Touring Eataly

 What happens when you mix a Williams and Sanoma with an upscale Italian restaurant? Eataly, this wierd hybrid where you can buy olive oils and pastas while waiting for your table. Actually, there are 3-4 restaurants scattered in here, so very confusing. We’re at the largest, the pizza and pasta place called Le Cucine. 3 people means 3 things to try:

Starting with the Vesuvo pasta – with a creamy sauce, fresh basil, and sausage. I like my pasta al dente, but this was way underdone and salty. Would not order again.

We also had 2 pizzas. The first Massese, looks like pepperoni. It’s technically “spicy salami”. There was a nice heat, and a generous amount of mozzarella on a fantastic cheery crust, but it was very salty, and worst of all: the tomatoes were not fully drained so there was a slick of water on top of the cheese.

The other pizza was the same, but sausage. Great sausage, but same flaws. Come for the cheese market, but don’t stay for the phenomenal views of World Trade Center.

Not your tourist’s NYC pizza

New York is famous for bagels, pizza, pastrami, and cheesecake. Having had 3 of the 4, I decided it was time to hunt down some phenomenonal pizza. We were in midtown for a movie, the center of tourist trap pizza joints. After some research Don Antonio by Starita topped the list. At 3pm on a rainy December Monday the line was out the door, a good omen.

Of course everyone thinks NY pizza is huge greasy thin slice, but a surge in craft restaurants are fill no the city with stone ovens, local ingredients, and everything else that marks modern fine dining. Don Antonio is a standout in this promising trend. For 3 people we opted for 2 pizzas.

The first is their specialty, a basic Margherita but with a twist. The dough is lightly fried before going in the oven, making it fluffy and crispy. Everyone making a bruschetta crust is actually trying to replicate this masterpiece. Great texture with sharp tomato sauce to cut the oil, but much saltier than I’d expect. In fact, everyone agreed it was saltier than the next pizza which was covered in cured meats.

I give you “The Butcher” with sausage, prosciutto, salami, ham, and more. The savory umami flavors just stack and stack on these large foldable slices. This is the first “meat lover’s” pizza that lives up to the name.

Are these great pizzas? Absolutely. Are they the best pizza I’ve had? No. which makes me seriously doubt New York’s claim for the best pizza in the world.

Chicago Deep Dish Round 2

Let’s try this again. After a cold walk around Chicago’s South Side and the Robie House, we decide to give deep dish another try. This time we go off the recommendations of some Chicgo ex-pat friends and stop into Giordono’s. The menu claims a history of Italian immigrants bringing over a recipe from Turin in the 70’s, so can this really be considered authentic Chicago deep dish?


This one was better. The crust was piping hot and crispy. The filling was a little cooler than I’d like and the mushrooms and peppers would have benefitted from sautéing first. But the cheese had great flavor and you could taste the pork, fennel and spices in the sausage.

This is a much better pie than we had at Lou Malnati’s, but I think there’s still some room for improvement to make a truly great pie.

Deep dish delight disappoints

OK, it’s a chain, but it’s only 2 blocks from the hotel and it’s cold out, so Lou Malnati’s will be our first experience with deep dish pizza in Chicago. We get a table almost immediately though the place is pretty busy.

We’re told our pizza will take 30 min or so, and based on the questions asked, it sounds like most patrons preorder their pie. Good way to turn tables, and a good sign if people know the ins and outs of ordering.

While we wait for our pie, I indulge in a pint. Noticing a regional label unfamiliar with, I quiz the waiter and settle on 312 Urban Wheat from Goose Island. Not very translucent, light on wheat flavor, and the taste of chorine and too much hops is of putting for this style of beer. I much preferred it when I found it on tap a few weeks ago in San Francisco. I still need to check them out while I’m here in Chicago.

What you see is The Chicago Classic, a sausage pie with mushrooms and onion added.
Honestly? A little disappointed, but maybe I had my hopes too high for a chain. Crust is nice and crispy, but doughy. The sausage is generous in portion, and lean, but the only flavoring seems to be salt. Likewise the mozzarella is generic and salty. The tomatoes make everything on top a watery mess. Overall this pizza lacks in flavor. Sad to say, their frozen ones might actually be better.