Our last full day in Chicago… and I really do mean FULL! We skipped our breakfast once again and slept in a bit late, waking up just in time to walk downtown to the first stop on our Chicago Pizza Tour. Chicago is famous for its pizza, and this tour promised to give us a real taste of some of the best pizza places in the city.
Our first stop was Pizano’s Pizza. Here, we were introduced to our tour guide and our fellow tour attendees.
Pizano’s has a deep history in the Chicago pizza business. Rudy Malnati Sr., the father of the current owner of Pizano’s, opened his first restaurant, Pizzeria Uno, in 1943 and was the first to offer the now-famous Deep Dish Pizza. Pizano’s opened in 1991 and developed a new thin crust pizza that Oprah has called “her favorite” and the USA Today listed as top 10 in the nation. The restaurant prides itself on its “secret weapon,” an 83-year-old lady named Donna Marie Malnati. The widow of Rudy Malnati and mother of Pizano’s Rudy Malnati Jr., Donna Marie spends her nights fashioning dough balls from a secret family recipe. According to Jeff Ruby, writer for Chicago Magazine, “Whatever is in it, the recipe produces the most addictive thin crust in Chicago. Irresistible caramelized edges here and there give way to a buttery, pastrylike base that recalls deep-dish without the backbreaking bulk. It’s got the distinct flavor of history.”
After we finished our first two slices, we piled into our comfy motor coach and headed to the next stop: Flo & Santo’s on Wabash.
We arrived at Flo & Santo’s and our pizza choices were a spicy giardiniera pizza with peppers and onions and a Polish sausage pizza. The spicy pizza wasn’t all that spicy to me, but ever since I traveled to India, foods that I normally wouldn’t have been able to tolerate at all just aren’t as spicy to me anymore!
Next up was the famous Pequod’s Pizza in Lincoln Park.
Pequod’s is famous for its deep dish pizza with a crispy, caramelized crust. The neon lighting in this place gave my pictures a purplish tone, but rest assured, the pizza was quite delicious!
Luckily for me (but not my waistline), as the only vegetarian in the group, I got my very own pizza all to myself!
I could only manage a third of it, so I boxed the rest up to give to a homeless person since we had no refrigerator in our hotel room. (There is unfortunately no shortage of homeless people in Chicago.)
Pequod’s also has quite a unique feature in the women’s restroom. Apparently there is a big Lord of the Rings fan on staff.
Our final stop was Pizzeria Serio, famous for their Neopolitan-style pizza. As our tour guide explained, there are very stringent requirements involved in making a true Neopolitan pizza – the cheese is a water buffalo mozzarella, the tomatoes must be San Marzano tomatoes, which only grow on volcanic plains near Mount Vesuvius, and the dough must be hand-kneaded and can be no more than 3mm thick. The pizza is then fired for a maximum of 90 seconds in a 900-degree oven with an oak wood fire.
We somehow managed to get down another slice (or two if you have a bottomless pit for a stomach like Rupak)! The Neopolitan-style was not my favorite, since it’s only in the oven for 90 seconds, the crust was just too soft for me. The toppings were delicious though!
Finally, we climbed back into the motor coach and settled in for the long trip back to our original meeting spot outside of Pizzano’s. However, we ran into a traffic snarl due to (some run), so our host provided us with some interesting information about the Prohibition era, as he also gives Chicago Prohibition tours for the same travel company.
Since the tour’s final destination spot was nearly directly across from Millennium Park, we decided to walk off some of our pizza and take some pictures in front of the famous Bean!
There was also a giant head.
On the way back to the hotel, I heard a bucket drummer off in the distance. I love street performers, so I started filming while we were waiting to cross the street. Once we got to the corner, a local college student had started showing off his dance moves (although I’m not sure he wore the right kind of jeans for dancing). After a few steps, a couple of his classmates joined in for an awesome, spontaneous synchronized dance number! So awesome!
Before we got to the hotel, I snapped a couple quick shots of the famous Calder’s Flamingo sculpture and the Chicago Board of Trade, which was literally right next to our hotel.
Once we arrived back at the hotel, we promptly entered into food comas until the wee hours of the morning. Realizing there was one thing still left on our Chicago to-do list, we began searching for a late-night Chicago-style hot dog place, and found one just a few blocks away on State Street. We bundled up once more and headed out into the night to our final food destination: Devil Dawgs.
Open until 3am, Devil Dawgs had everything a hot dog lover could want (and even a veggie burger for those who aren’t so interested in hot dogs).
Of course, Rupak ordered two hot dogs – the Bacon Cheddar Dawg and the Grilled Wisconsin Brat. After this trip, I’m pretty sure he could compete in any eating competition. I couldn’t bring myself to order any more food, so I settled for a ginger ale.
We finally made it back to the hotel one final time, curling up in the bed like literal pigs-in-blankets. After a whirlwind four days in Chicago, our trip had come to an end. As much as I loved the city, I couldn’t wait to get back home and see my fur babies again… and start that diet over.
So long, Chicago!