Friday, January 14, 2011

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

Years ago a friend of mine heard of the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. in Chicago and we decided to try it while we were in town for a concert.
The address has been etched in my mind ever since, even though we live in a small town in Central IL.
On my first visit, the two of us arrived at the narrow brick house at 2121 N. Clark on a Saturday night to find the place packed to the gills. A white-haired gentleman eventually made it to the entrance area and asked us how many were in our party. We said two, and he said "an hour and 10 minutes". He did not take any names. We learned that one of the notable things about the restaurant is that they will not take names, they remember you by sight, and are pretty damn accurate about your potential wait time.
We waited at the bar and enjoyed big glasses of red wine. At one hour and 10 minutes after our arrival, right on the nose we were tapped on the shoulder and taken to our cozy wooden booth where, now ravenous, we immediately ordered the first thing we could see on the menu: Mediterranean bread.
Our waiter soon brought the flat bread, draped over a platter and covered in dried herbs and cheese to our table where we tore at it like wild dogs.
Soon our 1/2 pound steaming pizza pot pies arrived, baked in ceramic bowls. I had the sausage and mushroom and my friend Minney, who does not eat pork or beef, had just mushrooms. Deeeeee-licious!!
I later told my husband about the entire experience, and after we saw the restaurant featured on the Food Network he wanted to try the place for himself.
I told him that I could taste green peppers in the sauce (since he is a pepper hater), but I wasn't sure if the flavor would bother him or not.
The two of us visited and had a repeat great experience (he absolutely loves the pies, green peppers and all), and now we make a point to go once a year.
It has become a tradition during December. We go to Chicago for Christkindlmarket, eat dinner at the Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. and take two frozen pot pies home which we prepare and eat together over wine on Christmas eve.
I would also suspect that it is a good place to work, even with the standing room only crowds, since year after year we recognize the waiters and bartenders as those who have been there for years.
The restaurant alone is historic in that it has been serving up these wonderful pizza pies since 1972, but according to the following from their web site, the location itself has some interesting history.
"If the building ever did possess gentility, though, it was abruptly forsaken on February 14, 1929, as the guttural yammering of submachine guns in a garage almost directly across the street brought the notorious 'St. Valentine’s Day Massacre' to headlines around the world. Rumor even has it that the house at 2121 North Clark served as a lookout post for hoodlum henchmen of the Valentine gunners."
So, if you go for the great food, the possible history or the hosts who can distinguish you from the waiting crowd, the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. does not disappoint.

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.
2121 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614