Munchin’ with Michael: which slice was most nice?

Michael Barthelemy, Food Critic

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We’re back for seconds, and this time we’re exploring the realm of pizza. Living in the Chicago-land area, pizza is one of our city’s delicacies. Places like Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s have acted as staples for the city since the 70s, but it’s a new day in pizza history.

Pizza by the slice is the most sensible method of consumption. I know this is an unpopular opinion. But, personally, I prefer a slice of New York Style pizza. Not only is it practical, as you’re able to eat on the move, but it also is the basis of what great pizza is: not too much emphasis on one flavor and communally they work in harmony.

Let’s set some guidelines first.
1. Only cheese pizza. Pizza purists know that there is no better way to judge a pizza then when it’s bare.

2. Only pizza by the slice. I’m trying to keep things practical for everyone, pizza by the slice is practical for a quick bite to eat. Also, I wasn’t interested in spending $20 on a full pizza.

3. One bite, everybody knows the rules.

Let’s get to munchin’.

Gigio’s

When I began this review, instantly I be- came excited to review Gigio’s. It is my favorite place to get a slice of pizza in Evanston, and it always seems to satisfy my appetite. Plus, this is the most traditional New York slice in Evanston.

Despite these high ambitions, the pizza disappointed me. I even went back for a second slice, because I simply couldn’t believe how average this pizza truly was. Also, I’m a growing boy, so I have to eat more.

Starting with the sauce, I simply felt that there was little flavor to it. The use of spice was subliminal, and the sauce was extremely thin. It felt as though it was there just so it could check all the boxes of pizza criteria.

Tasting the cheese, it was what you expect from a slice of pizza. It didn’t try to be something it isn’t, and provided that classic mozzarella taste that has made pizza one of the world’s greatest cuisines. The melty nature of it is what you want out of a classic cheese pizza.

Now with these two slices, I found that they varied heavily in the level they were cooked. The first slice had a crunchy crust with a more blackened bottom. The second was almost the complete opposite, with a soft crust that felt breadier. This inconsistent cooking of the crust is something that is a major concern for pizza, because nobody likes to be surprised with their food, especially their pizza.

Score: 6.4/10

Panino’s

Panino’s is the pizza of my childhood. I’ve been there countless times. Despite this, I haven’t gotten a slice from there in years, so I was skeptical that my memory may be duping me. Even with my concerns, this pizza was better than I had remembered.

Starting off with the initial bite, the cheese hit first. There is little grease to this cheese, a big plus for me, but that doesn’t mean there is a lack of flavor. The mozzarella is perfectly seasoned and does not overpower the rest of the pizza.

I had mixed feelings about this crust. When biting into the pizza, the base dough is soft, and, rather than trying to do too much, it acts simply as the bedrock for a masterful blend of flavors. There is a significant amount of flop, so you’ll have to fold it, but if you don’t already fold your pizza then you’re missing out.

As you get into the crust of the pizza though, it becomes really hard and crunchy. This adds no real value to the pizza and feels more like it’s there so you have something to hold onto, rather than the grand finale to a celebration of Italian culture.

The sauce acts as the glue of the pizza. It ties it all together and makes sure every flavor works in harmony. The sauce makes sure that the pizza is not dry, and its high quantity is the epitome of what constitutes a quality slice.

Score: 8.4/10

Union Squared

Prior to this review, I didn’t even know this place existed. It is right across the street from Union Pizza, which is under the same umbrella of ownership. This often forgotten spot showed me why it should be known world-wide.

The pizza comes Detroit Style, meaning this is a doughiery pizza with a buttered crust. This was nothing like I’ve ever eaten before, though. The pizza appears to be more of cheese bread, with a massive stripe of sauce running through the middle of the piece. While I was initially surprised by this display, it proved to be a style I’d return back to.

The buttery crust was terrific. It has a crunchy outside to it, while still maintaining a fluffy inside. This crust was so good that I felt like I could eat it by itself and still be satisfied.

The cheese was a perfect side-kick to the crust. Being that the sauce was arranged unevenly, I was able to isolate the cheese from the rest of the pizza. Its melty nature was exquisite.

Despite the lack of a constant sauce presence, when it was there, it was awesome. The flavor was everything you would want in a sauce, perfectly seasoned with a clear tomato flavor. This sauce tied it all together, and was what really made this pizza great.

The one knock I have on this place will not affect the score, but has great importance when considering where to go. This one piece was $7, meaning it’s no bang for your buck.

Score: 8.9/10