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Nothing could be further from traditional Italian pizza, with its thin crust and delicate toppings, than the Chicago invention of the deep dish pizza. Deep dish was invented in 1943 at Pizzeria Uno, with stuffed pizza, a variation on deep dish, coming along a few decades later. (To make the terminology even more confusing, both deep dish and stuffed pizza are referred to as "Chicago-style pizza"). Stuffed pizza is very much a pie, with an additional layer of crust over the fillings and sauce over the top crust.
Chicago folklore says that Nancy's and Giordano's invented stuffed pizza at around the same time, but it was probably born in Nancy's kitchen; the Giordano brothers worked for Nancy's but ventured off on their own in the early 1970s. Today, most major cities have restaurants that attempt to create this Chicago masterpiece and the originals can even be found in the South: Nancy's has two Atlanta locations and Giordano's has locations in Florida, which should make us feel at home should we desire to retire there.
At least one reader recommended stuffed pizza from this Chicagoland favorite, and I was delighted that the Mokena location delivers to my house in New Lenox. I was also pleased that Giordano's offers an individual stuffed pizza, so I ordered the "baby spinach." I was concerned that the true experience of a stuffed pizza might be lost in its small size, but I needn't have worried. It was delicious. The sauce, cheese, crust and spinach were all in perfect harmony.
The good: No flavor is lost in the baby-sized pizza.
The bad: I've been craving it ever since.
Readers suggested Aurelio's and Enrico's, but since Enrico's offers their thick crust pizza on Wednesdays and Sundays only and I have a deadline, my Frankfort decision was made for me. I ordered a small stuffed pizza with spinach and mushrooms from Aurelio's (Gah! $18!) and brought it immediately home.
I was struck by how amazing the sauce was-- great tomato flavor, perfect seasoning. The mushrooms were a disappointment, though. Luckily, they didn't have the tinny flavor of canned mushrooms, but they certainly had the sliminess. In addition, the top layer of crust was awful; it was as if someone put a slice of wet bread over the top of the pizza.
The good: Aurelio's has a very tasty pizza sauce.
The bad: The mushrooms and the mushy top crust made this a very expensive disappointment.
, New Lenox
I have ordered from Nancy's several times in the year I've lived in Chicagoland, and when a reader suggested Nancy's, I felt sorry for the contenders because I was certain Nancy's would win.
But they burned my pizza.
The bottom was burned, the edges were burned. When I got it home and opened the box, I was simply stunned that they sent it home with me. And it wasn't just that the crust was burned; the whole thing was overcooked. I had ordered the chicken cacciatore pizza (and added spinach), and the pieces of chicken were as dry as the cheese, which had achieved the consistency of styrofoam. In general, I think Nancy's stuffed pizzas are amazing, but unfortunately, they dropped the ball this time.
The good: Nancy's has a great menu of specialty pizzas in delicious combinations.
The bad: They had an off day when I happened to come in, and sold me a burned pizza.
THE WINNER: Giordano's. Everything about that pizza was perfect. I wish I could snap my fingers and turn the rest of the Aurelio's pizza currently in my refrigerator into a Giordano's pizza.
Note: I feel compelled to mention that I didn't phone Nancy's to complain. I regret that decision (and now it's too late) and feel I did a disservice to Nancy's because perhaps I could be adding a section here about how they did right by me. Readers, feel free to comment below how Nancy's (or the other places mentioned) have properly or improperly handled your compaints.
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