Marley's Chicago Style Pizzeria
6104 E. 71st St., 918-551-7744
SUN-THU, 11AM-9PM; FRI-SAT, 11AM-10PM
Food: 4 out of 5 stars
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
No two pizzas are alike. For every pizzeria in town, diners will find just as many variations on the same theme. They all begin with the same stuff: crust, sauce, toppings. From there, the difference begins. Take Marley's Chicago Style Pizzeria. Comparing and contrasting Marley's Chicago Style pizza with other Chicago style pizzas in town, pizza lovers will find a number of differences, from size, depth, toppings, sauces to taste and presentation and price.
Samantha Green, general manager for Marley's, said owner Jeff Hague created his own version of the famous Chicago-style pizza. "After working at a few places, he got a hankering to open a pizza place," she said. "He took a few trips to Chicago to sample how they make their pizza and to gather ideas." After that, a good friend of his, put together the concept.
Contrary to what the name suggests, Marley's is not named after well-known Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician Bob Marley. Green said it is just a name Hague kept coming back to when naming his restaurant.
Still, the décor of Marley's reflects an affinity to rock music. Rock memorabilia embellish the walls, such as paintings of John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, as well as mini-posters of rock artists and concerts: Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton and James Brown to name a few. Even classic rock plays throughout the place to further plant the rock atmosphere.
Green said Hague, who is originally from Jenks, wanted "to make sure his pizza was different than others, but still authentic to the Chicago style of pizza." My dining companion and I found that to be quite true when we dined there one Sunday afternoon. Chicago-style pizza is widely known as a deep dish pie. The edge crust can be up to three inches high, yet in some cases, just a bit higher than the ingredients it is supporting: generous portions of cheese and tomato sauce is thick and chunky. Also, typical of Chicago style pizza, the toppings are reversed: cheese is at the bottom, then the toppings and sauce.
Entering Marley's, the right half of the restaurant is a bar area with 10 TVs, pool table and pub-style tables. Green explained another room is the family room with tables and chairs, "separated enough from the bar area, ideal for families with children." In addition, there is also a room for private parties or meetings.
We were seated in the family room, and promptly greeted by our server. We began with a selection from the appetizers, the Skillet Pizza Dip ($7.95). This sounded great. A creation of cream cheese, homemade marinara sauce, topped with green peppers and red onions, covered with pepperoni and then baked and served with Frito Scoops for dipping. This came to us piping hot, still sizzling in the pan. It was like eating a supreme pizza without the crust. This dip was the ultimate in cheesy and cream cheesy. The marinara sauce, Green said, is made each day in house. She described it as "a sweet, basil sauce" which is less acidic than some marinara sauce. We found it very sweet, but not overdone.
Green mentioned another appetizer that goes over well, the Homemade Cheese Bread ($5.75). She said it begins with pizza dough which is brushed with their garlic olive oil glaze then topped with a mozzarella and provolone blend and mixture of spices, with oregano as the headliner.
For our main meal, we ordered two pizzas, a 14" Italian Rooster Chicago style ($24.95) and a small hand tossed Ring of Fire ($11.95).
The Italian Rooster was a beautiful specimen of a pizza. The first impression was one of awe. This large pizza had a layer of marinara sauce covering the pie; now and then slices of jalapeno peeked through the sauce. When I sliced the pizza, the remaining ingredients were exposed: grilled chicken, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. Adding to the depth of flavor was a garlic olive oil glaze that was spread on top. The marinara sauce was thick, with pieces of tomato; it even had a little roasted flavor to it which was nice.
I would call this an "in between" style of the traditional Chicago style. The outer buttery crust hugs and curls over the body of the pizza. As Green said, "the dough for their pizzas do not puff up over the pie" as do some other Chicago style pizzas. The dough is Hague's own recipe, but they outsource its production. It was a good balance of thick crust, sauce and fillings. Lots of melted mozzarella cheese oozed from each slice. This was a great choice for not only a tasty pizza, but one that was very filling. Two slices was enough for me.
With each pizza, a wine and beer pairing is listed which Green says "helps people to order their drink" if they wish. The Rooster was paired with Chateau Julien Pinot Grigio or a Peroni beer. The only pizza not paired with a wine or beer is the Ring of Fire -- instead the menu says, "Goes great with milk." Green said those who try the Ring of Fire pizza are "very daring."
On the menu, this pizza comes with ample warning to the brave soul; it has two stars on the corner of the selection labeled "HOT." In addition, it says "Eat with caution??" This pizza has pepperoni, jalapenos, habaneros and ghost peppers on top of a chili pepper infused marinara with mozzarella cheese. A few bites at a time were all I could handle with this pizza. Once I built up a tolerance for it, it was actually very good -- and, a cold beer does go well with it! But it is hot, hot and hot. It's not for the tender mouthed.
The menu has 16 specialty pizzas, or customers can create their own with the hand tossed crust or the Chicago style. A good variety of sauces include homemade marinara, garlic olive oil glaze, Alfredo sauce, and tangy BBQ sauce. Meat, cheese and vegetable toppings are fairly standard. For those desiring something other than pizza, Marley's has salads, sandwiches and wraps, even a gluten free pizza menu. For the adventuresome, two people can take the "Gnarly Marley Challenge." It's two pizza eaters versus a 24" pizza. Finish the pizza in an hour and the team gets their picture on the Challenge wall in a Marley's t-shirt. Not able to finish the pizza, it'll cost the team $39.
It's a fun atmosphere at Marley's. The bar has happy hour Monday-Friday, 4-6pm with specials each day.
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