When I moved from New Jersey to Chicago three years ago, I was homesick for a few things: fresh bagels, the Shore, a chorus of screaming Springsteen fans backing me up during my “Born To Run” karaoke performance, etc. But pizza topped my list. Sure, Chicago has deep dish, but this wasn’t quite pizza to me. It was like the strange, squishy lovechild of pizza and lasagna, and I definitely couldn’t fold a slice in half. For three years, I have been on a mission for that New York style pie I crave: foldable, crispy, delicious. Thank God for Ian’s Pizza, because now my search is over.
Of course, when I stepped into Ian’s, I was skeptical. I had been let down by so many pizza shops before. Plus, Ian’s originally began in Wisconsin. Great pizza… from Wisconsin? You bet.
Ian’s specializes in creative pizzas with more wacky toppings than you can shake a breadstick at. When I got to the counter, I was already salivating as I gazed down the line of specialty pizzas: buffalo chicken, portabello pesto, spicy chicken quesadilla, Schwarzenegger’s Cali Burger (complete with beef, avocado and pancetta) and their best-seller – macaroni and cheese pizza. Of course, I wanted to try their signature pie, but I was told I would have to wait ten minutes for the mac-n-cheese pizza to come out of the oven. I appreciated the freshness of the pizza and definitely didn’t mind waiting. My boyfriend and I ordered a few slices to start and searched for a seat. Even on a weekday with no Cubs game, there weren’t many seats at the red picnic tables that line Ian’s walls. I could only imagine the zoo that this place could turn into after the Wrigley Field bleachers pour in.
Finding a spot at a table, we dug into our pizza. I had started with a plain cheese slice. This was probably blasphemy at Ian’s, but I had a theory that if the cheese slice wasn’t great, nothing else could be. Lucky for me, the cheese was perfect. Not too greasy and not too dry, the slice even had the perfect crispy crust. I was eager for more.
Next I sampled the mushroom and pesto slice. The mushrooms were juicy and fresh and the pesto was scrumptious – a perfect flavor combination. Next I tried another specialty slice: a combination of red bell peppers, onion, tomato, spinach and more mushroom. Usually not a fan of veggie pizza, I was convinced that this slice could win over even hard-core meat lovers. In the middle of my vegetable revelry, my mac-n-cheese slice was ready.
As I carried the slice back to my table, the cheese bubbled and the crust steamed. I could easily see why this was Ian’s most famous pizza, and then, I could taste it too. The tomato sauce was replaced with crème fraiche, then the macaroni was smothered with fresh cheddar cheese. Wow. Even as I sit typing this review, my stomach is demanding another slice. Delivery, please?
Luckily, Ian’s does deliver. They also have a Twitter, a Facebook page, “buy ten, get one free” punch cards and very helpful, friendly counter people – all creating a great relationship with customers. They even won over a jaded Jersey pizza snob like me. That makes one less thing to miss about New Jersey, and one more thing to love about Chicago.
She is fun, fabulous and fierce. She is chic, intelligent and in-the-know. But most of all, the Cheeky chick is the kind of woman who embraces, admires, respects, smiles at and opens her heart to other fabulous chicks. Now THAT'S Cheeky, darling!