After my visit to Salerno's on West Grand near downtown Chicago a couple three months ago, I wanted to try out the original Salerno's in Berwyn. I thought if the original Salerno's was as good as the one on West Grand, it had to be a top five pizza experience. I had a chance to give it a try just before Christmas.
Much of Chicago is a series of small towns that sort of grew together over the years. Berwyn has been around since the 1800's, but wasn't incorporated as a city until 100 years ago. It has a downtown area with little shops and restaurants like you'd find in many Midwestern cities. Salerno's on Grove is one of those many little places.
Salerno's on Grove (see map) is the first of the Salerno's that sprouted up around the city after Arnie Salerno first began to make pizzas back in the 60's. It has a nice bar area and a cozy dining room. I'm sure the decor hasn't changed much since when Arnie bought the place.
I got into the restaurant around 7:30 and took a seat at the long bar. The dining area was about a third full. The bartender gave me a menu and I ordered a beer. Even though the menu featured a lot of Italian specialties, I went to the back of the menu where they had the pizzas. I noticed that under the pizza list it said, "Thin Crust Available Upon Request". I wondered how thick their original crust was, but I opted for the thin crust - a 12" medium - with the old standby of sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms.
I noticed a couple other people had the pizza at the table. I walked past one of those tables on my way to the restroom and they looked pretty good with a ton of toppings.
After about 20 minutes, the bartender brought out my pizza and it was much larger with a lot of cheese and thick toppings. I knew that I wouldn't be able to eat the whole thing in one sitting. But I also knew that I had a refrigerator back in my hotel room, so it wouldn't go to waste.
It was cut similarly to the pizza at Salerno's on Grand - in the squares and corner triangle party-style pieces that I like so well. I tried a piece, but it was piping hot. Much too hot to eat. I let it sit for a few more moments before trying again.
From the first bite, well, I was disappointed. First of all, the crust was well done. Not quite burned, but enough of a burnt taste that it really detracted from the flavor of the pizza.
Secondly, I don't know if the crust was really all that thin. I thought, "Wow, I wonder what their original crust is like if this is the thin." It was crispy and not chewy like I remember the crust over at the Salerno's on Grand. And it was a little more thick than the crust at the other Salerno's.
But the toppings were wonderful. And there was a lot of them. The cheese, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and sauce was very thick on the top of the crust. I love pizzas like that. But this one was too well done for my taste.
You know, I've got to give Salerno's in Berwyn another chance. I'm thinking this pizza was an anomoly. A place doesn't stay in business for over 40 years by having shitty pizzas. I'll give them a try later on this year and let you know if the next pizza is a marked improvement.
(Update - I found well after the fact that they screwed up that evening and gave me one of their "original crust" pizzas. The thin crust is available at the Berwyn location. But I have to say that I like the pizza at the Salerno's on Grand better. Don't know why - they claim it's the same thing - but I think there's something different between the two.)