POSTED ON MAY 6, 2009:
Neighborhood pizza joint aims high with Chicago-style pies
Love Thy Neighbor. "I hope with this restaurant I can be involved with the community around it--the neighborhoods and the businesses. It's a great area of the city," said Robin.
The desire for deep dish pizza spans beyond its birthplace of Chicago. Here in the Midwest, Robin and Jeff Pratt have honed the craft of making this hefty version of the classic pizza pie.
Originally from Duncan where they began the business, the Pratt's have since planted themselves on 11th Street in a former McDonald's--not far from the TU campus, Will Rogers High School and surrounding neighborhoods.
"We love it here," said Robin, who took time from pizza prepping to talk. "We like the fact that we are in this location of the city, here on Route 66. People can get deep dish pizza here and at a good price without having to travel to south Tulsa."
Robin offered a little insight into how their version of this "Chi-town pizza," as it is sometimes called, is prepared. Three years ago they began their business in Duncan, but her husband's schooling at Spartan brought the couple to Tulsa. Jeff used to work in a pizza store years ago, and his brother managed a pizza store; and collectively decided that they could "put out a bigger and better product--meatier, cheesier, and people could get more for their money."
While Robin was careful not to give away too many secrets, she did fill me in on a few details. "We make our own dough and sauce each day, sometimes a few times throughout the day." The dough is a precise recipe that has been perfected since the boys' pizza making days at home. "We found out that we cannot just double or triple the recipe," she said.
The sauce begins with a "high quality tomato sauce and we add our own spices," she explained. While she did not divulge the spices used, she did reveal that the it is more on the garlicky and black pepper side as opposed to a sweeter-style sauce.
To build the pizza, she begins by coating the crust with a garlic and parmesan combo. "That's what makes it a really, really good crust." Next, she piles a layer of cheese on the crust, followed by the customer's preferred toppings, then the special tomato sauce and finally a little more cheese. She said these pizzas are filling, adding that a large specialty pizza will serve 4-5 adults.
I was eager to try it out and taste just how hearty it was. I ordered a few to bring home to feed a family of five. I ordered a large Bacon Cheeseburger made with ground beef, bacon, cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese. I also ordered a medium Italian sausage pizza with traditional crust.
"We have a 'happy medium' here with our deep dish pizza and don't go overboard with the toppings," Robin said, adding that this keeps the price down for the customer. (In fact, we did notice this pizza was not as heavily loaded as other deep dish pizzas we have had in the past.)
The crust around the pie was not too thick but crispy and tasty. We did notice a distinct hint of the garlic-parmesan accent. As we ate, a few of my dining friends thought there might have been some sauce overkill, though it was deliciously fresh. With a deep red color and fresh tomato aroma, it tasted tangy rather than sweet, just as Robin said. The bacon was plentiful, thin and crisp with plenty of smoked flavor.
The medium-crust pizza was piled high with a generous portion of Italian sausage, which had been seasoned with fennel, a classic Mediterranean herb characterized by its warm, sweet and slightly spicy fragrance.
Little Chicago offers basic toppings found at most pizza joints. Single topping pizzas are $12.99 (14 inch), $10.99 (12 inch) and $8.99 (10 inch). Specialty pizzas include Meat Extreme, Super Supreme, Bacon Cheeseburger and Taco.
Other menu items include sandwiches ($6.25), chef salad ($4.99), a salad bar ($4.99), wings ($6.99 for 10 pieces), spaghetti ($4.99) cinnamon sticks ($3.99) and cheese bread sticks ($5.99). Robin encourages people to visit the Lunch Buffet, 11am-1:30pm, Sunday-Friday for $5.75. It features an all-you-can eat salad bar, pasta (spaghetti), pizza and dessert, which is quite a bit of bang for your buck.
The atmosphere is very basic, a little reminiscent of McDonald's, as the tables haven't moved since the restaurant's previous incarnation. The walls have Chicago sports signs for all the major league teams--Blackhawks, Bears, Cubs and White Sox. A large flat-screen TV occupies one corner of the dining area.
Robin is committed to the restaurant that she and her husband established. "I hope with this restaurant, I can be involved with the community around it--the neighborhoods and the businesses. It's a great area of the city."
4003 E. 11th St.
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