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The Chicagoist-Steve Dahl Pizza Summit (Part 1)

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Dec 13, 2010 7:00PM

Image via Steve Dahl's Facebook page.
Last month I was given the proverbial offer I couldn't refuse: the chance to work on something with the legendary radio personality, Steve Dahl. For a generation of radio listeners, Dahl's partnership with Garry Meier was appointment radio worth all the detention hours I racked up at Lane Tech listening to them in class, and the overnight rebroadcasts of Steve and Garry on WLUP-AM 1000 made the homesickness of my first couple of years of my Navy hitch bearable. I even followed the Stever through the post-Meier solo years with Buzz Kilman, Wendy Snyder and eventually the final show on Jack-FM and into his current run as a podcast pioneer. Seriously, check out the Dahl Twitter feed and Facebook pages. He and his team have adapted to social media like a duck to water.

Digressing, the premise of the project was simple. Dahl, if you subscribe or listen to his podcast, is a lover of pizza. Lord knows the Chicagoist staff is opinionated about where to get a good pie. So he and I exchanged lists of 4-5 pizza joints that we each thought the other would like. After visiting the pizza joints, we would discuss what each thought of the other's choices. It didn't devolve into a "my list is better than yours" thing. It was an opportunity for two men to be find common ground over guy talk. And what's more guy talk than pizza?

Today, we discuss Dahl's takes on my selections. Tomorrow, we run through Dahl's list and what I thought of his favorites.

Chicagoist: How often do you get to go out and visit different pizzerias?

Steve Dahl: Not that often. One of the things I liked about your list is that the choices varied between the city and suburbs. I don't go downtown or into the city for pizza. You see, my wife doesn't like pizza.

C: Really?

SD: Yeah. I think she has a hangup about the tomato sauce; a pizza has to have the right balance of sauce to the rest of the ingredients for Janet (Dahl's wife) to eat. Janet doesn't like pizza or Chinese food. If I knew that about her when we were first dating, I wouldn't have married her.

C: I was listening to your podcast where you and your wife visited Vito & Nick's (8433 S. Pulaski Rd., 773-735-2050) and you couldn't stop complaining about the shag carpet on the bathroom walls.

SD: Well, it's just not right. But it is memorable.

C: I can see your point, but I've visited Vito & Nick's when either the urinal or the toilet backed up and, if you're wearing sandals or flip flops, it becomes a completely different hazard.

SD: I did like the pizza.

C: You ordered the "Around the World," right?

SD: I ordered the pizzas you suggested from each of your recommendations. I don't remember if I recommended anything with my list.

C: You did. I picked Vito & Nick's and Marie's (4129 W. Lawrence, 773-725-1853) because I thought those two would best embody that classic Chicago pizza. You've got the cracker crust, the party cut, the toppings threatening to make the whole thing a mess. Plus, both of these places are located in neighborhoods that take some effort to reach, so each restaurant is staffed with a lot of character.

SD: I definitely like the atmosphere at Vito & NIck's and thought the place should be connected to a bowling alley.

C: Why?

SD: We were doing some research of your choices online and one Vito & Nick's location was out in the suburbs, next to a bowling alley. And the way you enter Vito & Nick's on Pulaski, it just seems like you should rent some bowling shoes and order a pizza.

C: Okay. What was your take on Marie's? I like that I can still enter via the connecting liquor store.

SD: There is that, and their pizza was good. I think, of your choices, I found their pizza sauce the most addictive?

C: How so?

SD: You know when you eat something that's hot off the stove or out of the oven and you just can't stop eating it? Their sauce was like that.

C: Your eyes getting too big for your belly.

SD: Yeah.

C: I gave you a couple of deep dish selections.

SD: Yeah. I only had a slice of deep dish from that one place on Ashland you recommended.

C: Art of Pizza (3033 N. Ashland, 773-327-5600)?

SD: Yeah. I liked it and then I remembered that I had been there before.

C: What was your take on Burt's Place (8541 Ferris Ave., Morton Grove, 847-965-7997)?

SD: Mary (van Daele, Dahl's Executive Producer) had been there before and she knew to call ahead. So she did, set up a time for the pizza to be served. They said "be here ten minutes before to get your drinks and have a seat." We did, showed up at 6:50, got our drinks and the pizza hit our table almost as soon as we sat down.

C: What I like about Burt's, besides the show, is that they bake their deep dish pies in pans that have been used for years and they're so seasoned, at this point, that you don't need to brush any oil or butter on the crust. It comes out of the oven with an amazing char on the crust.

SD: Burt's reminded me of a couple of places in Detroit I used to visit, Shields and Buddy's. It seemed to me more of a Detroit-style pizza. There wasn't as much sauce as a Chicago pizza. this was another pizza Janet liked.

C: Cool.

SD: Now they could have put more sausage on the pizza. I think there was a slice of sausage on each piece. And going to the bathroom took some maneuvering. But I really liked the pie.

C: Now I also recommended the Firoentino pizza at Coalfire (1321 W. Grand, 312-226-2625) and I wasn't sure, once I started comparing lists, if you would like that.

SD: I wasn't certain on that when I read the list, either. I originally read that and thought "oh, shit."

C: But I wanted to include Coalfire because it's one of the better newer pizzerias in the city. There's been a glut of new pizza joints in the past few years that throw in a wood-fired brick oven, thinking that'll draw a crowd. Coalfire, as the name infers, uses a coal-fired oven. It maintains a nice, even heat and those pizzas bake fast.

SD: Well, there's nothing like eating a pizza and leaving a carbon footprint. But I'm glad you made that recommendation. The spicy salami and the roasted peppers are ingredients I never thought I'd like.

C: Glad you liked it.

SD: I have to say that Coalfire was probably my favorite of the ones on your list. the crust, sauce and ingredients were just perfect. Even though one of my sons lives nearby, it's in a neighborhood that was off the map for me. I would never have considered it.

C: It's also close enough to the United Center for you to grab a bite before a Blackhawks game.

SD: Well, parking can be a bit confusing. But I eventually figured out where to park.

C: What else did you like about Coalfire?

SD: They have cute waitresses.

Tomorrow: I offer my take on Dahl's list.