Having seen positive reviews about the crunchy caramelized halo of cheese that rings the pan pizza served by Pequod's Pizza on N. Clybourn in the Lincoln Park neighborhood I was intent on giving it a try. Hungry and parched after a long day at the Museum of Science & Industry, I polished off an iced tea before my substantial salad arrived.
The Pequod Salad is a mound of romaine lettuce, with torn pieces of sliced cheese, pepperoni slices, a few peperoncini, black olives, strips of green pepper, sliced mushrooms, grated carrots, thick tomato slices, and rings of red onion. With a choice of dressings I ordered the homemade Italian. The salad is a meal in itself and I succumbed to packing half the bowl to go.
Most pizzerias in Chicago serve up a crunchy thin-crust Tavern-style, not unlike the pizza served at Bordenaro's on the south-side of Des Moines. What is commonly referred to as Chicago-style is either 1) deep-dish, the thick crust style baked in deep circular pans, with high crusty edges and piled on with inordinate amounts of cheese, then optional toppings, followed by a ladle of chunky tomato sauce; or 2) stuffed crust, a variant of deep-dish where the cheese and toppings are capped under a thin layer of dough and finished with the sauce atop.
Peqoud's offers thin-crust as well as a fourth style of pizza somewhat common in the Chicago area – pan pizza – but not as well known apart from the abysmal offerings of a few national pizza chains.
The pan pizza at Pequod's is very similar to a pizza I enjoyed last December in Las Vegas. Whereas Northside Nathan's was a traditional Detroit-style – a thick bready crust baked on a well-oiled sheet pan to achieve a crispy bottom – Pequod's utilizes well-seasoned cast iron pans modeled after the steel pans used for the aforementioned Chicago deep-dish varieties. Lacking the raised edge of crust so identifiable with traditional Chicago deep-dish and stuffed crust, the cheese deeply browns against the sides of the cast iron pans.
This pan pizza with a thick, focaccia-like crust sporting a fried crunchy bottom, and a chewy, burnt cheesy ring on the sides is nothing short of awesome. The pepperoni on top benefits from the long bake with some crispiness on the edges.
Enjoyed at the table – fresh from the oven and given a few minutes to cool – Pequod's pan pizza is at its most optimal. Leftovers wrapped in tinfoil and packed into a Styrofoam container not so much. Eaten cold – later in the evening – the crust loses all its crunchy appeal and the breadiness becomes a liability. Only the chewy ring of burnt cheese keeps its toothy appeal.
I highly recommend a visit to Pequod's. Just resist the urge to order more than what you can consume for your meal. Either go with a big appetite for small ten inch, or better yet bring a dining companion.