Bill’s Pizza & Pub – Mundelein, IL

Since 1957

With the chill of Fall in the air, the Pizza Hound agreed that we needed a heartier pizza than the many thin crust Chicago style pizzas we’d been having. We could get deep dish, but we were looking for something a little different. A double decker pizza to be exact! So, the Hound pointed the way to the north suburb of Mundelein, home of the landmark Bill’s Pizza Pub.

2014-10-03 20.35.27

It was Friday night and we wanted to take our time, so we got off the Eden’s Expressway at US 41 to slow the trip down. The new Gaslight Anthem was playing through our speakers, but as the music played, my mind wandered elsewhere. “Isn’t Billy Corgan’s tea shop around here?” The ever-focused Pizza Hound encouraged me to get straight to the pizza, because we were hungry, and we had slowed things down a little too much already. So, we continued to travel north, then headed east on Townline Road, then north again on Lake Street, or US 45, to reach Mundelein.

First incorporated in 1865, Mundelein used to be a pretty small town. In 1950, about 3,000 people lived within its borders. Substantial growth occurred in the following decades, however, no doubt due to the construction of the Tri-State Tollway. Today, after years of suburbanization, the city boasts a population of about 31,o00 people. Bill’s Pizza & Pub remains from those small town days in the 1950s, having outgrown its original location and now residing its current building, a former garage.

2014-10-03 20.31.12

“Lodge-like” is the best way to describe the building that currently houses Bill’s. That makes sense, too, as the restaurant looks on the outside like a supper club for vacationers mixed with a local bar that everyone in town knows–and it’s located directly on Diamond Lake, one the numerous bodies of water that sprinkle Lake County, Illinois, just north of Chicago, all the way to Wisconsin. Apparently the structure used to be a garage, though.

2014-10-03 20.34.24

The place was plenty decorated already, but did a great job of adding some fall touches which help fit the cool, breezy weather. Pumpkins? Are they taunting me for not stopping Billy Corgan’s tea shop? Anyway, we did not get to check out the dining room, unfortunately. I imagine it’s just about perfect. We did, however, head over to the separate pick-up area, which had plenty of classic local pizza place-isms to enjoy. Photos, a few plaques, and a few Halloween decorations adorned the walls. A freezer with frozen Bill’s pizzas was located off to one side. Mike Ditka is still a huge star in Chicagoland, as his name affixed to the Vienna Beef ad in the center of the photo attests.

2014-10-03 20.37.46

The kitchen was full of teenagers wearing matching Bill’s shirts, chatting loudly about “teenaged” things. And that’s just fine. They were friendly and it seemed like everybody got their pizzas quickly and efficiently. No doubt Bill’s has a been a popular first job for thousands of area teenagers for a few generations. That’s a great community resource. Starting with the photo of the original Bill’s Pizza in the top right corner of the collage below, one can follow the history of the business through faces and places over the years. Not only is Bill’s part of Mundelein’s business history, it is also a player in the personal histories of countless employees and customers for nearly 60 years.

2014-10-03 20.37.41

It took us about an hour to get home because we weren’t rushing, and we just headed back the way we came. When we made it home, we headed directly for the kitchen to behold what Ernie had tracked down. Bill’s has their own printed boxes, adding a nice to touch to the experience. Is that a little bear munching on a pizza? Geez, that’s cute.

2014-10-03 21.42.34

We got the double decker pizza, a hearty pie that Bill’s apparently originated in the Lake County area. I later met someone at a wedding from the area who grew up eating the thin crust pizza at Bill’s, but he had never heard of the double decker pizza, so I don’t know how popular it is locally. But I have to say, to us, it was awesome.

2014-10-03 21.49.33

The Pizza Hound waited very patiently…

DSC04682

And it was worth the wait. The pizza was fantastic from the first slice. A nice, soft rolled dough crust along the edge, with a very thin layer of crust along the bottom. Sauce, cheese, and toppings came next, just as on a typical pizza. Then, another layer of quality sauce, cheese, and toppings, with the pepperoni beneath the cheese and the sausage chunks sticking out above it. This is Bill’s double decker pizza.

2014-10-03 21.54.24

By our estimation, this differs from Chicago-style stuffed pizza–which has a top layer of dough covered with sauce–by having an entire new layer of all the components. The end crust was softer than the typically dense stuffed pizza crust, and the inside was remarkably thin for the amount of different ingredients included. That said, just one piece filled me up. Happily, for Ernie (and me), he got a lot of crust with this pizza.

This was a special trip for us, and we recommend this pizza highly. Maybe someday we’ll head up to Mundelein again and try out the thin crust. We could even try out Bill’s Pizza North, the company’s second location, in Grayslake. We may even stop along the way for tea.

Bill’s Pizza & Pub is located at 624 S. Lake St., Mundelein, IL 60060

(847) 566-5380

Bill’s Pizza & Pub Official Website

Bill’s Pizza & Pub on Facebook

Mr. V’s Pizza – Forest Glen, Chicago

Since c.1960s

Mr. V’s Pizza is one of many independent pizza shops on Chicago’s Northwest Side, a land of great pizza. According to the business website, it has been serving pizza to locals for over 50 years!

We would not have guessed it had been open for that long by giving the building just a quick look. Located in at the end of a strip mall containing a cleaners and a Chinese restaurant–and not far from the Metra tracks–Mr. V’s has tables and booths and a counter for ordering illuminated by fluorescent lights. All of which give the place a pizza-by-the-slice feeling. A neon sign in the window, however, beckons to pizza lovers driving by looking to take dinner home for the evening.

2014-06-07 20.18.16

The Forest Glen neighorhood, the home of Mr. V’s, is sandwiched roughly between (with some exceptions) the Eden’s Expressway, Cicero Avenue, and a forest preserve to the east, a forest preserve to the north, Foster Avenue the south, and Elston Avenue and the Metra tracks to the south and west. It’s a small, fairly well-to-do community, with some fairly high home prices in the area, even for a common bungalow. Some other small neighborhoods within the official Forest Glen community are located to the north. Jefferson Park, a neighborhood on the other side of Elston, is larger and more varied in its housing stock. All of these places seem like great places to live.

And great neighborhoods demand pizza. The Northwest Side of Chicago has several good pizza choices, but many of them are located to the west of the neighborhood, particularly on Milwaukee Avenue. Mr. V’s Pizza, serving Forest Glen and the northern portion of Jefferson Park, therefore stands as the easiest choice for the area. “Heading home and hungry?” asks the Mr. V’s website. As noted, the pizza joint is conveniently located near the Forest Glen Metra Station!

After picking up the pizza, it was a quick drive home for us to open up the box and enjoy our meal. The Pizza Hound was very interested!

2014-06-07 21.07.48

We opened up the box, and the pizza was huge–18 inches! Taste and value-wise, it was very middle of the road. Don’t get me wrong! We ate every bite. The pizza just didn’t distinguish itself too much. The cheese hardened pretty quickly as it cooled to room temperature. This could be due to the cheese being, as the website notes, a blend of mozzarella and provolone. In that case, the cheese probably has nicer consistency right out of the oven. The toppings, thin crust (medium thickness), and sauce were standard. Again, we enjoyed it and were glad to have it.

2014-06-07 21.07.51

At the time we visited, Mr. V’s offered a free one-topping small pizza with the purchase of an 18-inch pizza, so of course we had to go for that deal. To our taste, this small pizza was noticeably better. Unlike the big guy, which was tavern-cut, the small was pie-cut, and instead of pepperoni and sausage, we got sausage as the only topping. The sausage complemented the other ingredients well, and the cheese wasn’t overdone. This all made for a well-balanced pizza. We recommend trying a sausage pie at Mr. V’s.

In addition to the regular Chicago-style thin crust, Mr. V’s sells “double thick” pizza and pan pizza. And loyalty is rewarded at Mr. V’s! CoIs that a drawing of owners Orazio and Luigi on that card?

IMG_3364

And don’t forget great hot dogs, beefs, and polish sausages at Duke’s, just up Elston Avenue from Mr. V’s! The Pizza Hound likes the french fries!

Mr. V’s Pizza is located at 5285 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL 60630

(773) 736-9434

Mr. V’s Pizza Official Website

Mr. V’s Pizza on Facebook

Nino’s Pizzeria – Alsip, IL

Since 1948

Since 1948…wow. That’s some serious stability. It also makes Nino’s just five years younger than the world-famous Pizzeria Uno. While Uno has a thriving tourist business (not to mention a fantastic pizza) that ensures its profitability, Nino’s location far from the Loop attests to its reliance on long-term quality and consistency, as well as local customer loyalty.

Ernie and I didn’t grow up on the South Side eating the pizza at Nino’s, so traveling there was just as exciting for us as an out-of-towner’s first trip to Uno. It was quite a long trip for a Friday night to get to Alsip, too, but it was well worth it.

2014-05-23 20.53.02

Located south of Chicago on 111th Street at Cicero Avenue, Nino’s is a place where families and friends can enjoy a comfortable, relaxed dining experience. Architecturally, the building has a bit of Tudor Revival going on, and on the inside, it’s a classic pizza joint: dim lighting coming from a few lamps and neon signs; exposed brick and wood-paneled walls; cozy wooden booths; red and white checkered table clothes; old photos; beer signs…a perfect place to enjoy pizza.

But since the Hound isn’t allowed inside (that’s okay…we know the rules!), he and I got called in a carryout order and headed back to the house in Logan Square to enjoy the prize. We got the 16-inch family size thin crust pizza. A party size pizza, measuring 18 inches in diameter, is available, too. Still, Nino’s has an even bigger pizza: the Wagon Wheel! Coming in at an unbelievable 29 inches, the Wagon Wheel is perfect for a party…or a good candidate to replace weekly groceries for pizza lovers like us!

Now, to our pizza. Toppings and cheese were standard and solid, but the crust set the pizza apart from other pizzas we’ve eaten in Chicago. Made with good dough, the crust on our pizza was thin and a bit soft, which contrasts with a place such as Vito & Nick’s which has (excellent) thin and crispy crust. This difference helped make Nino’s a taste for us to remember. Check out that cool drawing of the pizza king!

IMG_3378

Price-wise, Nino’s comes out on the higher end of all the pizza places we visited. Our one-and-a-half topping 16-inch pizza came out to over $27 after tax, which is a few dollars overĀ  our average.

IMG_3381

Nino’s also offers deep dish, stuffed, and pan pizzas. It’s nice to have all those options. While we’ve never had any of those varieties from Nino’s, the fact that they clearly distinguish between “deep dish” and “pan” shows that they know what they are doing when it comes to Chicago pizza styles. The Hound and I have found that it is fairly common to for pizza places to use those terms interchangeably, which means you don’t know what you’re going to get and there’s a good chance that it’s not as good as their thin crust. Nino’s knows the difference. And, as the menu shows, sausage is encouraged, likely because, well, sausage is super popular as a pizza topping in the Chicago area.

IMG_3380

Coupons came with our order. Newer coupons can be found on their official website. We got free pop, too!

IMG_3382

Is this the original location of Nino’s? Previously a small town of a few thousand people, the town of Alsip experienced its largest population growth in the 1960s and 1970s after the Tri-State Tollway, located to the south and west, was constructed. Did this pizzeria actually open there in 1948 when just about 1,000 people lived in the community (as opposed to nearly 20,000 today)? Or did it move from somewhere else, possibly following it’s customer base in the 1960s. It would be interesting to know the answer to that question. I’m sure someone out there knows. In the 1940s, it was probably unlikely that anybody in this area was making the relatively long trip to Pizzeria Uno on a regular basis, so Nino’s would have been a welcome pizza outpost.

Nino’s Pizzeria claims to be “Your Pizza King Since 1948.” For some residents in the Southwest Suburbs, it can at least profess a claim to the throne, though it has serious competition. Overall, it was standard, though not necessarily exceptional. However, we would have absolutely zero problem paying tribute to this king on weekly basis if we lived nearby. Long live Nino’s!

Nino’s Pizzeria is located at 4835 W. 111th St., Alsip, IL 60803

(708) 423-9100

Nino’s Pizzeria Official Website

Nino’s on Facebook (unofficial page)