I was in the Chicago area on a Friday night - not my ideal situation, but I had a dealer event I had to work the next day. I've been driving up and down Waukegan Road in Glenview quite a bit over the past couple three years and a place that I'd driven past that had piqued my interest was Pizano's, a pizza joint that has a long and illustrious family history. I decided to stop into Pizano's that cool, rainy late fall evening.
In 1943, Rudy Malnati was working as a pizza chef at the original Pizzeria Uno in downtown Chicago. Pizza historians have long said that even though Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo owned Pizzeria Uno, it was Rudy Malnati who came up with the Chicago-style deep dish pizza concept. Rudy Malnati eventually became a co-owner and opened Pizzeria Due in 1955. Rudy and his son, Lou, managed the Pizzeria Due location in the 50's and 60's. In 1971, Lou broke off from his father and opened the first of his eponymous deep dish pizza restaurants in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood.
Rudy Malnati passed away in 1974 and Ike Sewell bought out the family's shares of Pizzeria Uno/Due shortly thereafter. Son Rudy Malnati, Jr. owned a bar at the time and had thought about opening his own pizza place somewhere in the city. After Sewell sold Pizzeria Uno, Rudy, Jr. became unhappy with the philosophical direction of the pizza restaurant that his father had helped start. While Lou Malnati's focused on deep dish pizza, Rudy, Jr. felt that his pizza joint needed to have thin crust pizza, as well. He opened his first Pizano's location on State Street in 1991.
At first, Rudy, Jr. wanted his pizzeria to have a touch of class. Waiters were dressed in coats and ties and people who weren't familiar with the place looked in the window and thought it was a high-dollar restaurant. Rudy Malnati, Jr. then tossed the coat and tie look for waiters in polo shirts and khakis. People started to come into his restaurant after that.
Rudy Malnati's mom, Donna Marie, came into work everyday (and still does, deep into her 80's) to make the family's secret pizza dough recipe. The original restaurant was soon followed by more three more locations of Pizano's in the city of Chicago, and the Glenview location was opened in 2008 - the only Pizano's location located outside the city limits of Chicago. The sixth Pizano's location opened in Lincoln Park near DePaul University in the fall of 2013.
The Glenview location is on the corner of Waukegan Road and Chestnut Ave. (see map) Valet parking is available, but I was able to find a parking spot in the lot. I walked into the brick building and was greeted by a young lady who asked me if I wanted to sit in the dining area or in the bar. I opted for the bar area and she showed me to a small table with newsprint on top of a checkerboard table cloth. She left off a menu and I was soon thereafter greeted by my server for the evening, Jenny, who was taking a pizza to another table. She said she'd be back to take my drink order in a moment.
In addition to both deep-dish and thin-crust pizza, Pizano's has appetizers, soups, salads and traditional Italian entrees and pasta. But I pretty much knew that I was going to get a thin crust pizza that evening. When Jenny came back to take my drink order, I told her that I was ready to order a pizza, as well. "Oh," she exclaimed in a surprised fashion. "Well, that was quick! What can I get ya?"
I ordered my usual sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza - a small (10"). Jenny said, "We'll have that coming right up!" She left for a moment, then brought out a small basket of homemade bread. With olive oil and parmesan cheese on the table, it was a nice start to the meal. But the bread was so good that I was afraid that I'd over-indulge on the bread and not be hungry by the time the pizza made it to the table.
The dining area in the bar was full of Friday night diners. The tables were a little close and I had a couple seated pretty close to me. I wished I'd gotten a booth instead as it was difficult to not hear their conversation about their friends sexual preferences. Although I don't like to eavesdrop, I found the talk about their friends bi-sexual preference to be somewhat fascinating. I tried to concentrate on the basketball game that was on one of the flat screens behind the bar.
About 20 minutes after I put the order in with Jenny, she brought out a piping hot thin crust pizza. The toppings were plentiful, piled high on top of the party-cut pizza. After letting it cool for a few moments, I took my first bite of a Pizano's pizza.
The sausage on their pizza is similar to other Malnati-style pizzas. They use no fennel in their sausage as the Malnati family feels that it masks the fresh taste of the sausage. I prefer a good fennel sausage, but the large chunks of sausage with sort of a peppery taste on the Pizano's pizza were good enough for me. The pepperoni was spicy and slightly salty, and the large chunks of fresh mushrooms gave it a wonderful taste. The sauce was somewhat sweet and not bitter, and there were tons of mozzarella mixed it. The crust was crisp, but it wasn't cracker thin. It held up well under the weight of the toppings.
About the only complaint I could have was that they served the pizza on cardboard on the pizza pan. It sort of gave the pizza that "carry-out" taste. Not that there's a lot wrong with that, but I was eating in the restaurant and I could begin to taste the cardboard later on as I made my way through the pizza.
I was able to eat - maybe - two-thirds of the pizza before I said, "No more." Jenny boxed it up for me and I had the rest for breakfast the next morning. It warmed up well in the microwave that I had in my hotel room.
Before I left the restaurant, I went to use the restroom. On the walls in the hall that led to the restrooms and connected the bar dining area with the other dining area at Pizano's was a number of photos, jerseys and other memorabilia centering around Chicago professional sports. It was kind of interesting to see the assortment of autographed photos and jerseys they had hanging on the wall.
For my first experience at a Pizano's, I came away with a good feeling about the place. The pizza easily passed my, "Does it taste good with beer?" test. When you're talking about such a pizza family legacy with the Malnati's, it's no wonder the pizza is so good. I'm just sort of surprised at myself for not trying Pizano's earlier.