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At first bite: Pizza Rock
Story by Jim Begley
For those about to share a pie, we salute you
It’s proclamation time: Pizza Rock could be the first true dinner hit of the downtown culinary revolution. Oh, downtown already has hits when it comes to breakfast and lunch — Eat and MTO Café come to mind — but Pizza Rock is in the perfect position to become a solid nighttime draw.
Pizza Rock combines pizza — a lot of them — with a healthy dose of rock ’n’ roll. This pairing lends itself to evening revelry as the DJ ensconced in a semi-truck cab — yeah, I just wrote that — spins tunes and TVs play vintage hard rock videos. It’s a fun room, perfect for that beer-fueled, loud-talking ritual of hanging out.
The pizza array is mind-boggling. Four ovens with varying fuels and temperatures make for what seems like infinite pie combinations; this results in an almost indecipherable menu, so consider this your Enigma machine for cracking the code. While award-winning, Pizza Rock’s margherita ($16) is simply alright. The pizza — they make only 73 a day — is good, but certainly no better than what’s offered at local favorites Due Forni or Settebello. This is less a knock on this pie and more a reflection of how Napoletana-style pies have progressed here in recent years. (The ingredients on my margherita tasted fresh and high-quality — key to such a simple pie — but it could’ve used a bit more char.)
While Chi-town is renowned for deep dish pizza, any native knows square-cut, thin crust is the go-to style. Chicagoans take note: Pizza Rock is producing the archetypal version. The brick oven-fired Chicago cracker-thin pizza with characteristic crispy char is a hit. The Sam Giancana ($22) represents the style particularly well, with the practically paper-thin crust holding up well to the robust combo of fennel and Calabrese sausage with provolone and American cheeses.
The New York-style pizzas are almost as impressive as their Chicago counterparts. With a thicker crust, the eponymous New Yorker ($23) was a quality choice, with pepperoni, sausage, sweet ricotta and ample amounts of garlic creating a rich amalgam of flavors and textures. Diners with diverse tastes — or just indecisive minds — should consider Pizza Rock’s Romana-style pizzas ($32). Each third of the oblong pizza features a different set of toppings. It’s further evidence that Pizza Rock is trying to be all things to all pizza-lovers — and so far, it’s an admirable effort.
PIZZA ROCK - 201 N. THIRD STREET - 385.0838
SUN-THU, 11AM-MIDNIGHT, FRI-SAT, 11AM-4AM
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