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)

Frank’s Pizzeria – Schorsch Village, Chicago

Since 1952

Through the light snow as the Pizza Hound and I traveled down Belmont Avenue, a glorious neon sign beckoned. The sure sign that a classic Chicago experience was inside.

Frank's Pizzeria from Google Street View

Source: Google Street View

And that is a great neon sign. The only photo I managed to snap of it was crazy blurry, so I didn’t even bother posting it. But to me, a sign like that says “years of dependable quality,” and the sign didn’t lie. Frank’s has been open since 1952, making it one of the older pizza places we’ve visited.

Where Frank’s really excels is the dine-in experience. Many of the pizza places Ernie and I visit are mainly carryout. Even if a place has a dining room, sometimes it’s pretty boring and it’s not the most exciting place to enjoy your meal. The dining room at Frank’s, however, like the neighborhood surrounding the establishment, is a comforting time warp to decades before. Little appears to have been changed since maybe the ’50s or ’60s.

Covered with wood paneling, the interior of Frank’s is relatively compact, with several small, private booths lining the walls on either side and a few tables and chairs in the middle. Tablecloths and a few plants add to the atmosphere. When we went to Frank’s, the place was completely empty. People these days probably prefer newer, flashier places for a night out, and I get that. But treasures like Frank’s die all the time, and once they are gone, they are gone for good. As quiet as it can be there, Frank’s Pizzeria is surely a great place for private date or a secret agent meeting, though. Cozy and inviting, you will be treated to the way people used to enjoy pizza.

Of course, this trip was early in our pizza houndin’, so I don’t have any good pictures of the interior. Maybe it’s best that way. Go yourself and be surprised. It really is a treat.

We got carryout, as usual, with our typical thin crust. Tasty classic Chicago-style pizza cut in squares. We also ordered the breaded ravioli, which was good, as well. Breaded–or toasted–ravioli used to be pretty much an exclusively St. Louis thing (trust us, you can count on it on just about every menu in the city), but it seems be branching out all over the country, including to Chicago.

Frank's Pizzeria Menu

Frank’s does pan and stuffed pizzas, as well, and you can get double dough if you want your thin crust to be a little thicker. You can even get popular Chicago food items such as Italian beef and giardiniera as toppings. What’s up with the “half and half – 2 ingredients only” listing? Shouldn’t it be the same price as a one topping? I’ve seen this at a few other older pizza places and it confuses me a bit. Maybe it’s left over from years ago when people didn’t load down their pizzas with a lot of toppings and one different topping on each was all the variety one desired.

Frank's menu pizza listings

Frank’s also offers a number of appetizers, ribs, and “golden fried chicken,” the last of which seems to be fairly common on the menus of pizza places in all corners of the city.  And like many other pizza joints in Chicago, loyalty is rewarded. Collect 20 and get a free pizza!

Frank's Pizzeria cards

Frank’s Pizzeria serves good pizza that’s probably best enjoyed in their classic dining room. Going there is a great opportunity to get a slice of somewhat slower and timeless version Chicago than the craziness that happens as one gets closer to the lake. For these all reasons, Frank’s Pizzeria has become a favorite spot for my friends Christian and Brittney. Christian eyes his prize below.

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Frank’s Pizzeria is located at 6506 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago

(773) 283-2564

Updated: Official Frank’s Pizzeria Website

Geneo’s Pizza – Chicago Lawn, Chicago

“You Ring – We Bring”

The Pizza Hound and I really miss Chicago-style thin crust pizza. Though there are definitely similar pizzas across the country, and particularly in the Midwest and Great Lakes region, it really isn’t everywhere in the country. It’s everywhere in Chicago, though, and all kinds of places make a great pie. Sometimes nothing sounds better than a basic cheesy thin pizza cut in squares from an old pizzeria.

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Geneo’s (or is it Pizza By Geneo’s?) definitely fits the bill. It is standard Chicago-style thin crust pizza. No flash, but definitely good. Ernie and I swung by Geneo’s on a Sunday afternoon, rather than our typical Friday or Saturday night hunt. Geneo’s is located on 59th street on the south side, between Sacramento and Richmond Streets. It’s take-out and delivery only, and the inside is fairly unimpressive (however, a fancy interior is not at all a requirement for a great pizza), with a counter to order, a menu on the wall, and a seat to wait.

The take-out menu notes that all pizzas have a cheese base (in this case, pointing out that they use real cheese), which to me is one of the intriguing quirks of Chicago pizza menus. Not the cheese itself, but this and other menus’ upfront discussions of cheese. As one would expect, many restaurants don’t mention the cheese at all on their menus, but some will  go the slightly different route than Geneo’s and explicitly outline “cheese and sausage” or “cheese and mushrooms” for whatever price. And some will have a very long list of these simple combinations, each usually with exactly the same price no matter what topping is listed. Why does each one need to be listed in that way? The person taking the order will even say, “So, that’s a extra large with cheese, pepperoni, and sausage.” Uncommon preferences aside, don’t pizzas almost always have cheese? Why does it need to be mentioned? A fun little idiosyncrasy.

Now to the pizza itself. We kept it standard, with all pepperoni and half sausage, and we liked Geneo’s. It’s Chicago-style thin crust typical of the South Side, cut in squares, just like we wanted. Overall, it did not blow us away, but you certainly couldn’t do wrong by ordering it if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Geneo’s has apparently been around for a few decades, which is great. It also has a beautiful neon sign, of which I sadly have no photos. But I did get a photo of the Hound eagerly awaiting his prize!

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Also, I love these pizza menu designs. Who creates these? I feel like I have seen this same pizza man on another menu, but I may be wrong, because it’s on the Geneo’s sign, too. Either way, they are a great, fun element of pizza pop culture.

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Geneo’s Pizza is located at 2945 W. 59th Street in Chicago.

(773) 925-1631

Is this really the Geneo’s website? Check out the bizarrely vague video!

Geneo’s Pizza on Yelp