05 April 2011

Tristano's Pizzeria

As a former resident of the Windy City, I often get wistful about Chicago style pizza. So I was very excited to find out that Grove City had a family-owned pizza shop called Tristano's that specializes in stuffed crust pizza, my favorite version of the famous Chicago pizza pie.

First, a little background on what distinguishes Chicago pizza from pizza in other areas: the most famous pizza from Chicago is traditionally more substantial than Italian pizzas or New York pizzas. Where these pizzas come on thin crusts that run the gamut from soft to crispy and cracker-like, Chicago pizza is a different animal entirely.

There are three distinct styles of pizza that fit in the Chicago pizza category. The most famous is the deep dish pizza. It is a thick crust pizza piled high with cheese, toppings and sauce. Some of the most famous pizza shops like Pizzeria Uno , Lou Malnati's, Gino's East and Pequod's serve mountains of deep dish pizza to tourists, and Pizzeria Uno has locations in a number of states including Ohio. Other than Uno, other local purveyors of deep dish pizza include Wholly Joe's, Fabian's (whose style is called pan pizza, a deep dish style with cheese and topping on top of the pie rather than sauce) and B.J.'s Brewing.

The second style is Chicago style thin crust pizza. It is different in every way from deep dish pizza. It is a kissing cousin to the tavern cut pizza that is found throughout Ohio at places like Donato's as the pie is cut into tiny squares. The crust is made with corn meal, and it is also dusted with dry cornmeal before it is cooked. Most of the major chains that sell deep dish pizza also sell thin crust pizza (i.e. Lou Malnati's). One of my favorite thin crust pizza places in the Chicago area is Barnaby's, which, although it is an Indiana chain, nonetheless nails the style.

My favorite style of Chicago pizza, however, is the stuffed crust pizza. It has nothing in common with the crap that shares its name at Pizza Hut. It is related to deep dish pizza in much the same way that David Eckstein is related to Barry Bonds. Both were baseball players; one is small, while the other is busting at the seams. Unlike pan pizza, stuffed crust has two layers of dough. It also has a greater amount of cheese and toppings than deep dish pizza. Some famous examples of stuffed crust pizza in the City of Big Shoulders include Nancy's, Giordano's and my absolute favorite, Edwardo's Natural Pizza.

Tristano's makes both thin crust and stuffed crust Chicago style pizza. With my bias laid out for all to see, I obviously ordered a stuffed crust pizza.

The crust of the pizza at Tristano's appeared to be well done, but the char actually added a hint of smokiness that gave the pizza a layered flavor. The crust lacked some of the buttery qualities that are a hallmark of this type of pizza in Chicago. The sauce was bright, fresh and very much in the Chicago style, augmented by the generous heap of cheese and mushrooms, peppers and onions. The pizza isn't an exact replica of Chicago stuffed crust pizza, but its a close enough approximation to make it worth a visit. Despite its minor shortcomings, Tristano's makes tasty stuffed crust pizza.

Tristano's also has the typical salads and appetizers that come from most pizza shops. Considering the caloric nature of stuffed crust pizza, these items are an extraneous part of the overall experience.

Tristano's Chicago Pizza House

Tristano's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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