Friday, March 7, 2014

Tavern Pie Confidential: The Boar's Nest

Where They're Located:
1000 N State IL Rt 29

Athens, IL 62613

Call 'Em:
(217) 636-8630

The Pizza:  Bacon, Black Olive & Jalapeno

The Crust:  Thin

The Dish: 
Not a lot to dish as my order for tonight was carry out.  The Boar's Nest is a busy spot on Friday nights during Lent.  You can get some of the best walleye, buffalo and catfish to gnosh during the holy days at The Nest... so rolling up at 7:00 PM is going to be a tough time to find a table or booth.  Incidentally... The Nest has some of the best slaw I've ever tasted.  I would love for them to do a bbq slaw dog or slaw brat in the summer time.  Oh, the possibilities.  For Nest newbies there is seating in the main dining area that includes tables and booths and also seating in the bar which has stools, high top tables and regular tables.  Most weekends you'll find live music in the bar area.  Music helps digestion.

How'd It Eat?
A couple of things about this pizza off the bat... The crust appeared thinner than it has in the past and that is a good thing.  I enjoy a tasty, crispy crust.  I prefer it to be crunchy and not doughy.  Secondly, my pie was party cut.  Good lord I love a party cut pizza.  For those who don't know what this means, party cut means
the pie is cut into squares and not slices.  You can get more squares than slices, hence "party cut."
Anyway, I was messing around chipping ice off the sides of the inside of my basement freezer and I was a little slow in picking up this pie. So of course by the time I got it home it was no longer hot.  So I cranked up the broiler to put a quick melt on it... problem solved..
I've eaten several pies from Boar's Nest...  They are consistently good pizzas with an ample amount of mozzarella and toppings with a nice balanced sauce.  This one falls into that classification.

You can't go wrong with a pizza from the Boar's Nest.  The atmosphere is excellent and the pie is some of the best you'll find in Menard County.  Not a pizza fan?  Check out the horseshoe....  or the tenderloin.

SPP Rating:  8.8

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

III Tomassos Thin Crust Pizza

Springfield's newest Italian restaurant has set up shop on the southwest edge of town near Scheel's Sporting Goods center.  III Tomassos is the place and it bolsters an already strong presence of Italian eateries in the Springfield area.    I chose this spot for lunch on my birthday with my family from a recommendation from Springfield Pizza Project contributor Jeremy Zumwalt.

Where They're Located:
1130 Legacy Pointe Drive
Springfield, IL

Call 'Em:
(217) 546-8990

The Pizza:  Tomassos Veggie

The Crust:  Thin

The Dish: 
Today was my birthday, and we decided to get out and have lunch since my trusty assistant was going for an
 archery session later in the evening when we would normally have supper.  We walked into III Tomassos about 1:00 in the afternoon on a weekday and were seated immediately.  There was a nice crowd in for lunch but still plenty of tables to seat more.  The atmosphere was light and airy with windows along the length of the front of the building that allowed plenty of natural sunlight in the dining area.  The wait-staff was friendly, accommodating and helpful throughout the meal.  Without doubt some of the best service I've received in this town.  Not to go off on a tangent but a quality staff has a huge impact on the perception of a restaurant's quality and more restaurants should work harder to get the kind of help we had today at III Tomassos.  This place also featured a full bar as I enjoyed a fine craft IPA on draft while waiting for my pie and a cool crisp Peroni draft once the pizza arrived.

How'd It Eat?
We didn't wait long for our meals to be delivered.  In the interim between ordering and being served our
entrees, III Tomassos provides bread with butter or a spicy marinara sauce.  The bread is similar to  ciabatta as it has a crispy outer texture with a light inner filled with irregular size wholes and a slight sourdough flavor.  It was perfect for dipping in the hot Tomasso sauce while my pizza was baking and oh by the way, it is delicious!
The pizza arrived shortly after I had sopped up the remaining marinara on the last piece of bread and I was primed and ready to eat.  I went with the small veggie pie which featured fresh tomato, spinach, artichokes, mushrooms, onions, peppers, kalamata olives and sweet cherry peppers.  Those on top of a nice layer of fresh mozzarella, a light tomato sauce and a tremendous thin pizza crust worked very well.  First and foremost, kudos on the crust.  This is not your usual Central Illinois thin crust as it is just a tad thinner and crunchier than what you normally find in this area.  That crunchy texture is a big part of what made this pizza click.  Added to this solid base is top quality mozzarella and fresh toppings that worked so well together. There is no shortage of toppings and what I would consider is a perfect amount of mozzi on this pie.  The sauce was excellent as well as it was very light, without the strong acidity or sweetness that defines most sauces.  It tastes very fresh and allows for the enjoyment of the numerous toppings without overwhelming them.  
Altogether this is a high quality pizza, certainly one of the best in town.  While we highly recommend the pie, don't overlook the rest of III Tomassos menu.

SPP Ranking:  9.3

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Some Unconventional Pies

Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery

Obed & Isaac's Fig Pizza

By Jeremy Zumwalt (Guest SPP Blogger)

What a nice menu.  I just want to put that out there, many old favorites and a lot of twists on old and new(er) favorites.  It was nice to go to an establishment in the Springfield area and not see a horseshoe on the menu, but this is a pizza review so I will try to stay on topic.
I had come to Obed and Isaac’s with the usual unusual cast of characters that make an evening like this worth the nightmare of social interaction (I kid…kinda’).  From all accounts the locally brewed beer, which they call a micro brew, though I swear I saw the distillery equipment in the building next door no microscope required, was more than palatable and the selection of brew in general was well vetted and approved of by the attendant crew I dined and drank with.
In the communal way we often operate, a large and varied selection of food was ordered off the menu to be shared amongst us.  Included were three varieties of their flat bread pizza: Margherita Chicken, Bacon and Bleu Cheese, and Fig Pizza.  The crusts of each pie were exemplary, being   thin, crisp, delicate, yet strong enough to support the toppings without fear of wearing your leftovers home (and really, have you ever tried to hang a shirt in the fridge?  It is totally not worth the effort, just pick the food off and wash the shirt).
Of the three, the Bacon and Blue was the least satisfying, perhaps because I had the greatest expectations.  I failed to detect the herbed olive oil sauce indicated as being present; this pie was quite dry.  The caramelized onions did not add enough onion or sweetness to stand out, and I detected few roasted peppers.  The predominate flavor was of dry bleu cheese and dry bacon.  I supplemented this pizza with a bit of the hot wing sauce from the absolutely wonderful smoked chicken legs, and this improved the offering from a moisture perspective, but overall the flavors were not well sorted and the pie was muddled and middling.
The Margherita Chicken was a definitive step forward from the prior offering.  Strong  flavor of fresh basil complemented the more subtle flavoring of the garlic and tomato.  The marinated chicken failed to stand out, but was in no way a negative and the same could be said for the Italian cheese blend.  I would have preferred a bit more of the spicy tomato sauce to give greater balance to this pizza, yet overall I would recommend this pie with little reservation.
The final pie was the most surprising, a fig pizza.  Not being a fig connoisseur outside the realm of Newtonian physics cookies (and to the dinner colleague who trumpeted Strawberry Newtons I say again, “no one cares!”) I can say I was hesitant.  As the square of pie was raised nearer my mouth I was definitely off put by the scent; fig and gorgonzola is definitely a know your date well combination in romantic settings for those in the singles scene.  Once I actually bit into this slice of pie my trepidations sauntered off to contemplate more important and pressing matters and I was left blissfully chewing a quitter unique and tasty pizza combination I had never entertained as plausible.  Ladies, gentleman, and various people I would not normally address, I attest to you this is one fine pie.  The pungent aroma and creamy texture of the gorgonzola played beautifully with the subtle sweetness of fig as well as the caramelized sweetness of the onion.  Of the Crème Fraise I can say little because, and as alluded to in my prior evaluations, the sauce was nearly a non-factor in the festivities.  For what was present, I still hold fond memories.
Obed and Isaac’s was a pleasant surprise.  For fault, I can advise you that the building is a bit cramped, the bar area far too small, and the wait times borderline indignant.  So, that is the bad part; cry about it somewhere else.  The building is also charming, the bar well stocked and agreeable, and the food well worth the wait.  I will be returning to this establishment and encouraging friends and any of you strangers I can stand that you do the same.  It is always worthy in this area to find an establishment that offers more than cheese sauce and cheap domestic buckets as a calling card. 

Overall Pie Rating:  6.75.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Trying out Monical's Pizza in Prairie Crossing

Monical's Sausage Green Pepper, Onion, Olives and Tomatoes
By Linda Winters

One pizza place that’s probably overlooked in the midst of all the other pizza places in Springfield is Monical’s.  As my boyfriend and I were coming off the interstate, we passed by Prairie Crossing and he claimed that he had always wanted to try Monical’s but it was off the beaten path for him.  I told him I was game if he was and so we pulled in since we hadn’t eaten dinner.

As we walked in there was a nicely stationed counter with a friendly hostess asking how many were in our party.  There was a view of the kitchen where the cooks were diligently making up pizzas.  We were directed towards a booth which was very comfortable I might add…not like some that you sink into.  The place was tastefully decorated (no pun intended) and huge.  There was soft music playing in the background that wasn’t annoying (you may not even realize they were playing music) and you could easily make conversation.. Although the room we ate in was somewhat intimate with table and booth settings, they had another larger room where I guess you would hold parties.  The restaurant is somewhat family-oriented but groups of people of all ages were dining.  It was very homey and very clean I might add.

We were given our menus and I noticed there were lots of toppings to choose from as well as many other meals to eat.  We chose a medium (14-inch) pizza with sausage, green pepper, onion, olives and tomatoes.

When our pizza arrived a short time later, we devoured it.  It was so delicious.  We couldn’t stop eating. As you can see, I took a picture just in time before we ate too much. The crust was very crispy and I noticed the toppings were on top of the cheese (which was the good cheese, not the cheap cheese that some places use).  Also, the veggies were very fresh.  I could imagine the cooks chopping up the onions, green peppers and tomatoes.  The sausage was nicely sweet.  It even had seasonings on top.  It reminded me of a fresh pizza that you would make at home only tastier.  Also, get this…it wasn’t a bit greasy!!!  How do they do that??   The pizza wasn’t overly filling and we ate all but two pieces which I took home.  I might add that upon eating the leftovers, the pizza still tasted great and the veggies still tasted fresh!!!  This is very exciting to me as I love fresh produce.

Needless to say, we were impressed with this place and I’m rating it a 9.5.  We are definitely dining here again and I can’t wait!

Linda's SPP Rating 9.5

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tavern Pie Confidential: Westwoods Lodge

Not every good pizza comes from a pizzeria or Italian restaurant.  Occasionally you can find a tasty cheese and tomato sauce topped crust at your local drinking+food haunt.  This type of establishment has an inherent advantage over a place that doesn't serve beer because I believe absolutely that there is not a better compliment for good pizza than an ice cold brew.  On this night we chose one of my favorite spots on the west side, Westwoods Lodge.

Where They're Located:
2406 W. Jefferson
Springfield, IL

Call 'Em:
(217) 698-9256

The Pizza:  Bacon, Green Olive and Tomato

The Crust:  Thin

The Dish:
Westwoods Lodge is a one of a kind place in Springfield.  It reminds me of a Canadian hunting lodge with lots of unfinished wood, a long friendly bar and the hard work of a busy taxidermist all over the place.  Stuffed deer, a coyote, turkey, cougar and of course over the fireplace is a moose head.
It's a great place to get a cold drink just about anytime but the food is also well worth making the trip out to West Jefferson.  The menu is diverse and has everything from steaks and wings to horseshoes and of course pizza.  They really pack them in at Westwoods and almost everytime I eat there I run into someone I know.
On this visit I was accompanied by my in-laws, a niece and my trusty assistant.  I was the only one who opted for pizza  and I enjoyed a cold PBR and conversation with the wife's folks while we waited for our order.

How'd It Eat?
I felt like it took fairly long for the food to arrive but I think more than anything I was just really hungry and impatient.  The pizza was well prepared and cut into slices instead of squares.  The crust was brown on the edges and crispy and firm.  I noticed some saltiness in it but it wasn't overwhelming.  I enjoyed the mixture of  the bacon and fresh chopped tomato and the green olives added an interesting element to the flavor profile of this pie.  I wasn't overly impressed with the cheese and sauce but taste-wise they didn't do anything to make the pizza any worse.  I would have preferred just a bit less cheese but in the end I'd rather have a little too much than not enough.  There was plenty of cold PBR to wash this pie down and honestly Westwoods really hits the spot.
All in all, you're getting a solid pizza in a friendly, unique atmosphere and for me that's more than enough to keep me coming back.  Anytime you're down for cold beer and a hot pizza with plenty of other option on the menu taking your hunting party out to Westwoods and sample some quality tavern style pie.

SPP Ranking:  7.3

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gabatoni's Revisited

When my friends and I get together in the afternoon for pizza, it’s a no-brainer; we go to Gabatoni’s.  Now, Gab’s has been around for as long as I can remember.  It’s also my very favorite place for pizza.  Gab’s has that Old Italian world feel inside that might remind one of something out of a movie.  I’ve come to know the staff by name since they see me in there so often.   You can’t ask for a nicer bunch of people who make you feel right at home.
Gabatoni's Special
As we entered Gab’s this afternoon, there was a funeral meal going on in the main dining area so we were directed to the bar area which is just as nice.  I usually get ‘the Special’ or four-item (sausage, green pepper, onion and mushroom) when ordering and get a large if I have to share with at least one person but I’ve had other combos which are equally as good.  So, we ordered our “usual” and another pizza (sausage, with ham and green peppers on half).  It wasn’t long before our pies were sitting in front of us.  I think they cut them into little squares so it doesn’t seem like you’re eating too much but after coming all this way, I want to get my “fix”.
There is nothing closer to heaven than biting into your Gab’s pizza for that first bite.  Just the right temperature….don’t think I’ve ever burned my tongue on this one. 
The pizza crust is oh-so-thin and crispy and the pilings of the ingredients are just right…not too much cheese …just enough to stay put on the crust and not slide off. It’s baked to perfection. They put the right amount of ingredients along with the tomato sauce which is lightly sweet.  It’s what pizza should be.

 They also have a full menu of other foods…sandwiches and meals.  Even though the meatball sandwiches are also one of my fave foods from Gab’s, I need to have the pizza. I can’t stand seeing someone else’s pizza and sniffing the aroma…what can I say?    I have been known to split a meatball sandwich/pizza combo with anyone who will allow it so I can partake of both.
When leaving, I do not have the so-full-I-need-to-loosen-my-belt feeling even though on occasion I’ve eaten half of a large pizza…surprising to some people who can’t believe a person of my size can eat that much!
As we are walking out the door, it’s not unusual for us to be planning our next outing to Gabatoni’s.  I will definitely be back soon!

Linda's Rating:  9.5

Overall SPP Rating:  8.5

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Saputo's Gets a #1 Seed

To be totally honest I've never thought pizza when I considered eating at Saputo's.  Lasagna?  Yes.  Spaghetti?  Yes.  Pizza?  Not so much.  So when my wife suggested Saputo's for a little Friday lenten gnoshing, I was thinking vegetable lasagna.  However, since it's been almost 2 weeks since I had a pie, my eyeballs shot straight to the pizza box on the menu and the only thing left to decide was... sausage or pepperoni?

Where They're Located:
801 E. Monroe
Springfield, IL

Call 'Em:  (217) 544-2523

The Pizza:  Sausage and Mushroom

The Crust:  Thin

The Dish:
Walking into Saputo's always brings back pleasant memories of my childhood and the many evenings I spent gnawing on bruschetta or nibbling on a square of provel topped goodness at some of the best restaurants from the Hill neighborhood in St. Louis.  The atmosphere inside the old building at 8th and Monroe is familiar and welcoming.  For you St. Louis Italian food aficionados it reminds me of the original Bartolino's location on Hampton.  Warm, friendly smiles from the staff, some regulars camped out at the bar involved in lively conversation, servers moving quickly through the dining room delivering heaping plates of pasta, that wonderful tomatoey garlicy aroma and the sound of plates clinking back in the kitchen.  Good stuff.
Saputo's must believe in simplicity because they offer a grand total of 8 toppings for pizza on the menu.  I didn't ask for anything that wasn't offered, but I feel like they would have done their best to accommodate such a request.  When prompted for our order from our server, Shirley, my wife went with the baked cheese ravioli, salad and bread.  Meat free like the good Catholic girl that she is.  Myself on the other hand hit Shirley with an order for toasted cheese ravioli and a sausage and mushroom pizza.  She gave me a playful raised eyebrow and offered to bring some meatless marinara sauce with the toasted ravs so my much more pious better half could share in the appetizer.  After my wife turned down the marinara I winked at Shirley and ordered a Beck's dark and we turned our attention to the colossal upset Lehigh had in the making on the
TV above the bar.

How'd it eat?
We had a short wait for the toasted ravs, salad and bread.  The pizza came on cue as I dipped the last rav into the meat sauce.  The extremely thin crust was really good.  The strong crisp crust held up nicely under the thick weight of of sausage, mushrooms and cheese.  The flavor of the crust seemed slightly neutral but had a hint of saltiness.  Any other flavors from the crust were deliciously overwhelmed by the rich flavors of the Saputo's "garlic juice", a secret mixture of olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano and tomato which is sprinkled on the pie.  The sausage was juicy and flavorful with a mild fennel taste.  It was an excellent compliment to the large slices of mushrooms and gobs of yummy mozzarella.  There was a healthy amount of pizza sauce with basil that ended up being a little bit of a mess as I dripped some on my shirt twice but it sure did taste good.  I noticed what appeared to be ground black pepper on top of the pie and I feel like it added a nice little zip to this pizza.

I noticed a carryout window when I first walked into Saputo's and I plan to start using it periodically to pick up a pizza on the way home.  If you're on the prowl for an excellent pizza, I suggest stopping in and bypassing the usual Saputo's fare and going straight for the pizza.

SPP Rating 8.5

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Luca for Luncha

I don't usually go out for lunch and my reasons are trivial, mostly.  For starters, I work on the west side of town and the traffic gets on my nerves... bad.  I don't like the lunch crowd.  I always feel like everyone is moving in slow motion, like they have all day to spend getting lunch. Come on people, I'm busy!  Plus let's face it...  You can go broke eating out everyday for lunch.  Sometimes though, I feel like I just need to get out and get myself a big ol' slice of pizza.
When the urge does hit, you will usually find me bellied up to the counter at Luca Pizza, with a dazed look on my mug trying to decide which topping(s) to order on my slice.  On my most recent trip to Luca for lunch I went with bacon for the topping.  I've been on a big bacon kick lately and decided not to jump out of the groove.  I went with the meal deal which scored me a salad, my slice o' bacon pie and a cold drink.  It's a nice deal.  

The Luca salad is not your typical side salad with all lettuce and a cherry tomato or a piece of cucumber.  In this salad you can count on getting what seems like a vegetable garden in a bowl with huge chunks of carrot, onion, slices of red radish, and cucumber mixed with iceberg lettuce and a good portion of croutons.  If I make a salad at home... it looks similar to this salad.  I love a salad with my pizza.

Luca Bacon slice
Luca serves just about a perfect sized portion with their single slices, at least for me.  It's a decent sized piece that's a little too big for the paper plate they serve it on.   You'll notice the pizza chef's adding the toppings you ordered to a half-baked cheese pizza and finishing it up in the oven before cutting it and serving it.  It comes hot and fresh right from the oven to the counter.  If you order something like cheese or pepperoni be prepared to know who ordered the same in front or behind you on line.  I've seen 2 or even 3 people step up for the same slice before.  The guys at the counter will point you out though so there's no awkward confrontations.
You get a traditional triangle shaped slice that has a thin crust that has a light, crispy bottom but is still very bendable making it easy to fold the piece in half to hold the toppings on and make it a little easier to eat.  There is a good mixture of sauce and cheese and on this day the crumbled up bacon was spread fairly evenly over the slice.  The sauce has a nice tomato-ee flavor that goes well with the light crust.  When I get a salad and a slice I always feel like I've had just the right amount to eat for lunch and the pizza is just surprisingly light on my stomach.  It's not a heavy feeling like I get with most other pizza.  Since I quit soda pop I will usually finish this off with a cold glass of lemonade.  A solid lunch out for a pizza lover.

Thanks for joining me for lunch.  Let's do it again soon...just not too soon.  Haha.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Vic's Pizza Redux

OK, so it's been a while since I made a trip down Peoria road to have a pie at Vic's Pizza.  A trivia night at Benedictine University to benefit the women's softball team brought myself and some friends  back into the friendly north end establishment for a pre-contest dinner and a few drinks.  

Where They're Located: 
2025 Peoria Rd
Springfield, IL

Call 'Em:  (217) 522-2464

The Pizzas:  Bacon & Tomato, Sausage & Pepperoni and Buffalo Chicken

The Crust: Thin

Bacon & tomato / Sausage & green pepper
 The Dish:  Vic's was invaded by my 10 person trivia team on a Saturday night, ready to pound some pizza, have a few cold ones and sling plenty of one-liners.  We rolled in just before the dinner crowd (which wasn't too bad) and got our orders in with much patience and understanding from our server.  We kept her on her toes much of the night keeping our drink orders straight and by ordering a pizza that wasn't even on the menu.... which the kitchen still found a way to make.  The Buffalo chicken pizza was not a menu item, but one guy in our party couldn't make it through a meal without having something to dip into ranch dressing so we asked and Vic's kindly delivered.  We weren't an easy group to take care of, so I must say the service we received was awfully good.  We didn't wait long for our pies and we didn't wait at all for fresh drinks.

Josh Cole and Ryan Kuethe enjoying Vic's
How'd it eat?  The bacon & tomato and sausage & green pepper were the first pies delivered to the table, fresh and hot.  They were absolutely slathered with toppings from edge to edge.  I had to giggle a little as we had a few in the party near me who refuse to eat vegetables or tomato as they tried in vain to find a piece with none of each or one that was easy for them to pick the toppings off.  Holding this plethora of fresh toppings together like so much spackle was a thick layer of mozzarella cheese.  Unlike fresh mozzarella this pasteurized version doesn't have a strong flavor of it's own but it does absorb and enhance the flavors of the toppings embedded in it.  This pizza sat on a strong crust that held up well to the heavily laid toppings and delivered them with a nice, subtle flavor of olive oil.  
Bringing together the toppings, cheese and crust was a savory, neutral pizza sauce with a hint of garlic and oregano.  Not one of the top pizza sauces I've had but it was pretty good.  Overall, a fine offering from Vic's.
Buffalo chicken pie
We also enjoyed the thrown together version of Buffalo chicken pizza.  It was a flavorful pie covered with chunks of chicken, loads and loads of pizza cheese and what appeared to be a hybrid mix of tomato based pizza sauce and a pepper and butter based buffalo sauce.  It produced a bold, spicy taste tempered slightly by the gooey cheese and crispy crust.  Not too spicy hot but more zesty than anything.  We enjoyed this little delight so much we suggested it immediately be added to the menu for the enjoyment of others.    

Vic's has bounced back in the last few years and is producing some tremendous pizza once again.  This is good news to me as Vic's was the first local pizza I enjoyed after my move to Springfield nearly 14 years ago.  I'm looking forward to more Vic's pies.

SPP rating:  7.9   

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Easy Heart Shaped Pizza

Here's an easy way to make your valentine a heart shaped pizza this Tuesday.  Or you can take your valentine to Palermo's Sicilian Cucina, they make a wonderful heart shaped pie on Valentine's Day.

Check out this video and stay tuned for our new review of Vic's Pizza on Peoria road.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Public Pizza Menu 2.1.12

The Public Pizza Menu is a feature where I ask local pizza lovers to sound off about their favorites around the Springfield area.
Feel free to throw in your favorites in the comment section of this page or on the Springfield Pizza Project Facebook page.

Jeremy Zumwalt 38 - Chatham, IL

Favorite delivery or carry-out pizza restaurant in Springfield and the pizza you order?
"Gallina's Pizza or Joe's Pizza and the pizza would be pepperoni and green pepper."

Favorite eat-in pizza restaurant in Springfield and the pizza you order?
"Luca Pizza or Gallina's Pizza... still pepperoni and green pepper."

Outside of Springfield... Favorite pizza place and pizza?
"DiCarlo's in Virden. Deep Dish, everything on it."

Quinton Haines 28 - Springfiled, IL

Favorite delivery or carry-out pizza restaurant in Springfield and the pizza you order?
"Papa Johns - BBQ Chicken and Bacon or the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken are excellent for delivery."

Favorite eat-in pizza restaurant in Springfield and the pizza you order?
"Bernie and Betty's - Hawaiian pizza."

Outside of Springfield... Favorite pizza place and pizza?
"First... Angelo's Pizza in Taylorville - Supreme thin crust add anchovy.
Second... Gallina in Riverton - Anchovy, Garlic, and Onions ."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Unconventional Saturday Night Pizza

There is an abundance of quality pizza restaurants in Springfield. Sometimes I like to hit a spot that does not specialize in pizza and give their pie a try. I mean let's face it, you never know when you will stumble onto a pizza that breaks all the rules and surprises you. So... I was feeling especially adventurous last Saturday night and thought I'd kill two birds with one stone by making my first visit to Quaker Steak & Lube and ordering their version of a pizza.
Quaker Steak has a very diverse menu. Given their name you'd think steaks are their specialty, and they may serve excellent steaks but it's quite obvious that wings are their bread and butter. For those viewers of the Travel Channel show Man V Food you may remember the host of that show taking the Atomic Wing Challenge at a Quaker Steak in Pittsburgh, PA. I think hot, spicy food is great, as long as other people are eating it. I'm not biting into anything that I have to sign a waiver to eat. No thanks. Pizza was my target and I ordered up Quaker Steak & Lube's Southwest BBQ Chicken Flatbed.
QS&L's Flatbed sports a nice crispy flatbread crust with plenty of chew, especially closer to the center of the pie. The closer you get to the edges the more crispiness there is so there is a nice balance. The sauce is a sweet and barely tangy bbq sauce that really works well with the cheddar-jack cheese, fresh chopped tomato and red onion. The chicken is added in chunks and it is coated with a chipotle bbq sauce that adds a mouth watering little kick to the dish. Not hot, just a little spice. The flatbed is finished off with some fresh cilantro.
For what it is, the Quaker Steak pie is a tasty treat if you're looking for something a little diiferent than your typical tomato sauce/mozzarella based american pizza. Quaker Steak has 4 different flatbeds you can order besides the Southwest BBQ Chicken. Also on the menu are the buffalo chicken, California veggie ranch, and Philly cheese steak flatbread pizzas.
Every once in a while it's good to step away from the norm and try something a little off-beat or out of the ordinary. I'm definitely going to get back in to Quaker Steak and get a taste of the buffalo chicken pie. If I don't care for it at least there is Shiner Bock on tap to wash it down.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lake Pointe Grill's Wood Fired Pizza

There are dozens of places to get tasty pizza in central Illinois. Even though thin crust is the predominant specialty of this area there are still plenty of pizzerias that serve an excellent thick crust and even Chicago style deep dish. However, if you want an authentic, Italian Neapolitan style pizza there is only one place in central Illinois you can get it, and that place is the Lake Pointe Grill.
At the heart of Lake Pointe Grill you'll find their Mugnaini wood fired pizza oven. The oven was imported from Italy and the restaurant was literally built around this authentic pizza cooker. Lake Pointe Grill owners Chris Hanken and Vic Lanzotti wanted to produce real authentic Neapolitan pizza and after doing some diligent research were introduced to the folks at Spacco Napoli in Chicago who make some of the best Neapolitan pizzas in Chicago. Through this connection the LPG partners learned the art of making a real authentic Italian pizza.
There are several factors that go into putting together a quality pizza napoletana. LPG starts with triple refined imported Italian flour (Antico Molino Caputo), salt and water to make their traditional Neapolitan pizza dough. The dough is hand formed and hand stretched and topped with only fresh quality ingredients. Neapolitan style Margherita pizza is a light flavorful crust topped with a homemade marinara, some tomato, creamy mozzarella and fresh basil. It's finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.
The star of the show is LPG's wood fired oven. It is stoked with a wood fire, burning white oak hardwood and can reach a temperature of 900 degrees F. The pizzas will normally cook in just a few minutes and sometimes as quickly as 90-120 seconds depending on how hot the oven is.
LPG pizza chef Kelly Skaggs demonstrated how they rotate the pie while cooking to get optimum "doneness” evenly around the edges and the technique of "flashing" the pizza right before it comes out of the oven to finish the authentic cooking process.
I sampled the margherita pizza on my first visit and then the white garlic pizza which had mozzarella, mushrooms and Italian sausage on roasted garlic cream sauce on my second visit. Both pies were nothing like I'd had anywhere around Springfield and they were both outstanding.
The passion for bringing a quality, traditional Italian pizza to Springfield has led Lake Pointe Grill to the status of one of a least within 100 miles in any direction. The menu at Lake Pointe Grill is diverse and wonderful, however for pizza lovers, and anyone who enjoys tasting authentic old world dishes, order a pizza and watch them fire up the oven and slide it there. It's more than worth the trip.

Click play to get a first hand look at Lake Pointe Grill's imported wood fired pizza oven.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

National Pizza Week, January 9th-15th

It's National Pizza week folks! For those of us who believe every week is pizza week, it's no big deal. For the rest of the world...get some of your favorite pizza this week.
Find out more by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fulgenzi's Pizza & Pasta - Bada Bing!

Happy New Year! It's time for a new pizza review and this time I'm trying my first ever pie from Fulgenzi's Pizza & Pasta. I've eaten at Fulgenzi's many times. It's my "goto" spot after taking in a cold Friday night football game at Memorial Field for one of their amazing cheeseburgers and a bowl of their smooth spicy chili. Best place in town for a burger and chili.... So how about their pizza?

Where they're located:
1168 Sangamon Ave.
Springfield, IL (Across from the Illinois State Fair)

Call 'Em:
(217) 544-8520

The Pizza: Mushroom & Bacon

The Crust: Thin

The Dish: Although I prefer to eat my pizza in the restaurant for a review, my busy schedule doesn't always allow me the pleasure of taking in the atmosphere and ambiance of the targeted restaurant. That's ok. This one was take out and would serve as the main course at a get together with some close friends post New Year to exchange some Christmas presents. We all got an unexpected little present when we dug into the Fulgenzi's pizza.

How'd it eat: For reference sake we actually had three pies from Fulgenzi's as we got a large cheese for the kids and also a large sausage and pepperoni for the meat lovers. I munched exclusively on the mushroom and bacon pizza however, so that is what I'll be reviewing.
Now... I'll start by mentioning that there were so many good things about this pizza that I'm not sure were I want to start. Color me impressed for sure. Every aspect of this pie was above average. The crust was thin and very crispy with just the right amount of chew. The flavor of the crust was understated with a little saltiness and the texture was perfect. Just a really good thin crust. Excellent.
Spread across this exceptional foundation is a sneaky good tomato-based sauce that is fairly nuetral on the acid/sweet scale of pizza sauces and is extremely well seasoned. There's a lot of flavor in there that meshes well with Fulgenzi's crust. Basil, oregano, garlic... yep it's in there and it's good!
The toppings were well mixed and plentiful. The cheese was was copious over the pie but not overwhelming. It didn't drown the mushrroms and bacon, it just held it all together. The bacon was chopped and crispy which is a solid combo with the juicy mushrooms and creamy cheese. Overall it was just really good... REALLY good.

Let's face's easy to find one good quality about a pizza. Sometimes even a couple good qualities. But it is very rare to find a pizza that has everything right. Between the crust, the sauce, the cheese, the toppings, the seasoning, the construction and the cooking of the pie... there's plenty of room for error. Fulgenzi's had very few, if any. This one of the best pizzas I've had in Springfield. Bar none. I highly recommend Fulgenzi's and can guarantee... I will be back often, and not just for the cheeseburgers and chili.

SPP Rating 9.4

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Virden's Gem

Once again it's been a while since I checked in with a review, so here goes nothing. We were attending a football game in Auburn so we planned an extra 7 mile trip south to try some pizza at DiCarlo's in Virden for our pre-game meal. I have had friends from Macoupin county pressing me to try this pizza for quite a while, so this past Friday was the day.

Where they're located:
330 N. Springfield St (IL Rte 4)
Virden, IL

Call 'Em:
(217) 965-5323

The Pizza: Sausage, garlic, black & green olives

The Crust: Thin

The Dish: This is a true "Mom & Pop" restaurant ran by founders Sal & Vita DiCarlo. Located in tiny Virden Illinois which sits about 20 miles south of Springfield, DiCarlo's is a small restaurant that sits on the main drag just north of the center of town. The atmosphere is friendly and family oriented with a small salad bar and about 15-20 tables. It's a seat yourself joint with daily specials and they only take cash. Leave your checks and plastic at home.

How'd it eat: There was a short wait for the hot gooey pizza. As a matter of fact the pizza came before my trusty assistant's meatball sandwich. He was enjoying cold milk and I had a Busch draft in a cold mug. The pie was topped copiously with cheese and the olives (not enough around the edges though), but would have like a little more sausage than what I got. The meat was scarce compared to the olives. They nailed the fresh garlic though... I think it goes so well with the olives. The cheese was all mozzarella and there was just enough where the other flavors weren't drowned in it's creamy goodness.

The sauce and the crust are what make DiCarlo's an outstanding pie. Firstly and most importantly, DiCarlo's does not skimp on the sauce. You won't have request extra sauce here. It has a thicker than usual texture with just a hint of sweetness and basil.
The crust is not super thin but it is still crispy and holds the toppings well without being flimsey or soggy. There is a slight buttery flavor to the crust that really works with DiCarlo's tasty sauce.

All of the elements of an excellent pizza are there so you're going to enjoy a top shelf pie no matter which toppings you like. DiCarlo's is well worth the 20 minute drive from Springfield if you're in the mood for some tasty pizza!

SPP Rating 8.5

Friday, October 7, 2011

With my trusty assistant at   DiCarlo's Pizza in Virden.   
There will be a review coming soon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A pizza has been targeted!

This Friday The Springfield Pizza Project is back on track. We've targeted a pizza and will be gnoshing and soaking up atmosphere in a local area pizzaria. So be ready! Pizza makers... please bring your A-game to the kitchen everyday. We expect the best everywhere we go.

So where will we be going this Friday? Find out after our visit Friday night. We're heading to a local high school football after our meal so I will post from there.