Do you ever have those moments in life, when everything you know or believe about something gets turned upside down?
I love pizza. Pizza loves me. I mean, I seriously love it. If I wasn’t married already, I’d marry it. Yeah, I’ll own that. It’s an obsession bordering on maniacal.
And when I say pizza, I mean all types - I believe that whether you identify as a foodie or not, any true lover of pizza can, and should, appreciate and savour the unique characteristics of all types. We are not snobs. We are lovers. I really can’t be friends with people who talk trash about lesser pizzas. It’s still PIZZA. The world’s worst pizza is still better than 66.6% of foods out there on Earth. It’s a fact; look it up.
I love true, original Neapolitan style. I also love Roman style, Detroit style rocks my world, and yes, I absolutely even love Domino’s (don’t knock it - you know a good Domino’s pizza, at times, has its merits!).
I am also a hardcore lover of Chicago-style Deep Dish… yes she, the fair-haired maiden from the Windy City, and the topic of this blog post.
For those who have not yet had the pleasure of sinking their teeth into a proper Chicago style deep dish, let me give you a bit of a background. I’ll start with the basics:
Have I caught your attention? I hope so, since my own mouth is starting to water here. So how does such a thick, filled-up pizza keep from becoming, essentially, a soggy “bowl” for a tomato sauce “soup”?
Herein lies the genius… it’s all in the order of the toppings. From the bottom, Chicago-style is crust, cheese, toppings, more cheese, maybe more toppings, and then finally sauce on the TOP.
The protective layer of fine, thick mozzarella cheese (never the fresh kind) provides a barrier that keeps things crispy and hard. There is no soupy middle here, like you will find in the best Neapolitan pies (I love that soupy middle too, on the right pie). Just layers of awesomeness. If you are in the salacious mood for what is essentially mostly cheese, sauce and toppings, then Chicago-style is your man (or mistress) for the evening.
Chicago’s reigning three kings of pizza are generally considered to be Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s, or Gino’s East (my personal fave of the three). They each have their unique traits, which I’ll probably spend another few posts on later, waxing lyrical about Gino’s East’s beautifully yellow cornmeal crust (or is it just yellow colouring from annatto? We’ll never know!). Again - as a pizza lover, I’ll happily eat all three, thank you very much.
But now that we have all that taken care of, let’s move on. Let me ask you some questions.
Where would you expect to find the best Philly Cheesesteak? Probably Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Amirite?
Where would you expect to find the best Maryland Blue Crab? Probably Maryland, no?! It’s the state’s official crustacean. You have to love crab to even have a state crustacean, come on!
Where would you expect to find the best sushi? Probably Japan. Ok, I know, maybe not, but let’s not dwell.
Imagine my surprise, when I discovered that the world’s best Chicago-style pizza is in… TORONTO.
TORONTO!!! That somewhat cold, oddly fast-paced cit (by Canadian standards, at least - Canucks, you love it!), that is definitely NOT known for being the world’s culinary ground zero.
I recently found myself there for a few days, and as usual, I found myself craving pizza. Since London, my home, has zero Chicago-style options, I figured I was closer to success than usual and looked for some options. Lo and behold, Toronto had, just the year before, opened two outlets of a place called... “Double D’s”. I figured that these might be my kind of people (ahem), and chose the closer of the two outlets, “Double D’s West”.
All sorts of thoughts raced through my mind as I sat in my cab - “What kind of sauce do they use? How much cheese? Do they do a full, pizza-sized single sausage patty, as Gino’s East does? How many pizzas shall I try? Is this actually a strip club?” I was brimming with excitement.
Upon arrival at this joint, I took a quick look - all black frontage, with “Double D’s” written in hot pink neon… awesome, but still potentially a strip club. I stepped inside, and the familiar heady smells of melting cheese... herbed, slightly acidic marinara sauce, and the scent of hot crusts baking against lightly oiled pans… I was overwhelmed. Out stepped from the kitchen a lone man wearing a chef’s jacket: I told him I was a lover, and we quickly bonded over pizza philosophy.
I ordered two pizzas - the Chicago Classic, which is a pepperoni and sausage pie - as well as a slightly different one, the Buffalo Chicken - with onions, grilled chicken, blue cheese, hot sauce, and spinach.
The magic begins… you can’t go wrong with such an abundance of fresh, delicious ingredients!
I waited patiently… as you can imagine, Chicago-style pizzas, with all their thickness, take some time to bake - and when they arrived, I wasted no time in taking a bite right then and there of the “odd” one - the Buffalo Chicken pizza.
I had no way of comprehending what happened next - I will swear on all that is sacred to me - a genuine tear emerged from my eye. Perhaps it was the heat. Perhaps it was hunger, combined with the intoxicating scents and the overwhelming rush of emotions as my tastebuds were enraptured with this perfect combination of flavours… whatever it was, it was pure. I really did fog up… it was a bit embarrassing, but I laughed it off. I felt my knees genuinely weakening, and I sat down, took a breath, and I took another bite.
You may think I am exaggerating; that’s certainly a valid thought. In fact, when I try to recall that afternoon, which was just a few weeks ago, really - I wonder myself if it was all a dream. I assure you - I have no reason to promote this place, I have no contractual or financial relationship with this pizzeria, other than the fact that I will continue to buy pizza after pizza from here for the rest of my living days.
The final product: the stage at which your head start spinning wildly...
If you love food as much as I do, perhaps you have felt this type of emotion before. The only thing I was certain of, at that point, was that I’d never think of pizza the same way again.
When Jonny, the owner, realised that my food nerd level was cranked to 11, he began to open up and then told me his whole story - that he had taken over as owner of this particular restaurant in January, and had spent the past several months thinking about, and trying to improve every possible aspect of his pizzas.
He shreds his own cheese by hand from blocks - because bagged, pre-shredded cheeses are coated with strange powders and starches to keep the cheese from clumping in transit. He refuses to add sugar to the sauce (which is warmed but not fully cooked, so as to not caramelise the sugars and turn it into expensive ketchup), as most pizza kitchens do, because the sugars take away from the much needed acidity to counter the richness of the cheese. He makes EVERY single topping in-house, including the pepperoni and the sausage - who does that, in today’s day and age?! Only a truly obsessed person, dedicated to his or her craft. Which in this case, lucky for us lovers, just happens to be pizza.
If you’d like to try this marvelous pizza and have your world rocked in the same way mine was, you can find Jonny doing his thing at:
Double D’s West
1256 Dundas St W,
M6J 1X5, Canada
Tell him Jeehova sent you, and be prepared for the Chicago-style pizza ride of your life.