The summer is slowly but surely winding down, Mastication Monologues readers, but that doesn’t mean that the posts are going to be slowing down as well. While things have been getting a bit tenser on the job front with my federal application, I always manage to forget about my troubles with a good meal like at Paisan’s Pizzeria in Berwyn, IL.
Throughout Mastication Monologues, I’ve tried pizza in various parts of the United States and world, and have weighed in on what my personal preferences are when it comes to the doughy delight. So, I thought that perhaps Paisan’s could offer yet another dimension on the beloved Italian food. I mean, the name of the place roughly translates to “friend/brother/sister/partner” in Italian, so already it exuded a welcoming atmosphere before I even set foot in the place.Upon walking into the establishment, my parents and I were awed at the overall size of the interior and design of this modern bar and grill. It was like Portillo’s minus all of the faux 1920′s Prohibition gangster crap festooning the walls. Instead, it had more of an industrial garage feel that felt edgy yet safe enough to have family gatherings there (which they do do in the back in their banquet rooms). As we walked past tables full of happy customers and gawking at the exposed ductwork, we were seated in a larger, more open dining area that was distinguished by two large aquariums. There were three fish in one tank, but these puppies could have been mistaken for Leviathans. The white one, who I dubbed “Moby Dick”, actually let me take his picture.
After meeting these aquatic locals, I looked over Paisan’s menu. It was the embodiment of the Italian abbondanza (abundance) food culture where there was something for everyone to eat including appetizers, salads, wraps, barbecue, sandwiches, flatbreads, pasta, and pizza. My family and I decided to go for the final option since I had a hankering for a good slice. Paisan’s offers all varieties of pizza including specialty pies, thin crust, extra-thin (read: New York City pizza), deep dish, stuffed, and Sicilian style which is like pizza made of foccacia. Since we didn’t want to wait around for the thicker pizzas that take at least an hour to cook, we just ordered a cheese and sausage family size (16″, serves 3-4 people) thin crust pizza ($18).
It took about thirty minutes for the pizza to come out to our table, and I was starving by that time. It passed the visual inspection with plenty of cheese and sausage covering the crust along with a perfectly bronzed and flour dusted crust. I could tell this was authentic to Chicago’s pizza culture since it was cut in squares or more commonly known as a “party cut” since it’s easier to grab at a party along with giving more slices to more people. However, much like the debate over who has the best pizza in Chicago, the polemic rages over which cut is better: traditional slice or party? Square or slice, I quickly tore into this beauty. It was a nearly perfect pizza aside from two features I didn’t care for. First, the sausage wasn’t seasoned with spices that give the pizza a slight herbal kick with each bite. I assume that’s why Paisan’s has shakers full of oregano on each table to compensate for the absence of said seasonings. The only other aspect of this meal I didn’t enjoy was the sauce. There was a bit too much on it for my liking, and it had a sweet aftertaste that left me with a sour taste in my mouth. While some enjoy the contrast of sweet in a typically savory dish, I’d get just a cookie pizza if I wanted some of the sweet stuff on my pie. These two negatives didn’t put much of a damper on the meal since I really enjoyed the copious amounts of cheese that covered every square inch of the slices, and the crust was crispy and neither burnt nor undercooked. We polished off the pizza and were satiated.
After leaning back and feeling the food baby growing within me, I was happy but not blown away by the pizza. It was competently made, but I could go elsewhere and find better in Chicago like at Apart or Home Run Inn. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any room for their mouth-watering desserts or tempting gelato. Oh well, until next time, my friend!