The Chicago pizza boom expands with 7 more great new spots — from tavern to Indian and beyond
It might be a new year with a new president, but one thing remains the same: Chicagoans will always eat more pizza. Perhaps the pandemic has us all craving the comfort of dough, sauce and melted cheese, but even though we cataloged a surprising number of new pizzerias a few months ago, more kept opening. So many have opened since then, we realized we’d have to go back on the pizza beat.
Instead of slinging the same standard pie, restaurants are embracing the freedom that pizza provides, from specializing in different regional styles to experimenting with completely different cuisines.
B Square Pizza
Mychael Bonner, a chef/partner at four Lettuce Entertain You restaurants (Saranello’s, Di Pescara, The Ivy Room and Petterino’s), also had to figure out how to adapt in 2020. He decided to partner with Saranello’s executive chef Michael Brownell to create B Square Pizza, which specializes in Detroit-style.
While Brownell, a Michigan native, was already a fan of the style, it took Bonner some time to come around. “I grew up a thin pizza fan,” admits Bonner. “I find it hard to have too much crust. So I really wanted to create something that was airy, crispy and not as thick.” To accomplish this, the dough gets a four-day fermentation. “The long fermentation process makes it easier to digest,” explains Bonner.
Sure enough, the pizza is thinner than most Detroit-style pizzas in Chicago, yet the interior is open and airy, not dense and heavy. Even though Chicago already has a number of great Detroit-style pizzas, this is definitely worth trying if you’re a fan of the style.
At first, the pizza was available only at Saranello’s location in suburban Wheeling (601 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling). But as Bonner explains, the demand was “getting out of control.” Now the pizza is also available at Osteria Via Stato (620 N. State St.), a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant in River North.
Bill’s Original Tavern Pizza
Another virtual restaurant from the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group, Bill’s Original Tavern Pizza is named for RPM Restaurant’s partner, Bill Rancic, who grew up on thin-crust tavern-style pizza on the South Side. But it was chef Sam Dickstein of Pizzeria Portofino who was tasked with creating the recipe. After a whirlwind tour of local tavern-style pizzerias, it was back to the kitchen for three weeks of recipe testing.
“I kept messing with the hydration of the dough,” says Dickstein, adding that he eventually settled on 51 percent hydration, which is much lower than the dough used at Pizzeria Portofino. “I want to create that perfect bite. It needs to have enough sauce and cheese, but not too much. I think I found a great balance.”
Like the best tavern-style pizzas, the crust is remarkably thin with a crispy, crackerlike crunch. I’d suggest topping the pie with fatty nuggets of intensely seasoned Italian sausage ($18 for the 12-inch). You can pick up the pizza in River North at Pizzeria Portofino, and at the Bub City location in suburban Rosemont.