Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Chester Cab, Park Ave.
According to its menu, Chester Cab traces its roots back to 1982, when the owner opened The Pizza Station in Seabreeze. At some point he moved his operation to Park Ave. and renamed it Chester Cab.
Chester Cab's specialty is "Chicago Stuffed Pizza," which the owner learned how to make at "Glorandono's" (I think he means "Giordano's") in Chicago. But they also offer "regular pizza" that is advertised as "baked on the hearth." A slice - billed as a "Slice of Heaven" - is described on the menu as a "Crispy New York style pizza Ray would be proud of." I presume that's a reference to the mysterious "Ray" whose name adorns many New York City pizzerias.
On this lunchtime occasion, I had to break my own rule about ordering whatever a pizzeria's "standard" pizza is, and opted for a thin slice instead of the stuffed pizza. For one thing, the menu says that they need 45 minutes to an hour to make a stuffed pizza. For another, I didn't want that much for lunch, nor did I want a lot of leftovers. Plus, to me, the stuffed/deep dish/pan stuff isn't exactly pizza. It's more like lasagna made with dough instead of pasta. I'm not saying it's bad, mind you; I just don't think "pizza" is the right word for it. (Which is not to say that Chicago has no "true" pizza, as you can see here.)
Anyway, that's a long introduction to my cheese slice (from what I could tell, Chester Cab's slices all start out as plain cheese, and if you want a topping, it is added to the slice, which is then reheated in the oven). Size-wise, it fell somewhere between an "ordinary" slice and a "mega" slice.
The first thing I noticed about it was the paleness of the cheese. No brown spots at all, and it was fairly thick, with a resemblance to the just-melted cheese you might get on a restaurant cheeseburger.
The crust was thin-to-medium, but the slice itself seemed thicker because of the thick layer of cheese and sauce. The underside bore a fair amount of charring, which was kind of surprising given the barely-melted appearance of the cheese. That indicates that the floor of the oven is pretty hot, but not too much of that heat seemed to make it to the top surface, where the cheese is. As is often the case with "hearth baked" pizza, it wasn't greasy at all.
Though fairly thin, the crust wasn't really foldable. It was more crunchy/crackly than pliable.
Biting into it, the first thing I noticed - aside from the crunchiness - was the sauce. That was also kind of unusual, since sauce tends to stay in the background at most pizzerias. This sauce was laid on rather thickly, and had a sweet, herb-infused flavor. The crust, on the other hand, was on the bland side, as was the cheese, which seemed to be straight mozzarella.
If the sauce provided the dominant flavor, the crust and cheese provided the two contrasting textural elements. Each bite brought a crunch-crunch-crunch of the crust, as well as the offsetting texture of melted mozzarella (I can think of no perfect adjective for the texture of melted cheese - if you know of one, please leave a comment). Surprisingly, the cheese was actually the least dominant of the three components.
Chester Cab also offers subs, wings, salads and a few other hot and cold items. Seating is pretty much limited to some outdoor picnic tables. They have a pretty wide delivery area, though the $2 delivery charge is on the steep side for this area. On the other hand, my $2.50 slice was pretty reasonable, and their online menu has several printable coupon deals.
All in all, this wasn't bad pizza, and it was certainly distinctive. It was one of those pizzas where each of the three main components - crust, sauce and cheese - stands out individually, rather than melding into a unified whole. I would definitely not call this NY style pizza, though; for starters, there was just a little too much of everything - crust, sauce, and cheese, as if betraying its "stuffed" roots. But on its own merits, though, it was pretty decent. I'll give it a B-.
Pizza Guy note: see my review of Chester Cab's Chicago stuffed pizza here.