Friday, May 23, 2008
What We Eat: Pizza!
You can find edible pizza outside Chicago, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a pizza as good as even the average, run-of-the-mill Chicago pizza once you leave the outer edge of Chicagoland. Trust me. I’ve lived in central Illinois, Southern Illinois, Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, D.C., North Carolina, and L.A. I’ve found some pretty good pizza in L.A. and in New York City (though, usually, I’ve been out drinking in NY by the time I end up at a place selling slices, so I’m guessing cardboard with tomato paste would probably have tasted okay by then).
As I’ve already noted here about a thousand times, I haven’t lived in Burbank since 1983, but I still get back there maybe once or twice a year, and if I’m in town for more than a day, I usually end up eating pizza somewhere in the neighborhood. Down below, I’ve listed places I either frequented or remember. Please correct locations and names if I’ve made any errors, and by all means, tell us about your favorite South Side pizzas.
Italian Villa is located in Southfield Shopping, and it’s been there since at least the early or mid ‘70s, if not earlier. This is the pizza that my family ate the most, and this is where I tend to go when I’m back in town. Even when I haven’t been there for a few years at a stretch, the waitress recognizes me and, often, remembers my order. The best features of Italian Villa? For me, it’s the whole package – superb sausage; tasty sauce; excellent crust (thin but a bit chewy). Plus, there’s a blurry, enlarged photo of Pete Townsend doing the windmill to his guitar in the men’s bathroom. Also: Could the food be any cheaper?
If memory serves me, Gino’s was on 79th and Central. To the best of my knowledge, it wasn’t affiliated with the famous Gino’s downtown. I’m not sure why we ate here. Did my brother work here? Possibly. Anyway, our Gino’s experience was short-lived. I can’t even remember anything about it. Gino's was definitely around in the '70s, but I can't vouch for it before or after that.
I ate here only a few times, probably in the ‘70s. They were located somewhere on 87th, I believe, on the Oak Lawn side. Is that right? Not far from Central, I’m thinking. Here’s what I remember: A corn-meal crust? Yellow with holes poked through? Cracker-ey? A few years ago, I started talking to a Law professor here at Wake Forest, and we quickly discovered that we were both from Burbank, and so we started trading anecdotes. Apparently, his first job was delivering pizzas for Tafte’s (Tafde’s?). A small, small world. And if anyone knows for sure how to spell the damned name of the place, please enlighten me!
Phil’s was across from the Jewel on Ridgeland. I went through a brief – but intense – Phil’s stage. When I was in high school, before I could drive, my father took a roofing job in Indiana and had to stay over night while my mother was in the hospital, and so I started ordering Phil’s pizza, almost nightly, to have delivered since I couldn’t drive. (We never had pizza delivered, so this was true decadence.) I can almost remember what it tastes like, but what I remember for certain were the enormous, meatball-sized chunks of pale-colored sausage. I'll have to try it again next time in town; it'll be my first Phil's Pizza in 27 years. Oh, and if you're reading this Phil's, you can send coupons to me @ P.O. Box 7387, WFU, Winston-Salem, NC 27109. :)
Fasano’s is located around 83rd and Roberts Road in Justice. This was our default pizza when we tired of Italian Villa. I haven’t had one in years, though about ten years ago, when I was living in Iowa City, buy an extra-large one, throw it in the trunk, and drive it three and a half hours home. This place was all about the toppings – tons of toppings. A good pie, as I recall. It may be the heaviest of the thin-crust pizzas on the South Side.
Durbin’s is, of course, on 79th and State Road. I’ve only recently begun eating pizza at Durbin’s, and I only eat there when I’m drinking. It would never cross my mind to go there specifically for pizza, even though the pizza is pretty damned good. But give me about a dozen beers, and I’m all over the menu.
Oh, yeah. One last thing, for what it's worth: I'm a thin crust guy. There. I said it.