It's my strong opinion that Salerno's Pizza in Chicago is probably the best pizza I've ever had in my life. I don't know what they do to their pizza, but the taste sensations I experience with their pies are unlike any I've ever encountered. From the first time I visited Salerno's (click here to read that entry) to the handful of times I've enjoyed their pizza, it is consistently the best pizza I've ever had. Period.
I took Cindy to Salerno's after an afternoon at Wrigley Field last year and she, too, was just floored with the taste of their pizza. It's like they sprinkle heroin in the sauce as the taste is just addictive with every slice. We continually talk about how great the pizza is there to our friends.
Later this fall, Iowa is playing Northwestern in football in Evanston. We got tickets with our friends Scott and Marcia Schroeder and Cindy had the great idea - "Let's see if we can stay in downtown Chicago and eat at Salerno's!" Well, that was a great idea until I tried to find hotel rooms that were reasonably priced in the downtown area for that weekend. I think the cheapest room of a respectable hotel was still over $200 a night. We ended up getting a room out in the north suburbs at a considerably cheaper price, but were still planning on driving into the city to have a Salerno's.
Earlier this summer, I put on Abt Electronics in Glenview, IL - one of the largest electronics/appliance/home life-style stores in the nation - for Focal loudspeakers and Cambridge Audio. They do big business and since July I've made many trips to the north side suburbs to administer their account. It was during one of my trips that I came across a Salerno's restaurant in Glenview - Michael Salerno's Pizzeria - located in the Glen Town Center (see map). Since it wasn't all that far from the hotel we would be staying at later this fall, I thought I'd give this Salerno's location a try. I thought, "If it's as good as the Salerno's in downtown Chicago, we won't have to drive all the way into the city."
Now, I had tried the original Salerno's on Grove in Berwyn and came away from that location as entirely unimpressed (see that entry here). It was nowhere close to the pizza at the Salerno's on Grand. I went to Michael Salerno's Pizzeria with a little bit of trepidation knowing that it was a newer location and that the pizza ovens they used would be pretty new. The old gas fired pizza ovens usually make the best pizzas. But the pizza at the original Salerno's was grossly over-cooked and it was not a very good pizza. I'm glad I went to the Salerno's on Grand in downtown Chicago first or I would have never tried it after eating at the one in Berwyn.
The encouraging thing was that Michael Salerno is the son of Joe Salerno - the owner of the Salerno's on Grand in Chicago. Along with his sister, Julie, and their uncle, Peter Lia, the Salerno's in Glenview opened in August of 2008. I was really hoping the apple didn't fall so far from the tree when it came to the pizza.
It was late one evening when I finally got into Michael Salerno's Pizzeria. This Salerno's location was remarkably different than the other two I'd visited. There wasn't any of the 60's charm the one in Berwyn and the one in Chicago exhibited. It was a modern facility, much smaller on the inside than the other two Salerno's, and it featured two things that the others didn't - pizza by the slice and outdoor seating. It was sort of a warm and humid night with a threat of heavy rain, so I decided to eat inside.
This is where I got a little confused. It didn't appear that there was any wait staff service at this Salerno's. I went to the front counter and looked over the menu. I ordered a small sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza and a couple bottles of Miller Lite - no Anheuser-Busch products were available. That wasn't that big of a deal, but I made a mental note that they had no Bud Light and they didn't appear to have a wait staff. I paid for the pizza and found a seat in the smallish dining area of Salerno's.
After awhile, a couple other people came in and sat at a table near me. Out of the back came a middle-aged lady who appeared to be waiting on tables. It was just sort of strange that she wasn't around when I first got in, nor was there any signage telling those to sit on their own or wait to be seated. It just appeared to me at first glance that this was a "serve yourself" restaurant. It was just a very weird experience to me.
After about 20 minutes (and a two-minute power outage from a storm that was coming through), the lady brought my pizza to my table. First of all, they gave me a large pizza and not a small. And it was way over-cooked. I could tell from the burnt carmelization of the cheese on top that it was should have been taken out 5 minutes earlier. Secondly, the crust, while thin, was also was over-cooked. It was hard and crunchy, difficult to bite into. While the toppings were plentiful and flavorul, the rest of the pizza was not very good. It just didn't have the taste "pizazz" that the Salerno's on Grand has.
I did make a dent into the pizza, but I could only eat about half of it - actually pulling the cheese and toppings off the top of my last piece because the crust was so hard and brittle. The waitress came around and asked if I wanted it to be boxed up and I told her in a polite fashion, no, that I was traveling and didn't have a place to store the remaining slices.
I was very disappointed in Michael Salerno's Pizzeria in Glenview. I had so hoped that it would be just as good as the one in downtown Chicago, saving us some time and effort to drive all the way into the city to get a great pizza. But the Salerno's on Grand is worth the drive. Michael Salerno's Pizzeria in Glenview is not.