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Saturday, June 15

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Airbags

For all the attention "Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza" gets, I don't know very many Chicagoans who eat it on a regular basis. The great majority of pizzas eaten 'round here are just normal, everyday pies. Not to say that deep dish is bad -- just that different is what gets you noticed. Nowhere else in the world do they have a pizza like ours, so it's now something visitors seek out.

Pizza Bubamara has a similar reputation in the city as deep dish has in the rest of the country: they do it differently. They've gotten noticed for their mile-long list of available toppings, which range from fish to fruit. (Yes, fruit. More on that in a moment.) This is pizza for the adventurous, for people who are bored with plain old pepperoni -- although their cheese pizza is better than average, too. Craving something unusual? Bubamara probably offers it.

At a recent GB staff meeting, we ordered four pies from Bubamara to get a good sampling of their offerings. Unfortunately, they were out of many of the ingredients we hoped to order, in particular the seafood selections, so we can't report on the clam or tuna. But we did get one with crab, one with spinach and shiitake mushrooms, one with half peaches and half cherries, and one of their specialty pizzas, the "quattro stagioni."

You're probably thinking to yourself, "Crab on a pizza? In Chicago?" Well, you're kind of right. While it wasn't inedible, the crab pizza had a bit of a fishy flavor that turned some of us off. It was real shredded crabmeat, though, not that fake tubular stuff, and they didn't skimp.

The vegetarian pizza proved much more popular. We ordered it with Bubamara's spicy sauce, which had just the right amount of late-starting heat. Again, no skimping on the toppings so nearly every bite had a bit of both spinach and shiitake. We polished it off quickly, leaving us wishing for another slice.

Bubamara's crust is firm but not tough, and flavorful enough to actually register on the taste buds. It's clearly handmade and hand thrown, unlike many pizzeria's machine processed crusts, and on no pizza is this more obvious than on the quattro stagioni. Twists of dough divide the pizza into quarters, each of which has a different topping: mushrooms, seafood (crab, mussels and shrimp) and black olives, thin-sliced ham and plain cheese. It's ideal for diners who can't decide what they want; they better want a lot of it, though, because this pizza is only available as a large.

The ham and mushroom sections were pretty straightforward. The seafood and olive section turned a few of us off just like the crab, but it was actually pretty good -- a nice level of saltiness mellowed a bit by the olives. Those who got the plain cheese pieces were the happiest, though -- you could tell that the cheese wasn't the bottom-of-the-barrel "cheese product" many places use.

Which brings us to the fruit. We ordered this because none of us had ever had fruit on a pizza before, other than the pineapple on a "Hawaiian." Bubamara offers about half a dozen fruit and berry options, including strawberry, peach, raspberry, cherry and blackberry. We went with half cherry, half peach on a small pizza, figuring if we didn't like it, we wouldn't have a lot left over. We were half right to do so -- the peach was not a good choice. The chunks were a little too big and a little too firm to be good pizza toppings, and because it was fresh peach, not canned, the fruit wasn't quite as sweet as we expected.

The cherry, on the other hand, made us wish we got a larger pizza. It was surprisingly good, bringing out some of the sweetness in the sauce and complementing the cheese nicely, making for a nice dessert. It reminded me of a danish. We all agreed that it could be good paired with other, non-fruit toppings; Cinnamon and Jes suggested green olives.

Bubamara delivers to a good portion of the North Side, although they close earlier than most places (11pm). There is a $1.75 delivery charge. Call 773/334-2613. The pizzeria (for pickup -- there are no tables) is at 4607 N. Wolcott at Wilson in Ravenswood.

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