Chicago is famous for many reasons- amazing architecture, die hard sports fans (sticking by our teams that never seem to win), a breathtaking skyline, and, of course, some trademark foods like Italian Beef Sandwiches, Chicago-Style Hot Dogs (hold the ketchup), and some even say that Saganaki originated in Greektown decades ago. But Chicago's claim to culinary fame is in the pizza- legendary deep dish with gooey dough crusts and more cheese than any stomach can digest. Try dining at Lou Malnati's, Giordano's or Gino's East on a Saturday afternoon and you'll quickly realize that guests visiting our fabulous city are desperate to try a slice of heaven.
But tucked away in Lincoln Park, locals (and extremely savvy visitors) know where to find the city's BEST pizza- Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co (2121 N. Clark St). Hidden on the basement floor of a Victorian Era mansion, CPOG's history is rich with more than just delicious food; it served as the lookout for the henchmen responsible for the Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, captured in the photos hanging in the small foyer of the restaurant.
Established in 1972, CPOG's rustic decor epitomizes the Chicago Pizza Place. Dark wood booths crammed together to maximize the small space, dim lighting, and a small bar offer a cozy setting perfect for a yummy meal. For months, Josh, aka Wednesday Night Date Night, has been on my case about trying CPOG, listing it as one of his favorite restaurants in the entire city. Somehow, he convinced me to leave the comfort of my cozy condo on the coldest night we've had all year, ensuring me that some warm pizza and awesome flat bread would make me feel better about the excessive wind and snow.
He was right. We started with the Mediterranean Bread, pita-like dough covered in cheese and spices that was so big it hung over the edges of the plate. Impossible to eat with utensils, we ripped it apart with our hands and made a mess of our table as we indulged on this light, flavorful bread. I was impressed at how many times the busser came over to wipe up our crumbs because its not every day you get white glove service in a pizza joint.
A creature of habit, Josh ordered his favorite- the Meatball Oven Grinder, a huge Italian loaf stuffed full of meatballs, sauce, cheese and more cheese, topped with Italian spices. The foot long Grinder was delicious, but paled in comparison to the Pizza Pot Pie I devoured. Served in half pound and full pound portions, the made from scratch pie quickly became my favorite way to eat pizza. Goodbye deep dish- hello Pizza Pot Pie! I couldn't decide what part of the dish I loved more, the tripled raised Sicilian dough, the incredible homemade sauce (made with olive oil, fresh garlic, onions, green peppers, and whole plum tomatoes), or the abundance of melted cheese covering the sausage and mushrooms. Wonderfully overwhelmed with the filling pot pie, I followed every bite with an "I can't believe how good this is" or "this is seriously the best pizza I have ever tasted."
I've spent 20something years devoted to the classic Chicago Deep Dish and I don't mind saying that I have converted to being a Pot Pie girl. A few months ago, I wouldn't have believed that there was a better way to eat pizza than a Giordano's stuffed with mushrooms and spinach- well done on the crust, please. After my trip to CPOG, though, I am a believer. And while I still think its important that visitors to our awesome city experience the hype that is Chicago Deep Dish, I encourage locals (and serious pizza enthusiasts) to think outside the pizza box and try something different, delicious, and decidedly Chicago.