Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Chester Cab: stuffed pizza
post on Chester Cab Pizza,
which specializes in Chicago-style "stuffed" pizza. I didn't try the stuffed pizza on that occasion, because I had simply stopped in for a slice, and stuffed pizza at Chester Cab is only made to order, and they need about 45 minutes to do it.
So instead, I got a regular slice, which I gave a B-minus. It was purported to be a New York style slice, but it seemed more like a thinner version of Chicago-style pizza.
But since Chester Cab's claim to fame is its stuffed pizza, I knew eventually I'd have to go back and try it sometime. Last weekend's Park Avenue Festival presented me with a rare opportunity to get a single stuffed slice, but I thought it would be better to get a fresh, whole pizza, so this week I picked one up.
Chester Cab's stuffed pizza comes in mini, small and large sizes, which are 8, 10 and 12 inches in diameter respectively. For one person, a mini is plenty, so that's what I got, with spinach and roasted red peppers.
At first, I was inclined to think of this as a deep-dish pizza rather than a stuffed pizza. To me, stuffed pizza has a crust on the top as well as on the bottom. At first, this did not appear to meet that description. On closer examination, though, there was a thin top crust under the sauce and cheese. So from the bottom up, you had bottom crust, spinach and red peppers, top crust, cheese and sauce.
Still, it's the depth of the pie that makes this pizza distinctive. While many people may think "thick crust" when they see or hear the words "Chicago pizza," the bottom crust on this was not particularly thick, only about 3/8 of an inch or so. It's the sides of the pizza that are the key, because they form a bowl that hold a casserole-like layer of toppings.
I'll get to those toppings in a minute, but first a few more words about the crust. It was well browned on both top and bottom, but the flavor was not toasty, like a good New York style pie, nor - fortunately - did it have the cooking-oil flavor of some pizzas. Instead, it had a slightly sweet, almost caramelized flavor.
Both in that respect, and in terms of the texture, the crust was reminiscent of a cobbler, though not as sweet, certainly. It did not have the gluteny, chewy texture of most pizza crusts, and while it held together well enough while eating, it was more crumbly in the mouth, like a shortbread.
Both the mozzarella and the sauce were added in abundance. The cheese had a melted, chewy texture, but it was the sauce that really dominated. It was chunky, with a sweet, herbal flavor. While that same flavor didn't work too well on the "New York style" slice I had last time, here it seemed a better fit with the slightly sweet crust and the thick layer of cheese.
The roasted red peppers and spinach, sad to say, tended to get lost among the other components. For one thing, there was simply a lot more of everything else, and besides that, I think their flavors - the peppers especially - were simply too subtle to stand up to all that sauce. Each topping on a mini adds another $1.05 to the total, so I'd either skip them or get something with a bolder flavor, like pepperoni or hot peppers.
So, the verdict? Well, even though I generally lean toward thin crust, I liked this pizza. And yes, it is pizza, contrary to what some purists might argue. Unlike NY style pizza, this isn't something I could see myself eating every day, but once in a while, yeah. The flavors were good, and despite its more-of-everything approach, the components were generally in good balance with each other.
It's been a few years since I was last in Chicago, so I'm not sure how close this comes to the real thing, but in its own right, it was pretty enjoyable. It's a little tough to rate, since it's so unlike any other pizza I've had around here, but I'll give it a B.