When I was a first year seminary student back in the fall of 95 one of my co-workers in the library invited me to come to a group that met at a restaurant in Highwood, a little Hispanic/Italian community nestled between Lake Forest and Highland Park. The group was called Stammtisch, a German word for a table reserved for regular customers or a club table (or a "table of cronies" according to my German-English dictionary). The group was very loosely organized by one of the seminary professors and was devoted to sitting around and talking theology or philosophy or whatever, over pizza, beer, and clove cigarettes. I didn't like beer then and don't smoke, but the pizza was incredible. It was double decker; basically two thin crust pizzas laid one on top of the other with the crust rolled together at the back of the slice. To this day my favorite pizza is a double decker from Buffo's or from Bill's Pub in Mundelein. I really prefer Bill's because of the decor and ambiance but Buffo's is nice for the memories of eating there every Thursday for about two years. Eventually the Stammtisch migrated to The Silo, a restaurant in Lake Bluff that served more traditional Chicago-style pizza, and then disbanded. When I lived at the synagogue I was just a few blocks from Buffo's and occasionally we'd get takeout but we didn't eat there often. Since I moved up to Vernon Hills in 2000 I've probably not been to Buffo's more than twice. Tonight I joined Kit and Robyn and Corban, their 7 month old, former roommate/synagogue boy Steve R. and his girlfriend Natalie, and a couple of Kit's family friends and their daughter. It was like old times sitting around basking in the glory of double decker pizza and buckin' hot sauce with Kit and Steve and few friends. We ate outside, which was different from old times, and I had Leinie's Red instead of pepsi, also different, but it was great. The weather was sunny and cool, just nice. Kit got a Buffo's t-shirt to go along with the other t-shirts he's been amassing on vacation and a good time was had by all.
Regarding Jenn's question about pizza we've got all the basic national pizza chains up here. We've got Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Little Caesar's, Chuck E. Cheese. As far as I know none of them are hurting for business. But the real pizza power around here is with places like Giordano's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, Rosati's, The Silo, Pizzaria Uno or Due that serve the authentic Chicago Style deep dish. Obviously people have their preferences maybe liking Uno's personal size pizza or Gino's unique crust or Lou's sheet of sausage that covers the face of the pizza beneath the sauce. It seems like they've all won awards, enough so that I have at times wondered if there are just so many pizza cookoffs that everybody gets to win one. But they're definitely all good. Like I said in the earlier comment thread, the typical deep dish Chicago pizza has a thick bready crust overlaid with toppings and cheese and then topped off with crushed tomatos. My guesstimate is that it's 2-3" thick and is cut in wedges. There's also a thin crust Chicago style that has a very thin crisp crust overlaid with sauce, toppings and cheese and cut into little squares. It's usually very greasy. This is the typical thin crust pizza that you will get in bars or regional chains around here and it's also very good. As for Jenn's question of whether she'll get up here, eat at Gino's and be ruined for Pizza Hut, I think that's a risk well worth taking. Nevertheless I still like almost any style pizza from the cafeteria pizzas we had in school to frozen pizzas to Papa John's or Domino's to something classic like Gino's or quirky like Bill's or Buffo's or the Basil's special at Bill's Pizza in Northfield. If you say to me, "Let's go get some pizza for supper. It's on me and money's no object," sure we're going to Bill's or Gino's or The Silo. If it's late and we're hanging out and want to order a thin crust pizza to snack we're calling Kaiser's or Pizza Italia, but if somebody says, "Hey! Let's go to Pizza Hut!" I'm fine with that. It's not all it could be but I like what it is. A place like Domino's won't make your mouth as happy as Buffo's or Kaiser's but it won't give you quite the same greasy cheese lump in your stomach either. Sometimes there's a price to pay for the deliciousness that goes beyond money. Ambience also plays a large part in my pizza preferneces. It's not quite as much fun to eat at Gino's in Libertyville where you can walk in and be seated right away as it was to eat after waiting in line on Ontario St. to get in and be able to sign your name on the wall of the Gino's downtown. There's something about throwing peanut shells at your friends and looking at the stuffed animals in Bill's Pub, drinking oatmeal stout in the loft of The Silo, discussing free will and determinism while watching the Bulls play, sniffing the clove smoke, and eating a chocolate chip cookie as big as a scone at Buffo's, an associative memory that makes the pizza that much better. For that matter the same thing happens when you eat at an old synagogue/church at Joe Bologna's in Lexington or getting a Bill's Special at Basil's and the next week getting a Basil's Special at Bill's while you teach someone to hair wrestle at midnight on a Wednesday in Northfield. Pizza's pizza and among the chief of things for which we should thank God regurlarly. The way it is around here is what it should be but that other stuff's okay too. It's pizza.