By Matt Sharp
There comes a time in everyone's life when you are sitting on the couch, and you suddenly get hungry. When you start to think of what you could eat, your laziness is essentially stronger than your hunger. So why not just call your local pizza place and have them bring you a nice warm pie to the front door? I've found that some places are faster, cheaper and better.
Last Tuesday night when I was leaving bowling, I was pretty hungry, but knew I wasn’t going to want to make anything when I got home. So I called Domino’s to see if they were still open, and I ordered a pizza. When I called I had to ask how long it would take because I didn’t want to be up all night waiting. Luckily they said 10 to 15 minutes, I was amazed, and I had to hurry home just to beat the pizza delivery guy there. When I got my pizza, and cheesy breadsticks, I was a little worried that maybe it wasn’t as fresh and that is why it didn't take as long, but when I opened the boxes steam instantly rose from the pie and the cheese was practically still bubbling. Overall the pizza could of used a little more sauce, but was very flavorful and kept me satisfied throughout the night.
2. Pizza Hut
Pizza Hut is the most popular pizza in our household; they always have great deals for what ever you may be looking for. We usually order a sausage and pepperoni pizza with pan crust. Their pan crust is by far my favorite pizza crust; they bake it with a hint of cinnamon that adds kind of sweet taste. The sauce is rich with flavorful, and they make sure there is plenty of it. Every once in awhile we will get a pizza where the sausage is kind of bland, but the pepperoni always make up for it with a little bit of a kick.
3. Papa John’s
When I order Papa John’s, all I think about is the signature garlic dipping sauce. It is at its best when the sauce comes cold and creamy instead of hot and oily. The pizza garlic sauce combo is a match made in heaven, and I probably wouldn’t eat Papa John’s any other way. The savory melted cheese soaks in the sauce and grease and is a perfect treat. Each pizza is also equipped with a single peperocini to add flavor.
Edwardo’s is an all time favorite in our office, and we get it at least once a month. We stick with our favorite; stuffed garlic and spinach pizza and pepperoni thin crust. The stuffed garlic and spinach pizza is so many flavors mixed together your taste buds are kind of stunned, but delighted with each bite. The sauce and cheese are built up about three inches to complete the stuffed pizza.
By Kathleen Dorsey
While pizza and beer are a match made in heaven, finding a good pie in the neighborhood pub can be a bit of a challenge.
Luckily, several brewpubs and bars in the area have expanded their menus to include a pizza offering — and some of them are more delicious than one might expect.
The Bullpen Bar and Grill, with a new location in Highland, recently partnered with longtime Region favorite Gelsosomo’s to offer excellent pizzas along with Bullpen’s signature low price drink specials and pub events. As anyone who has eaten Gelsosomo’s can attest, the pizza may look humble, but it packs a ton of flavor. The sauce is rich and not too sweet, and the crust is nice and crispy when served. We ordered the pepperoni with onions, which imparted a bit of sweetness to the intensely flavored meat. All in all, this has been one of the best pizzas we’ve had in the Region so far.
2. Three Floyds
For the last few years, Three Floyds has been stepping up their menu to include inventive and gourmet offerings, instead of the average “pub grub” found at many other brewery/eateries. Their pizzas are no exception. On their current menu, the pepperoni pizza is a perennial favorite, made with hazelnuts, fresh basil and—my favorite—white truffle oil. While the pizza is a little greasy with the added oil, the flavor more than makes up for the grease component, and the hazelnuts impart a delightful and unexpected crunch. Best of all, Three Floyds rare and seasonal brews are readily available just across the bar.
3. Old Chicago
In many ways, Old Chicago could be considered the ultimate pizza and beer experience. With a constant supply of made-to-order and buffet-style pizzas, Old Chicago has a pie for everyone. Not to mention their extensive beer selection, with nearly 100 beers on tap at any given time. Dedicated drinkers can try each beer and earn recognition and swag with a rewards card. Old Chicago definitely has the pizza and beer requirements, and their focus is on quantity.
4. Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution, located off U.S. 30 in Valparaiso, is an interesting blend of restaurant and museum. Murals and artwork celebrating American industry line the walls, while the most American of beverages flows from the taps. Industrial Revolution’s fantastic beer offerings are matched by its inventive pizza recipes, boasting fresh ingredients and unexpected tastes. Our favorite is the Freedom Pie, featuring tomatoes, artichokes, roasted garlic olive oil, mozzarella and balsamic glaze, finished with fresh chopped basil.
Unique places to find pizza
By Eloise Marie Valadez
Other than the usual popular pizza joints, food fans can find the cheese-based concoction on the menus of various eateries in the Region. If you're looking for gourmet and unusual pizza recipes, pay a visit to the following restaurants for tasty options.
1. Ciao Bella, 1514 U.S. 41, Schererville, (219) 322-6800 or visit ciaobellaonline.com
In addition to Ciao Bella's varied menu filled with Calabrian-styled recipes with innovative touches, owner Joe Scalzo also offers a selection of interesting pizza combinations.
Gourmet pizzas come in 12-inch, 14-inch and 16-inch sizes and range from $12 to $17. Whether you want assorted cheeses and interesting sauces, you have your pick here.
Among pizzas on the menu are Pizza ai Fichi, which features goat cheese, figs, onions and is drizzled with balsamic glaze (without sauce); Pizza Margherita, featuring fresh mozzarella, goat cheese and Fontinella; Pizza Verde with spinach, ricotta cheese and fresh basil; Pizza Bianca starring arugula, prosciutto, olive oil and more. Guests may also add other ingredients to a basic cheese base if they'd prefer.
2. Café Borgia, 10018 Calumet Avenue, Munster, (219) 922-8889 or visit cafeborgia.com
Café Borgia, which was established in 1986 in Lansing, Ill., offers a mix of various appetizers, pastas, meat dishes, seafood and desserts. But sharing space on the menu are also a few standout individual pizzas. Among offerings are the popular Four Cheese, blending mozzarella, gorgonzola, mascarpone and Parmesan; Four Seasons, featuring artichokes, prosciutto, mushrooms and olives and Margherita, which is a combination of mozzarella and basil. Pizzas, which are thin and crispy Roman-style creations, range in price from $10 to $12.
3. The Rolling Stonebaker, (219) 246-0068 or rollingstonebaker.com
When you get your pizza from the folks at The Rolling Stonebaker, you're in for an unusual experience. The Rolling Stonebaker is a pizza place on wheels. All pizzas are made in a Studebaker truck and are wood-fired flatbread creations. The owners of the rolling pizzeria have a permanent location in Beverly Shores from Memorial Day to Labor Day and operate their trucks at various pop up locations all year round, depending on the weather. The Rolling Stonebaker will make an appearance at the Lighthouse Outlet Mall in Michigan City on Thanksgving weekend. Among pizzas on the menu are The Big 6 with basil and oregano; Potatohead with slices of red potato, red onion and thyme; The Purple Pig, featuring slow roasted pork, barbecue sauce and purple slaw and others. For more information, including prices and pop-up locations, call or visit the website or Facebook page.
4. Sage, 425 Sand Creek Drive, Chesterton, (219) 926-6500 or visit sagerestaurant.net
The Italian American eatery, which has been open for two years, features a variety of highlighted dishes and specials. The menu also stars assorted pizzas and flatbreads ranging in price from $10.50 to $14. Highlighted pizzas and flatbreads include Mushroom Pizza; Classic Margarita Pizza and Soppressata Flatbread which features spicy soppressata, house red sauce, smoked provolone, fresh basil and red chiles. Also on the menu is a Pesto Chicken Flatbread and other pizzas.
By Pat Colander
Here are the unsurprising facts: As of 2012, pizzamarketplace.com reported that 97 percent of U.S. adults eat pizza and 24 percent consume pizza they purchased frozen or refrigerated at the grocery store. That adds up to about 364 million pizzas, $4.91 billion in sales of refrigerated and frozen pizza, according to a Packaged Facts survey of the U.S. pizza market.
In the retail pizza market, small and private labels---Amy’s brand was cited by the national study---continue to steal share from the mass-market pizza makers in pizza and pizza-related products. Because my husband eats so much frozen pizza---approximately three per week---this list is a subset of available frozen pizzas considered Jeff-worthy in order of personal fondness. All pizzas were baked in a Thermador oven on a pizza stone:
1. Amy's Pizza Margherita made with Organic Flour and Tomatoes
Strack's (or Town & Country)
Calories per serving 280, calories from fat 100.
Total fat 12g, 18%; cholesterol 10mg, 3%; sodium 550 mg, 23%.
Total carbs, 32g, 11%; dietary fiber 2g, 8%; sugars 3g, protein 11g.
Amy’s does not give directions for microwave cooking and only has directions for conventional oven that say to preheat the oven to 450 degrees and bake for 9-10 minutes. If you want a softer crust cook it longer for 13-15 minutes, but Jeff doesn’t do this because he prefers the thin crust crispier. He does let the pizza stand for at least two minutes before cutting so the cheese can settle. He likes Amy’s the most because it is the closest flavor to the pizza margherita he fell in love with in Italy. The ingredients in Amy’s are all organic and healthy, even for our vegan children and grandchildren. The crust contains wheat bran, milk and honey. In case you are allergic Amy’s provides the information that the pizza is made in a facility that processes foods containing soy, tree nuts and seeds (including sunflower seeds.) But Amy's does not use any peanuts, fish, shellfish or eggs in the pizza. Of all the pizzas on the quality list, Amy’s has the biggest carbon footprint, at least according to the box, Amy's Kitchen is located in Petaluma California. For more information visitamys.com
2. Amy's Pizza Pesto
Strack's (or Town & Country)
6.99/ 13.5 oz.
Calories per serving 310, calories from fat 110.
Total fat 12g 18%; cholesterol 10 mg 4 %; sodium 480 mg, 20%.
Total carbs 36g, 13%; dietary fiber 2g, 8%, sugars 3g, protein 12g.
The directions for the pesto version of Amy’s pizza call for a preheated oven at 425 degrees, a baking time of 12-14 minutes. This pizza is moister and so the cheese has to settle and you must always use a pizza cutter to get the best cut. Other ingredients include part-skim mozzarella, organic broccoli (which Jeff hates and always removes), organic basil, honey, sea salt, organic garlic, organic potato flour and organic tomatoes. In addition to milk and honey, this pizza contains pine nuts. This is Jeff’s second favorite frozen pizza option because the tomatoes seem even fresher when paired with the pesto sauce in which you can really taste the basil.
3. The Original Gino's East of Chicago /Authentic Deep Dish Pizza Sausage
Town & Country, also available at Strack’s
Calories per serving 445 per serving, calories from fat 240.
Total fat 26g, 40%, saturated fat 8g, 42%; cholesterol 35mg, 13%; sodium 540mg 23%.
Total carbs 32g, 10%.
The pizza was developed in 1966 at Gino’s on Rush St., which is no longer there. The Gino’s on Superior just east of Michigan Ave. remains and there is usually a line out the door on the weekends. Frozen is not as good as the real restaurant, but it is not as expensive either and there is no waiting. It is the only edible frozen deep dish pizza available though and you can get a reasonable facsimile of the Gino’s experience. It is possible to microwave this pizza, but Jeff would never do that. He cautions that this thick crust deep dish has to be cooked delicately and you have to check it with a fork to make sure that it is hot enough in the center. This pizza bakes in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Gino’s pizza is distributed by Nostalgic Foods Distributors in west suburban Carol Stream, Ill. Visit them at nostalgiafoods.com
4. Boss Hog Italian Sausage Screamin' Sicilian Pizza Co.
Town & Country also available at Strack's
Calories per serving 320, calories from fat 150
Total fat 17g, 26%; saturated fat 35%; cholesterol 50mg, 17%; sodium 830mg, 35%.
Total carbs 25g, 8%; dietary fiber 1g, 4%; sugars 3g; protein 17g.
As promised this pizza has a very thick and rich tomato sauce, along with Wisconsin whole milk mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheeses. The sweet Italian sausage was tasty according to the pizza lover. The only flaw Jeff observed was that he could not finish the entire pizza by himself---he has no trouble polishing off any of the other pizzas on this list in one sitting. The Boss Hog is loaded with meat, more than he could eat. This pizza is baked in a preheated oven at 425 degrees, for 17-19 minutes. Boss Hog is distributed by Palermo Villa Inc. Milwaukee, Wisc. and has a hotline 1-855-972-7326 for questions and comments, comes in a recyclable box and its web site address is screaminsicilian.com.
4. Home Run Inn Chicago's Premium Pizza
Strack's or Town & Country
6.99/ 30 oz.
Calories per serving 360, calories from fat 170.
Total fat 19g, 29%; saturated fat 6g, 30%; cholesterol 40mg, 13%; sodium 770mg, 32%.
Total carbs 29g, 10%; dietary fiber 4g, 16%; sugars 1g; protein 21g, contains wheat and milk.
Home Run Inn frozen pizza makers claim that they are using the same recipe and ingredients as the pizzeria pizzas still available at the restaurant. But if you want to taste a real Home Run Inn pizza you have to go to the restaurant still located near Sox park at 4254 W. 31st St. in Chicago. It’s open from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily and from 10 a.m. - 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. This frozen iteration comes out of a preheated 450-degree oven after 15 or 20 minutes. Like all the thin crust pizzas you have to monitor this carefully so you don't overcook the crust. The pizza contains wheat flour and part-skim mozzarella. Jeff considers it “an average everyday pizza,” but not spectacular. Even though it is the best value in that it is the largest and contains six servings, he has no trouble eating the entire pizza. The pizza comes from nearby Woodridge, Ill. via Home Run Inn Frozen Foods, for more info call 1-800-636-9696 or visit HomeRunInnPizza.com
By Tara McElmurry
Delivery or frozen pizza is good in a pinch or when the pizza-craving hits you hard, but, as with most food, there’s nothing like the taste, smell and love that goes into a homemade pizza. So, if you have time grab some simple ingredients and put on a chef’s hat. One delicious homemade option comes from a recipe my dad, Tom McElmurry, has been using for years. From the book “Pizza” (1987) by James McNair, Dad uses the Deep Dish, Chicago Style pizza recipe.
“The recipe is very easy,” Dad said. “I’ve been making this recipe for a long time when we hosted family pizza parties. Some key tips include making sure the dough isn’t too wet or too dry in the mixer. Also, be sure the water isn’t too hot—water that is too hot can kill the yeast.
“This recipe is also good to use because you can add personal variations very easily.”
As a vegetarian and to add his own variation, Dad uses one package of frozen spinach (thawed and pressed) instead of sausage.
This recipe takes a couple hours in all, but the dough can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, but must be brought back to room temperature again when you resume cooking.
“Once you get the crust in the oven, that’s when the kitchen really starts smelling good,” Dad smiled. “The oregano, basil and garlic give the tomatoes a rich Italian taste, which works well with the spinach and cheese.”
Homemade pizza tastes good with just about anything, but Dad and I pair ours with a seasonal Three Floyd's brew.
Deep Dish, Chicago Style with Cornmeal Pizza Dough
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 c. warm water
1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 ¼ c. unbleached all-purpose or semolina flour
1 c. yellow cornmeal or polenta
1 tsp. salt
¼ c. olive oil, preferably extra –virgin, or vegetable oil
1 can (28 oz.) Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and drained
4 garlic cloves , minced or pressed
2 Tbs. minced fresh basil or oregeno, or 2 tsp. dried basil or oregano
½ c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups shredded mozzarella
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
12 ounces lean Italian sausages, removed from casings and crumbled
(Tom uses one package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed)
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
Dissolve the sugar in warm water (remember, not too hot, which can kill the yeast. For accuracy, use a thermometer that reads to 110 to 115 degrees F). Sprinkle in the yeast and stir gently until it dissolves. Let the, now beige-colored, water stand for about 5 minutes until a thin layer of foam comes to the surface, which means the yeast is effective.
Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, yeast mixture and oil into a large standing mixer. Turn on the mixer on medium speed with a flat beater for about 1 minute. Then replace flat beater with a dough hook and knead at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, which takes about 5 minutes. Check the dough to see its consistency. If too sticky, add the remaining ¼ cup of flour. If too dry, add warm water a tablespoon at a time.
After dough is mixed to the right consistency, form the dough into a ball and place into a well-oiled bowl, which make it easier for the dough to rise. Cove the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent moisture evaporation and let sit for about 45 minutes or until the dough has double in size.
Once risen, punch down the dough and shape it back into a ball making sure there are no air bubbles.
Squeeze out tomatoes over the sink to remove the seeds and extra juices (too much tomato juice can make the dough and topping too moist and heavy) with your hand or a fork. Add in the garlic, basil or oregano and salt. Set aside.
Press the dough into a 15-inch deep-dish pizza pan. Cover the pan and let rise for another 20 minutes. Prick the bottom every ½ inch with a fork. Bake for 4 minutes, and then brush crust lightly with olive oil.
Spread mozzarella cheese completely over the bottom of the crust. Then, spoon on the tomato topping. Sprinkle with Parmesan and top with sausage (or spinach). Drizzle evenly with olive oil.
Place on bottom rack of oven for 5 minutes, then move to upper rack until crust is golden brown, cheese is bubbling and sausage is cooked through—about 30 minutes. Remove from pan, brush with olive oil lightly again, and serve immediately.