For many Chicagoans, their favorite style of pizza is a thin-crust square cut with sausage scattered under a top layer of cheese. At Chi Town Pizza in Tacoma, customers will experience Chicago’s other, most famous pie: the deep dish.
The next restaurant at 15619 Pacific Ave. S., just steps from Spanaway Park, will showcase Chicago’s prolific culinary exports, including the iconic pan pizza; Italian beef sandwiches dripping with juice and drizzled, ideally, with giardiniera; and Viennese beef hot dogs tucked into a poppyseed bun with yellow mustard, pickle spears, sliced tomatoes, crunchy peppers, celery salt and neon green relish.
As a former Chicagoan, this all seems fair.
“That’s going to be my draw – that’s why I’m sticking with Chicago,” said owner Donald Miller, who outfitted the restaurant with new, modern conveyor ovens that shave minutes off standard cooking times. more than 30 minutes. a full bar and lounge, plus plenty of seating for families. For the future, he has also set up a stage in hopes of live music and possibly karaoke.
Miller operates several other businesses in the South Sound, including a petting zoo, and has invested in restaurants but never opened any. It also hasn’t indulged in deep pie in Chicago, though there are options locally: Katie Downs Waterfront Tavern serves a deep version, while worthy iterations exist at Windy City Pie and West of Chicago Pizza Company. in Seattle.
“I wanted to try something different,” Miller told the News Tribune this month.
Luckily, through his attorney, he met Larry Stein, 81, a Chicago native who now lives in Everett with his son. As a young investment and insurance professional, Stein moved to Des Moines, Iowa. His wife was a family friend of the owners of Gullivers, which closed earlier this year after more than 55 years in Evanston, home of Northwestern University.
In Iowa, Stein was also close to a university. Friends encouraged him to open a Chicago-style pizzeria, realizing that back then – in 1975 – the deep dish was nowhere to be found. He agreed, opening Felix & Oscar’s as a side hustle that turned into an institution. Now in a larger location, it continues under the ownership of a longtime employee.
Stein, meanwhile, pursued pizza pan perfection through a consulting business.
Making contacts at the annual Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, he estimates his recipe has found its way to around 60 restaurants across the country and another nearly a dozen in London, Paris, Tokyo and Seoul. Locally, he has worked with Delfino’s in Seattle’s University Village, open since 1993.
“I had no intention of doing this one because I’m basically retired,” Stein told the News Tribune in a phone call this week. “I went to speak with Donny [Miller] to see if I could be of help.
That conversation turned into what will likely be his “goodbye shot, so you know it must be good.”
He describes its crust as having a “subtle sweetness” and yellowish tint, thanks in part to the caramelized brown sugar in the batter, which will be freshly made daily.
“It’s very similar to an offshoot of Uno’s and Due Downtown, Malnati’s and probably Pequod’s,” he said, referring to some of Chicago’s pizza pan stalwarts.
The latter has always been my favorite, the extra caramelized crust with cheese and oil in the black steel pans. Channel side, I preferred that of Lou Malnati.
Fresh mozzarella, chunks of Italian sausage, crushed tomatoes on top – the key to a deep pie, where the assembly differs from a thin crust toppings approach – Chi Town Pizza will do its best to bring a taste of Chicago in Tacoma.
“Everything we’re going to do at Donny’s,” said Stein, who will train staff ahead of a hopeful opening in May, “will be very reminiscent of anyone who’s tasted a real Chicago pan pizza.”
Miller invested a lot of money and effort into the concept and the space, but he insisted, “Our menu is simple.
CHI VILLE PIZZA TACOMA
▪ 15619 Pacific Ave. S., Ste. 2, Tacoma, no phone yet
▪ Details: Chicago-style pan pizza, Italian beef sandwiches and hot dogs, plus a full-service bar and lounge; opening target by summer
▪ Follow facebook.com/Chi-Town-Pizza-100230049199410 for updates
This story was originally published April 12, 2022 10:57 a.m.