Mama Luna’s Restaurant & Pizzeria – Cragin, Chicago

Since 1960

Sometimes, Ernie and I are in the mood for a long drive to hound out a pizza, like when we drove from Chicago down to Dino’s Pizza in Whiting, Indiana. Other times, we just don’t have the energy or time to travel too far. On those nights, we need pizza right away so we can get home to relax and plop on the couch and stare at (and listen to) the TV. So, on a fall Saturday night in October, we made the relatively short drive to longstanding Mama Luna Restaurant in the Cragin neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

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The Cragin area, center. Source: Bulk Petroleum Co. Chicago and Vicinity travel map. Rand McNally & Co. c.1950s.

Today, tens of thousands of residents live in the Cragin area, but one of the earliest settlements was Whiskey Point, located at the meeting of Armitage and Grand Avenues, where a settler named George Merrill opened a saloon in 1835. For about five decades the area remained predominantly rural. But by the 1880s the area began to attract a number of manufacturing establishments, and from that point until the end of the 20th Century industry came to dominate the area’s landscape and culture . One of the earliest companies in the area was the tin plate and sheet iron processing Cragin Brothers & Company, which occupied an 11 acre site. Decades later, the Chicago Tribune noted retrospectively that the company, located at Milwaukee “tracks near LeClaire Avenue in 1882 [. . .made] nuts and bolts, tinware, oilcans, eggbeaters and other items too numerous to mention.” Railroads helped spur access to the business and others like it, and also brought workers and residents, first Swedish, German, and Irish, and in 1889 Cragin was annexed by the rapidly growing city of Chicago. Several other large manufacturing companies moved in and occupied massive spaces, helping set the industrial character of the neighborhood. Many workers of Polish and Italian descent began moving to the area in the 1920s. Most of them lived in between the large factories and warehouses on streets lined with blue-collar two-flats, while those that had achieved a level of affluence lived in the area’s numerous sturdy, beautiful brick bungalows. (See Encyclopedia of Chicago: Belmont-Cragin for more information on the history of Cragin.)

Concurrent with trends of deindustrialization across the older manufacturing-based cities of the Rust Belt, industry began to leave Chicago and the Cragin area in the 1980s and 1990s. Notably, the W.F. Hall Printing Co., which at one time was the largest printing facility in the world, closed in 1985. Between 1970 and the mid-1980s, the wider-encompassing Belmont-Cragin community lost over 15,000, or 47 per cent, of its manufacturing jobs. The city as a whole posted similar numbers. Nonetheless, after a small population loss, the area grew by tens of thousands of residents, mainly due to a large increase in the Hispanic population. Reflecting America’s move to a service economy, the massive footprints of old, closed manufacturing facilities were often converted to retail space. The Carey Brickyard site at Narragansett and Diversey, for example, became home to the Brickyard Mall.

Mama Luna arrived during the neighborhood’s industrial heyday, situated at North Lamon Avenue on the thriving Fullerton Avenue, a primary, four-lane thoroughfare that today remains an economic center of the neighborhood. The Kennedy Expressway (Interstates 90/94) runs to the north, but it’s far enough away for one to think Fullerton is the busiest stretch of road in the world. And since Mama Luna’s has been in the neighborhood on Fullerton since the tail end of the Eisenhower administration, it certainly has had plenty of time to be the scene of an interesting story or two, some written and some never known. One known story is the fact that a mafia hit occurred inside the restaurant on Halloween night in 1975. Yikes!

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The original location of Mama Luna. Source: Google Street View

Of course that story doesn’t define Mama Luna’s. The restaurant, which later moved to its current location three blocks west of Cicero, serves old fashioned Italian American cuisine, with lots of red sauce on the menu. They serve plenty of appetizers and salads, as well. But pizza–classic tavern cut thin crust–is their specialty. Its satisfying and consistent recipe is beloved by many current and former residents. A neighborhood classic.

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Mama Luna’s current location. Source: Google Street View

History and longevity notwithstanding, Mama Luna’s stands as perhaps the most curious pizza place Ernie and I have visited. Maybe it’s the no-nonsense working class heritage of the neighborhood, but the place seems to have developed an, er, reputation for surliness. Like a real life Ed Debevic’s or a realer life Weiner’s Circle, only many customers don’t end up smiling, though. No doubt the place is crazy popular, but it must have the world’s worst reviews for an extremely popular and successful business we’ve seen, especially one that falls not in the tourist-thronged areas of the city but inside a working-class residential area on the West/Northwest Side. There are two separate Yelp listings for the place. At the time we went there, one of the listings had something like two stars, and the other probably had two-and-a-half stars. Apparently, those ratings haven’t wavered, either. Almost every negative review highlights horrible customer service on the delivery end of the equation, often pointing out how rude the Mama Luna’s employee is on the end of the line.

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When I called to order our pizza, I was prepared for this, so I tried to be as direct, quick, and to the point as possible. And the interaction went fine. When we arrived, the parking lot was full. I didn’t go in the dining room, which I regret, but instead only went into the basic, fluorescent-lighted side pick-up area where there were several other people waiting for their orders. The woman who served me was actually friendly and efficient. . .to me. But when a younger coworker working one of the phones relayed a small issue with a customer. . .then I heard a taste of what many of the reviews were talking about! Haha! That’s okay, it was undoubtedly busy. I want to make it clear that she was friendly to me. Maybe I just got lucky. . .or maybe she knew this guy was with me.

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Once we grabbed our pizza, we headed back home to Logan Square through the light drizzle on Fullerton Avenue. Despite all the reviews stating otherwise, the menu claims “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed”. Ernie and I were ready to find out for ourselves.

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The presentation was definitely a good start: Mama Luna’s has some cool, unique boxes. Better than the standard plain white or tan box, and much better than the generic “Italia” design boxes. And the Obbie’s/Villa Nova guy doesn’t work there, either. Our box was beautiful. Definitely a plus!

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And. . .here we go. . .oh my. . .look at that pizza!

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And smell it, too, says Ernie!

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As always, the Pizza Hound gets his reward in the form of a perfect hound-sized piece!

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More please!

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Waiting patiently.

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The very thin crust was clearly handmade, with an imperfect circular shape. It was great, too. Toppings were delicious. The sausage came in big, tasty chunks, and the cheese was simply some of the best we ever ate on a Chicago-style thin crust pizza. Nice and stringy, even after cooling a bit. This quality is a somewhat rare find in our Chicagoland pizza travels, on which cool–and even warm–pizza cheese can harden to a substantially solid block. This cheese was fantastic.

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Here’s the thing about Mama Luna’s: it is hands down one of the best tavern cut, thin crust pizzas in all of Chicagoland. A real classic, fully deserving of praise. That’s must be how they can get away with the bad reviews, and it’s maybe how they can survive after being (supposedly) so rude to customers living within in the delivery area. It really is that good. No matter how the employees act, most customers are no doubt completely happy with their pizza and their experience. Those people just may not write Yelp reviews. And with that, we settled in for a quiet Saturday night.

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After the “real life drama” of 48 Hours, we were in the mood for a Saturday night spooky movie.

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Svengoolie presents The Wolfman!

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Chicagoans know Svengoolie well. One of the greats of the city’s pop culture.

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Many cities across the U.S. had weekly shows where a creepy host with a fun, scary name would introduce classic A- and B-level horror movie that were often bundled by the film studios as Shock Theater or Creature Features. The original horror host is often accepted to be Vampira, hostess of the The Vampira Show on a network affiliate in Los Angeles. Vampira also costarred in the infamous cult classic Plan 9 From Outer Space, and was further immortalized in the Tim Burton film Ed Wood. Cleveland had the famous Ghoulardi, and hosts such as Zacherley , who first appeared in the Philadelphia market, achieved nationwide fame.  Other large cities like St. Louis, Milwaukee , and Pittsburgh had a number of hosts over the years. Some played transmissions from popular hosts broadcasting from New York or other major cities. Chicago had hosts such as Marvin, then later, Svengoolie.

Svengoolie was originally played by radio host Jerry G. Bishop from 1970-1973. Rich Koz took over the role as the Son of Svengoolie in 1979. Later, the role changed simply to the Svengoolie character we know and love. Svengoolie presents a show with a mix of comedy, original parody songs, and very detailed analysis and trivia regarding the movie being televised on a particular evening. Koz and his team really do their research. His segments are just as much a draw as the movie itself. “B e R w Y n

Today, Svengoolie, an icon of Chicago pop culture, stands as one of the last of its kind and is nationally syndicated on Me-TV. So thankfully you don’t have to be in Chicago to enjoy Svengoolie. Mama Luna’s, however, is Chicago only!

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Don’t worry: Ernie didn’t get too scared by The Wolfman, probably because he’s the Woofman! And because he had some delicious Mama Luna pizza in his belly. There he is, the world’s proudest hound posing in front of his treasure!

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The night was a success. More casual than our longer trips, but no less rewarding. Mama Luna’s is great. In fact, it’s one of the best. Their customer service in the delivery department may be notorious, but some reviews pointed out that dining room was quite different, with friendly, welcoming workers. Give them a shot either way, because there’s no doubt you’ll be impressed with their classic family-style pizza. Mama Luna has been serving that same delicious pizza since 1960, when the Cragin area was a prosperous working-class neighborhood with many industries. Today, there are fewer heavy industries to employ local citizens, but Cragin is continues to thrive as a working-class community. In fact, more people currently live in the area than ever. It’s fun to think that there had to be at least one person with a lovable dog who bought a pizza in, like, 1982, and went home to watch Svengoolie. If our trip to Mama Luna is any indication, the restaurant is well on it’s way to being around for another 5o years.

Mama Luna is located at 5109 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago, IL, 60639

(773) 889-3020

mamalunaspizza.com

A second location is now open on Addison on the Northwest Side

 

Di Vita’s Restaurant & Pizzeria – Avondale/Logan Square, Chicago

Since 1953 (1958?)

This was the second time I had had Di Vita’s, a longtime eatery at Belmont near Milwaukee Ave. in Avondale area of Chicago. It’s been around a long time: since the 1950s. The Pizza Hound, however, wanted to try it for his first time, so for WrestleMania–the last one we watched at the Logan Square apartment–we got Di Vita’s.

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Logan Square and Avondale. Source: Google Maps

Di Vita’s by some definitions located in the Logan Square community area of Chicago, but commonly it is referred to as being part of Avondale. People in Chicago sometimes tend to be rigid in the their neighborhood definitions, but like people in other cities, they are defined by different names and boundaries by different groups over time. The stretch of Milwaukee Avenue just to the south reflects that change through time. In just a few blocks, there several Polish-focused restaurants, bars, and stores, reflecting the thriving Polish community there for many decades. The Red Apple Buffet, Endy’s Delicatessen, Kurowski’s Sausage Shop, and the newer Staropolska Restaurant, just to name a few, can be found there. There are some businesses with Spanish names on Milwaukee and Belmont, as well, reflecting the large numbers of people from Latin America that have in the recent decades have transformed and revitalized Avondale, Logan Square, and many parts of Chicago. It’s a very interesting stretch of road worth exploring.

The area is full of classic Chicago two- and three-flat buildings. Some have brick facades, but many are clad with siding in muted colors. The crawl of gentrification has been affecting the area recently, pushing northwest along the Blue Line tracks, and rents and homes prices have increased. Trendy bars are popping up not too far away, and there are already some chains such as Giordano’s not too far away.

Di Vita’s has defied those changes, serving Italian food for six decades. Since Ernie and I had to watch to drama and action of professional wrestling’s biggest annual event, his mom went to pick it up for us.

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The Di Vita’s website says the business has been around since 1953, but the menu says 1958. If it’s not a typo, this confusion of dates could be due to the different families that owned the business and the different locations for the business over the years. According the business website, the Di Vita family purchased a pizzeria at Fullerton and Kedzie avenues from a husband and wife team headed for divorce. The new owners renamed the business after the Di Vita family name, and in the late 1970s moved to the current location at Belmont and Hamlin. Early in the 1980s, the Di Vita’s sold the Pecarros family. The business was sold within that family sometime in the 1980s, and is still run by the Pecarros family to this day.

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For this WrestleMania, Ernie–wh0 has long been a John Cena fan–was really excited about Daniel Bryan taking on the Authority. So, I made him a small Daniel Bryan t-shirt collar to go with his Cena shirt, then we watched and listened to Bryan win two matches to become the champion at Wrestlemania 30. Woof! Woof! Woof!

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Halfway through the show, though, Ernie fell asleep and could not be bothered…

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Not even by the spectacle of WrestleMania.

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The arrival pizza perked him up, though!

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Di Vita’s makes a standard Chicago-style thin crust pie. They apparently make their own dough, which is always a plus. Ernie loved the crust leftovers…frontward…

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and backward.

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The Near Northwest Side of Chicago does not have nearly enough old fashioned local pizza joints, which makes supporting Di Vita’s a worthwhile choice for your pizza needs. For years living around Logan Square, Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Ukrainian Village, we always wished there more choices. Sure, there were classics like John’s on Western and Father & Son on Milwaukee–and farther to the Northwest there are many choices like La Villa–but there had surely been other businesses that had vanished in the passage of time. Gentrification has brought newer, more contemporary pizza options to those areas such as Piece, Santullo’s, Boiler Room, Dante’s, and Coal Fire (mmmm…) that focus on New York and New Haven styles of pizza, not to mention a few local and national chains. But classic thin crust tavern-cut pizza is a key piece of local culture, so enjoying pizza from places like Di Vita’s is well worth occasionally bypassing those newer options to get a real taste of Chicago.

It’s also a great choice when you are hanging out at home watching and listening to the underdog beat the bad guys in the biggest event of the year. Yes! Yes! Yes! Woof! Woof! Woof!

 Di Vita’s Restaurant & Pizzeria is located at 3753 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL 60618

(773) 588-5868

Di Vita’s Official Website

Di Vita’s on Facebook

Jim & Pete’s – Elmwood Park, IL

Since 1941

If Jim & Pete’s has been around 1941, then it certainly makes a run for the oldest pizza place we visited in the Chicago area. In the same year America went to war, two partners, Jim Sorce, Sr. and Pete Sizzo, opened a pizza counter at Chicago and Pulaski avenues in the West Humboldt Park in Chicago . By the 1950s, they had expanded service to a full service restaurant in River Forest. They operated until the mid-1980s when they moved to the current location. The Sorce family (including Jim’s son, Jim Jr.), along with the nephew of the other original partner, run Jim & Pete’s to this day, using the recipes of Jim Sr.’s wife for many of the dishes.   Check out this great old photograph of the original location from the official website!

The trek to Jim & Pete’s was a relatively easy one for us. Ernie jumped in the passenger seat and we headed west on North Avenue to the city limits, then traveling through Oak Park to Elmwood Park. North Avenue serves as the border between Elmwood Park and the beautiful tree-lined streets of River Forest, which with the expensive, large homes on large lots looks like a scene out of a 1980s John Hughes movie.

A few other restaurants dot this stretch of North Avenue. One such establishment is the fantastic Chicago classic, Johnnie’s Beef. There always seems to be a line of customers running outside around the building. The wait is worth it, though, as they serve one of the tastiest, mouthwatering beefs in Chicago. The Italian sausage and fries are great, too.

We called in the order, then drove around the neighborhood to check it out. Lots of one-and-a-half story, single family yellow brick homes and some more spacious two-story ones, each with a very neat lawn. Many appear to have been built in the 1940s and ’50s. Some homes in Elmwood Park, particularly those in the section north of Grand Avenue, were constructed in the 1920s,

Just bit west toward the river was Russell’s Barbecue on Thatcher Avenue, which looks straight out of an old Route 66 postcard, with a lot beautiful neon signage. We’ve never tasted the food at Russell’s, but I once bought a bottle of their signature sauce. To my taste, it was pretty strange, with a preponderance of an unidentifiable spice. That said, it deserves points for being unique. But anyway, we got back pretty quickly, though, as the pizza was surely ready in the standard Chicago “15 to 20.”

Jim & Pete's 2014 - Google Street View

Source: Google Street View

It was a weekend summer evening, and business was good at Jim & Pete’s. This newer building, though it’s built up to the sidewalk, looks a bit like a suburban style restaurant with parking lots on the sides. The staff was very friendly and welcoming, and they directed me to the small pickup window in the back. We had a coupon for a free bottle of Pepsi and our bill came out to about $22 including tax. As the sun set, we headed back east on North Avenue. Once at home, we opened up the treasure.

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Ernie was very interested in this pizza.

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This extra large pizza–18 inches–was something to behold. While it may look just like all the others, it was better than most. Even with simple toppings like sausage and pepperoni it somehow transcended such a basic formula. The cheese and sausage were very good, with the sausage and pepperoni found mostly on top of the cheese. The sauce was fantastic and formed a small flavorful ring around the edge leaving a small bit of crust visible. And the crust, too, was outstanding. Very, very thin and crispy–perfect for an occasional treat for Ernie. I have to admit, though, it was hard to give up any of this pizza, even to the little guy.

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Jim & Pete’s also serves double dough, pan, stuffed, and “hand rolled” crusts–and I bet they do each of them well. The thin crust was excellent, though, and I wish we could have it again. Way to go, Pizza Hound!

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We highly recommend the pizza at Jim & Pete’s. It’s amazing how any place can maintain quality for 75 years. From its earliest days in West Humbolt Park to over three decades in down the street in River Forest to today in Elmwood Park, somehow Jim & Pete’s has done it.

Jim & Pete’s is located at 7806 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park, IL 60707

(708) 453-5204

Jim & Pete’s Official Website

Jim & Pete’s on Facebook

Pizza Castle – Gage Park, Chicago

Since 1973

Is there any name for a pizza place more fun than Pizza Castle? What a wonderful name for a wonderful little place.

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Pizza Castle is located the Gage Park neighborhood on 55th Street between Spaulding and Sawyer avenues. Despite its location in a small strip mall, the surrounding streets are lined primarily with brick bungalows and sturdy two-flats. Gage Park is found south of the Stevenson Expressway and borders the neighborhoods of Brighton Park and Archer Heights to the north, Back of the Yards and West Englewood to the east, West Elsdon to the west, and Chicago Lawn to the south. While other pizza options really aren’t too far away, they are all still a bit of a hike if you don’t have a car (Geneo’s is somewhat nearby, though east of Kedzie). So, with it’s location and years of dependability, Pizza Castle reigns as the pizza king for the heart of Gage Park.

Pizza Castle - Gage Park from Google Maps

Source: Google Maps

It’s really a shame that we didn’t get more photos of this place, especially of the inside, which highlight the important place the family-oriented pizza joint occupies in a city neighborhood. On the outside, Pizza Castle makes the best use possible of a strip mall storefront. The windows in the front have a number lights, flags, and signs alerting passersby to delights available inside. A lot of the text on the signage appears to painted in what appears to my eyes as an older, less common typeface, giving the exterior of Pizza Castle a classic look.

The inside is the real treat, though. Colorful, bright, and inviting, it was the perfect antidote the rainy night we encountered outside. Behind the counter is a big oven, with several workers in Pizza Castle t-shirts making dough and tending to baking pies. It was clearly a busy night when we arrived. A delivery driver or two waited for orders, but were soon out the door. A small side counter with stools to stay and enjoy a slice is available, too. It is much cozier inside than the outside suggests.

In addition to the typical logos of Chicago’s beloved sports teams, the walls are covered in fantastic framed collages of Pizza Castle’s customers and neighbors. With seemingly thousands of happy, smiling, and (presumably) local faces, I couldn’t help but feel like the Pizza Hound had made the right choice for our pizza run. Check out the official Pizza Castle Facebook page to see the wonderful collages.

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The menu features all the standard toppings, as well as the classic Chicago Italian beef. Double dough is available for a thicker crust. As usual, Ernie and I stuck with the typical Chicago-style thin crust, but instead of the usual pepperoni and sausage, I wanted a little more variety. So, we got Pizza Castle’s version of the standard Chicago special (sausage, green peppers, onions, and mushrooms) called the King Arthur!

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The king and the dragon delivered the goods!

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And of course the Pizza Hound needed his own piece (crust and sauce only)!

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You deserve it, buddy!

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Pizza Castle makes their own sausage, which was delicious and a highlight of the King Arthur. Since we weren’t sure when we’d make it back to Pizza Castle, we naturally got two pizzas. The menu highlights the popular choices of sausage, spinach, and just cheese, but we opted for pepperoni. While the thin crust was good, the stuffed pizza really stood out. Delicious crust and cheese, and really one of our favorite pizzas we’ve had on our adventures.

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Pizza Castle has gotten some well-deserved attention in the Chicago area in the last couple of years, and according to their Facebook page they were just filmed and interviewed by Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel! Wow! No bizarre food here; just great pizza. Not bad for a local South Side pizza joint!

Deals on wings are to be had at Pizza Castle, t00. Not to mention pasta, shrimp, perch, and the standard fried stuff. Don’t forget your free RC Cola with every large and extra large pizza!

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No doubt about it, the Pizza Hound loves Pizza Castle.

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Pizza Castle is located at 3256 W. 55th St., Chicago, IL 60632

(773) 776-1075

Pizza Castle 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.

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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!

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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 over  our average.

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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.

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

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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)

County Inn Pizza (or is it County Line?) – Elmhurst, IL

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The Blackhawks were competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs again when we made our trip to this carryout and delivery place in the West Suburbs, and it proved to be yet another Chicago-style thin crust pizza perfect for watching the game at home with friends and family.

This place is a bit unusual due to its name. So, is it called County Inn Pizza, as the sign outside and a few online listings suggest? Or is the correct name County Line Pizza, as the menus and website say?  County Line makes sense, as the small building is located not too far from Interstate 88 at the intersection of Roosevelt Road and I-294, the Tri-State Tollway, in Cook County right on the border of DuPage County. They even have two numbers reflecting this geographical fact. As the menu proclaims: “One location – 2 area codes – So We Can Save You Money.” Still, County Inn seems the be the name of choice used by most online reviewers. Apparently, the place has been around for over four decades, so maybe the name changed. I’m sure there’s a local out there who could give us some insight on this one.

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The lady who served me, who I think was the Marge in the drawing on the menu above, was very friendly. She encouraged me to not forget my free pop (Pepsi products) as I walked out the door. I’m pretty certain I saw Billy making pizzas in the back with a few other workers, as well. County Inn Pizza must be their labor of love.

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County Inn offers pan pizza, as well as a thick and cheesy pie called a Double Decker, a style found in a few places in the Chicago area. We stuck to our standard–or “control”–a tavern-cut thin crust, all pepperoni, half sausage. We were not disappointed. The cheese was good, and the crust and sauce were sufficient. The pepperonis, however, were a bigger hit. Smaller than standard pepperonis, each piece was cooked on top of the cheese to create numerous small little bowls of bright, greasy goodness.

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County Inn Pizza is worth a try if you want a quick pizza pick-up to watch the hockey game if you are in the Elmhurst area, or in surrounding communities such as Broadview, Berkeley, Bellwood, or Maywood. Go Hawks and go County Inn (or Line)!

County Inn (Line) Pizza is located at 12049 Roosevelt Rd., Elmhurst, Illinois 60126

Cook County: (708) 449-9711    DuPage County (630) 832-9382

countylinepizza.net

Geo’s Pizza – Montclare, Chicago

Since 1972     

As usual, the Pizza Hound and I look forward to getting a pizza on the weekend. So, one Friday night, right on schedule, Ernie caught a scent and led the way. Soon, we were heading west to try out a pizza we’d never had before, and boy were we glad we found it. 

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“Caught a scent!”

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“I know where to go!”

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“This is the place!”

While there are numerous classic pizza joints on the Southwest Side of Chicago, the city’s Northwest Side should not be underestimated for meeting one’s pizza needs. There are all kinds of great dine-in, take-out, and delivery spots. In particular, Harlem Avenue north of Grand all the way to Irving Park Road is a bit of a Little Italy. It borders the suburb of Elmwood Park and is not too far from the longstanding Italian community of Melrose Park.

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The Hound and I agree: Geo’s Pizza was a great experience all around. It seems little changed over the years. A take-out joint with a counter and a just a handful seats for waiting. Old, faded photos–and some wood paneling–on the walls, connecting Geo’s to past generations of local pizza eaters and their families in the community. Nice people working there, too.

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After a short 15-20 minute wait, the Hound and I picked up our extra large all pepperoni and half-sausage, and it came on the classic cardboard base, covered in a paper bag, perfect for ripping open like a gift to get to the delicious prize inside. Geo’s gave us a free RC Cola, too!

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The pizza was fantastic! One of our favorites. Thin, but not ultra thin. Handmade crust. Nice, tasty sauce and very good cheese. We’d love to have it again. Along with Sorrento’s on Harlem and a number of other places, Geo’s helps make the Northwest Side a pizza destination.
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A few more menu images:

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Geo’s Pizza is located at 2849 N. Harlem Ave. in Chicago

(773) 237-4450

(708) 452-4367

Geo’s Pizza Official Website

Geo’s Pizza on Facebook (unofficial page)