Step Aside, Chicago Deep Dish.
Have you ever eaten something so insanely good you still talk about it 18 years later?
Seriously, back in 1997, before people called themselves “foodies” (I mean, aren’t we all foodies, because we eat, you know, food?) I had the pleasure of partaking in an amazing little invention that still makes my stomach growl and my mouth water to this day, just thinking about it: a marvelous little invention called a ‘Pizza Pot Pie’. You can start your 18-year obsession too, by checking out a little hidden gem of a narrow little restaurant on Clark Street in Chicago’s Lincoln Park: ‘Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company’.
It’s almost a cliché to say you love Chicago pizza. But this isn’t Chicago deep dish, this is a whole new category of pizza nirvana. Now, I’m sure other restaurants might make their version of a Pizza Pot Pie, but before that fateful night in ’97, I hadn’t experienced it yet. Now, if you love all things pizza, all things real Italian, all things extra virgin olive oil, vine-ripe plum tomatoes and the kind of mozzarella that’s bright white and floats around in its own little pool of water (not the sad vacuum-packed block of yellowish fake mozzarella from the store), and you know that the dough is the most important part, you will understand my unbridled enthusiasm over this one dish.
So here’s the deal: The Triple-P (as I’m calling it) is the invention of the restaurant’s owner, who renovated and revived the building itself, along with coming up with the PPP recipe. It’s made from scratch, so be prepared to wait a little while. Promise it’s worth it.
They use triple-raised (one for each “P”?) Sicilian dough, and their own special homemade sauce. Let the drooling begin. The sauce is made of olive oil, fresh garlic, onions, green peppers, whole plum tomatoes and a secret blend of cheeses. Trust me, you’re not going to get this in a jar at the grocery store. Then, they add in these huge, whole, fresh mushrooms. They call them “doorknob-size” for a reason.
Then, here comes the best part: they layer up the cheese, those monster doorknob mushrooms and sauce into these little pots, then drape over a layer of that Sicilian dough, to tuck everything in, then pop it in the oven. Oh, and did I mention you can order your Pizza Pot Pie in a half-pounder or one-pounder size? I love Chicagoans. They’re not afraid to eat.
While we wait for The.Greatest.Pizza.Ever. , instead of torturing yourself coveting what your fellow diners are eating, a good way to pass the time is to appreciate the history of the building that’s been producing the aforementioned Greatest.Pizza.Ever. since 1972.
Okay, so no visit to Chicago is complete without a tour or two of the 1920s Chicago mobster landmarks, speakeasies, etc. Well, if you’re in to such things, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder, at 2121 North Clark Street is about as front-row to the history of Al Capone as you’re going to get. That’s because right across the street at 2122 North Clark Street, is the infamous address of Capone’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on Feb. 14. 1929.
Now, I personally like my pizza without a side of violence, so we’ll move on. It’s more pleasant to enjoy the coziness of this narrow 3-story brick Victorian building with its high ceilings, pine paneling, and second-story entrance. It was carefully restored by its owner, a Chicago attorney, who, as I mentioned, also created the recipe for my Pizza Pot Pie. Well, I suppose it’s everyone’s Pizza Pot Pie, but I’m really hungry now. And when I’m hungry, I get selfish.
Ah, here comes the masterpiece. The scents, the sights, the sounds! (okay, I know pizza doesn’t really make a sound, but when I’m hungry, I get loopy) When that magical moment arrives at your table, your perfect Pizza Pot Pie looks like an overflowing mushroom. Which is fitting, since there’s mega-monster-mushrooms awaiting inside. The server simply flips it over onto your plate, and your little pocket of pizza-goodness-in-a-bowl is ready to consume. And consume I shall.
The garlic! The olive oil! The tomato sauce! The magnificent monster mushrooms! The chewy, slightly sweet dough! It’s all perfect. Tastes like Chicago. Try it and you’ll see why I still talk about it 18 years later. And hopefully, when you do, you’ll be talking about it with your mouth full. Of Pizza Pot Pie.