One of my all-time favorite pizza places is Chuck's Italian-American Restaurant in Des Moines (see map). I initially wrote about Chuck's here, but I wanted to provide some pictures of the experience this time.
Chuck Bisignano started Chuck's in 1956 along with his wife, Elizabeth. His brother, Babe, ran the famous Babe's restaurant in Des Moines for years. The Bisignano family has continued to run Chuck's since the day it opened with Chuck's daughter, Linda, running the day-to-day operation. In fact, Linda started working in the restaurant when she was only 12 years old. She had hoped to eventually move to New York City after graduating from college in 1971, but after her father died she moved into the small apartment upstairs and ran the restaurant. Linda, who never married, is also a breast cancer survivor.
(Update - I'm sorry to report that Linda Bisignano passed away from breast cancer on Nov. 11, 2013. She had earlier announced her intentions of selling Chuck's to a "hands on" owner, but a sale was never completed up to the time she passed away.)
At the end of our vacation this summer, we ended up in Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair. The night before we went to the fair, we met up with my cousins Tom and John Wehrle, and John's significant other, Bonnie Loman. We knew we were going to meet up weeks in advance and plans were made to all go to Chuck's for pizza, beer and greasy onion rings that Friday night.
Here's the happy group entering Chuck's anticipating great pizza, cold beer and the greasiest onion rings this side of Joe's Garage. Chuck's has been in business since 1956 and I'm not certain they've ever done any remodeling or updating to the place. It definitely has been a neighborhood mainstay in the Highland Park area of Des Moines.
We got a table in the back of the restaurant and immediately ordered up onion rings and beer. The waiter was sort of slammed with other tables, so the service wasn't as prompt as we'd like it. In fact, when the onion rings showed up, they were sort of lukewarm. My cousin, John, told the waiter that these were too cold and made him take 'em back. About five minutes later a new batch came out, definitely warm this time. But we wondered if they didn't just throw 'em back in the fryer and warm 'em up that way.
We ordered three pizzas among us. Cindy and I got a sausage, pepperoni and mushroom on one half, and sausage, pepperoni and jalapeno on the other. Cindy's been on this kick of getting jalapenos on her pizza, then she picks about half of them off. I can't exactly remember what John and Bonnie got, but I think they got the Chuck's supreme with everything on it.
And Tom got a pizza, of which I can't remember. All I know is that it looked great when it came out to the table. Here's a picture of Tom's pizza. Man, how come they don't have pizza like this in the Quad Cities?
And here's a shot of our pizza cooling on the table. Doesn't that just look great? Chuck's pizza has such a great taste to it. The crust is light and crisp, but not cracker crisp. And the toppings - especially the sausage - are just wonderful.
It's certainly tough to beat a Chuck's pizza any where. I'd put it up against some of the best neighborhood pizza places I've eaten at in Chicago. The service was a little iffy that evening at Chuck's, but they were very busy. It definitely didn't detract us from the great taste of the pizza.
God, I hate writing these blog entries on an empty stomach. Those pictures of the pizzas are making my stomach do jumping jacks.