Chicago residents have opinions about many things: best baseball teams, best brand of beer and even the best way to make it down Lakeshore Drive during a Friday night traffic jam. But even the most mild-mannered of Windy City citizens is sure to have an opinion about a topic that’s dear to their hearts and often near to their lips: the best pizza in Chicago.
As the battle over thin crust vs. deep dish continues to wage, a New York native has quietly slipped into town and made a name for himself with a precisely crafted dough recipe and a highly creative approach to toppings. Robert Garvey, who with wife Dana Hokin owns Robert’s Pizza Company, says great pizza must begin with great dough: “We love our dough responsibly,” he says. “I spent five years of obsessive home baking to develop our crust recipe. We spend hours each day mixing, fermenting, and rising our dough, and every step in the process is critical.”
With a great crust as the foundation, Garvey allows himself to think creatively about toppings, including combinations like Thai Chicken Curry and Lamb Vindaloo. One of the restaurant’s biggest sellers is the Brussels Sprouts and Bacon pizza, made with apple-wood smoked bacon, smoked mozzarella, roasted Brussels sprouts quarters, and a balsamic finishing glaze. “I personally love to eat it, but I didn’t realize it would be such a crowd pleaser,” Garvey says. The Huevos Rancheros pizza includes black beans, chorizo, queso fresco, scallion, cilantro, salsa verde and eggs. “We make everything in house, including a fresh salsa verde.”
Perhaps the most creative offering is Peking Duck pizza. “We get the ducks fresh, then blanch, dry and roast them in-house,” he says. “We add hoisin sauce, cheese, a little rice wine vinegar and scallions. It’s finished with shaved scallions and English cucumbers. It’s really the classic preparation of Peking Duck, but with pizza crust instead of the traditional pancake.”
“People love us because we not only produce great pizza, we produce great food,” says Dana Hokin. “We have a great combination of terrific crust and well-prepared and well-curated toppings.” What advice do they have for cooks who want to flex their creativity? “Cook when you’re hungry,” Garvey says. “Put care into everything,” Hokin says. “For example, we insist on cutting all our pizzas into triangular slices, because we believe that shape amplifies the journey of eating the slice, from the crust to the soft center.”
Many of the ingredients for stand-out pizza might already be in your kitchen. For example, Marzetti® sauces such as Sriracha Bourbon or Bulgogi can be delicious bases for creative topping combinations.
In Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood? Try it for yourself.
Read the Chicago Tribune’s picks for best Chicago pizza, including the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza at Robert’s Pizza Company (it’s number 18 on the list)