Chicago-Style Pizza 101: There are two types of pie: deep dish and stuffed. Deep dish was “created” by Pizzeria Uno in the 1940s, whereas stuffed was “created” by Giordano’s in the 1970s. Both are based on old Italian family recipes, so saying they were “created” by these pizzerias is akin to saying that Columbus “discovered” America.
But I digress. Let’s investigate pizza construction. The two styles are similar, but not identical.
Patxi’s stays true to the typical deep-dish cornmeal crust, with sidewalls that can stand three inches or more off your plate. Working up from the crust, you next get your toppings – traditionally just Italian sausage – topped by a heavy portion of mozzarella cheese. A hearty dollop of tomato sauce then goes on top. We ordered our deep-dish pie with the Italian sausage and the spicy coppa. I’d skip the coppa in the future, as it didn’t add any value. But the sausage flavor jumped out from the pizza, and the cornmeal crust was the most flavorful I’ve ever had. Sorry Pizzeria Uno; Patxi’s stole this round.
Stuffed pizza is nearly identical, but foregoes the cornmeal for a buttery, flaky crust, and adds a thin second layer of dough right below the sauce, above the cheese and toppings. This layer – often mistaken for more cheese – keeps the sauce securely on top of the pie, almost completely separated from the rest of the ingredients. This helps maintain the necessary structural integrity to keep it all together.
I went to college in Chicago, and having a Giordano’s very close to campus at least partially explained my "freshman 15." Since leaving Chicago in 2000, I’ve searched far and wide for a pizza that compares to Giordano’s and Uno’s. Not until I visited Patxi’s in Hayes Valley did I find it.
Both styles of pie take roughly 45 minutes to cook, and there is often a line to get seated (even on a Monday night). My rule of thumb is to arrive before I’m actually hungry. That way, I don’t waste valuable stomach space on fillers such as salad while I wait. I’m not there for the salad!
A compulsive Facebooker, I immediately checked in at Patxi’s upon arrival. As I did so, Facebook offered me a deal: a free soda or a $1 PBR. Sold! I appreciate Patxi’s embrace of technology.
A large Patxi’s pie will cost around $30 and will feed four people to capacity. If three people try to finish a large, at least one will end up in the ER needing immediate cardiac assistance. This stuff is HEAVY. Your jeans are going to fit a lot tighter when you waddle out than when you arrived.
But wow, is it good.
Occupation: Marketing Manager
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Mercury Lounge
Reviewed Patxi's Pizza: Sunday, May 29, 2011
This small restaurant is located in the lively area of Hayes Valley amid other bars and restaurants. It was difficult for me to find street parking when I drove, but I eventually did after circling the nearby streets for while. I can see how this can be frustrating for some drivers, but it was worth the drive.
This restaurant is cozy and is an ideal family spot for dinner. Upon entering I was immediately greeted with a smile and showed to a table. The service throughout the meal was excellent. The waiter was friendly and took our order in a timely manner. He also checked on our table frequently and refilled our drinks before we even asked when he saw they were running low.
I started out with a traditional Caesar salad, which was perfectly prepared, with just the right amount of dressing and anchovy flavor. Next I moved on to the main attraction: the pizza dishes. I decided to try two different pizzas with distinctive flavors. My first one was the Caliente pizza. I absolutely love Spanish chorizo so I was thrilled when I saw this ingredient in one of their pizza dishes. I like the fact that they offer several different pizza crust options, from their signature deep dish to a light crust option. For the Caliente pizza. I tried the original signature “Chicago Stuffed” style – a hearty deep dish pizza with layers and layers of cheese. This pizza was delicious -- the combination of the chorizo, jalapeños, and coppa was mouth-watering. I would definitely recommend this to those who like spicy pizzas (I’m a huge spicy food fan!), because this one did not disappoint -- it was bursting with flavor! It might be a little too spicy for those not used to spicy dishes, given the abundance of sliced jalapeños in each slice.
The second pizza I ordered was the Greek pizza, which I also enjoyed. The artichokes and flavor of this pizza was a pure medley in my mouth with artichoke hearts, green olives, red bell peppers, and feta. These ingredients together were pure perfection. For this pizza, I decided to try a different crust style and went with the “Patxi’s Pan Pizza” style. This crust style is considered a lighter deep dish and features a crunchy cornmeal style crust. I’ve never had cornmeal crust in my pizza before and decided to give this a try. I was expecting this crust to be unique and fantastic, but was a bit disappointed. I could distinctively taste the cornmeal and the flavor was OK, but not stellar enough for me to recommend it over the signature crust style. In my opinion, it didn’t really add anything special to this pizza and wasn't a real standout, at least with the Greek pizza flavors. I wouldn’t order this cornmeal style again, given that it didn’t “wow” me over the signature style crust or provide any flavor balance whatsoever. Maybe I just prefer traditional crust styles and cornmeal isn’t my “must have” ingredient or flavor when I think of pizzas. I may try their other thinner crust options on a future visit to compare.
The wait for the pizzas was a bit longer than I expected and am normally used to, but after reading the menu I noticed that they put waiting/prep time for the pizzas (e.g. 35-40 minutes for “Chicago Stuffed” style).
In my opinion, the value was good for the quality of the pizza. This isn’t your average fast food pizza, and it shows. In summary, I would recommend this place and thought it was a great place for family or casual group dining. The pizzas were cooked well. The attentive and friendly staff was definitely a plus.
Favorite Restaurant: Trueburger
Reviewed Patxi's Pizza: Sunday, May 29, 2011
I’m not a fan of Chicago style pizza. Cheesy, foldy, oily New York style -- oh, yes. Those wood-fired and Neapolitan brick oven blistered pizzas -- definitely yes. But deep dish has never really done it for me. Too thick, too bready, and the tomato sauce on top tastes like it was dumped from a can onto the pizza. So it was with a mild lack of enthusiasm and low expectations that I ventured to Patxi’s at 6:00 on a Sunday night. It’s a very nice neighborhood. You could easily window shop while you wait for a table, but we got one right away. I like the interior of the place. It’s cozy, and I love the brick wall with hanging art pieces on one side. The tables and chairs are straightforward and comfortable, and they have shakers of hot pepper flakes and parmesan on each table. For drinks, they had a decent wine-by-the-glass selection, but I was thrilled to see Stella Artois on tap, as well as several other beer selections available by the pint.
Our group started with an antipasto platter, which included aged cheddar from Cowgirl Creamery (nicely crumbly and as tasty as a Parmigiano-Reggiano), a selection of three meats (we chose hot coppa, Genovese salami, and mortadella), olives, grapes, and flat cracker-like breadsticks. I thought it was very fairly priced at $9.95. We then moved on to an iceberg wedge salad, or more accurately an iceberg head salad. It was so huge it was enough for all four of us to share and arrived topped with grape tomatoes, bacon, and a chunky blue cheese dressing. There was a teeny bit of browning on the underside of the lettuce head, but that was easy enough to cut away. The salad was otherwise crisp and refreshing, though we did need to request extra dressing.
Now for the pizza. They offer four varieties: deep dish or Chicago “stuffed” pizza (their flagship pie as stated on the menu), pan pizza, thin crust, and extra thin crust. None of us had ever been to Patxi’s before, so we wanted to try a little bit of everything, and settled on their classic meat stuffed pizza (pepperoni, Italian sausage, and Canadian bacon), the spinach-pesto pan pizza, and prosciutto and mozzarella thin crust pizza.
Don’t order the thin crust. I don’t understand why Chicago style pizza places try to make thin crust out of the same dough they use for deep dish. The texture is never right. I also had issues with how they add the prosciutto to this pizza. My favorite pizza place slices the prosciutto paper thin and adds it on top of the finished pizza, but at Patxi’s it was sliced thicker and baked with the pizza, making it taste more like funky ham than prosciutto.
The stuffed or the pan is definitely the way to go here, although I have to admit I couldn’t tell the difference between the stuffed and pan styles. Apparently there’s an extra layer of crust lurking in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. My favorite was the spinach-pesto pan pizza just because the pesto was so good. I also enjoyed the classic meat stuffed pizza, with its nice balance of cheese, savory meats, tangy sauce, and flaky crust. But what made me happiest of all was that I didn’t detect the aforementioned “tin” flavor in the tomato sauce at Patxi’s.