photos, avoids a frilly vibe. I’d best describe it, when I admire the wrought-iron electroliers hovering in the eatery, as casual class, with a bit of grit for good measure. However you describe it, it’s not overly loud in here and I feel absolutely comfortable.

When the waitress arrives, we’re handed menus and drink lists. I have to be honest, I had planned on a beer and some pizza. However, Lou’s beer list isn’t great. Basically, domestics with a couple of imports, along with wine choices, don’t appeal to my taste. So I’ll go with a soda.

The fact that I’m not getting beer is not a big deal. The pizza is what’s important: both its ingredients and the fact that it’s handmade. And I know I’m going to choose the Malnati Chicago Classic. Simply, it’s an age old tradition in this portion of America

They start with dough that’s made every day, using a secret recipe. Then after the dough is spread across the bottom and around the sides of a deep dish pan, slices of mozzarella cheese, hailing from a small dairy in Wisconsin, are spread across the crust. After the cheese is laid, a ton of Italian sausage is applied. Finally, a sauce, featuring whole plum tomatoes from California, top off the pie, along with a bit of cheese and some spices.

If that doesn’t sound like your thing, there are other pizzas to choose from. Thin crusts, cheese pizzas, combinations plus pies that come with your own choice of toppings are available. You can also try some delicious pasta and sandwiches.

And if one is feeling really adventurous, he could try an appetizer. Malnati’s offers Wisconsin cheese curds, calamari fritters, bruschetta, mozzarella sticks and few choices of breads. However, I’m in Chicago. So, I want the real deal, you know, the one that bears the city’s name. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m going with the Malnati Chicago Classic.

We order a medium, which, according to the menu, is said to feed three. No, there isn’t a third person, It’s just me and Heidi . When ordering, the waitress explains that we’ll have to wait approximately thirty minutes. If it’s made from scratch, I’m not going to argue a bit. So, we sip our Cokes, play with our cell phones and discuss today’s prior endeavors.

When the pizza arrives, we receive a bit of warning; the pan is hot. This pie, just by appearance, looks like one of those heavy dishes that will warm your gut. Our server uses a spatula and doles out the first slices. This isn’t pizza you eat with your hands, you need a fork to devour this monster.

With a flaky buttery crust, tender juicy sausage along with a sweet and tangy sauce, every bite makes me look forward to the next. That is until I finish the second slice. Heidi had finished her second about the same time I finished my own. She offers, “Have the rest I’m stuffed.”

“No, I’m good,” I respond. I can actually feel my stomach wall expanding, as the food probably has just added ten pounds to my body weight.

Our waitress arrives with the check and, per my request, a box for the two left over slices. The menu’s suggestion was right, a medium is perfect for three people. When I surmise the damages, I’m tickled when I realize the bill registers under thirty five dollars. Considering we ordered enough for three, of course minus the soft drink, that’s a very affordable outing.

We leave Lou Malnati’s behind, as the sun is ducking behind the mammoth structures of downtown. It may have turned chillier in the past hour, but there is an agreeable sensation coagulating in my belly. Like the hearth to a home, it propagates warmth and happiness.

And this is timeless. Lou Malnati was not a boardroom conceived character, he was a man who made pizzas his entire life, beginning in the forties. In 1971, the first Lou Malnati’s opened. Today, the tradition remains strong.

As its slogan hails, Lou Malnati’s is a ‘taste of Chicago.’ It may be just one taste in a city of diverse backgrounds, but it is an essential one. Not only that, it’s a strong identifier when picturing this Great Lakes metropolitan. So, if you’re out and about in the Chicago area, for whatever reason, call for delivery or just stop by. I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did!

Safe Travels!

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