Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Sunday, March 3

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Recipe Roundup: Labor Day Edition Fair Fare at Francesca's Forno »

Review Sat Aug 30 2008

New York Pizza Slice Smackdown

New York Slices foodThere are two kinds of New York City pizza: the good kind; and the kind my mother warned me about during my Queensborough childhood. They're both authentic. Trouble is, oftentimes in the Chicago area, eateries settle for serving up the latter. On an accidental road trip today, I sampled the best and the worst Gotham-style pizza on offer in Chicagoland.

My foodie friend, Jamie, and I had intended to end up at the Botanic Garden in Glencoe. Ninety-degree weather in the northern suburbs had us ditch that plan fast. We opted for a North Shore lunch, instead. I had been meaning to try the lately much-ballyhooed New York-style pizza at Highland Park's recently opened New York Slices and Jamie, a recent Cincinnati expat, had never had the experience of a good Gotham slice. So we pulled up the pizzeria's Yelp listing, pointed our iPhone Google Map apps to it and off we went.

The press on the place promised a pizzeria experience like I had grown up with: floppy thin crust pies; garlic knots; black-and-white cookies; and Marino's Italian Ices, complete with their cute little wooden tongue depresser-shaped spoons. Walking in, the place looked like home. Pre-cooked slices sitting behind a glass counter shield, waiting for the order to be warmed up.

My, how looks can be deceiving.

We shared two slices of pepperoni pizza, four garlic knots, a B&W cookie, and a cherry ice (pictured above). I should have known when the cashier handed me paper towels instead of napkins that things were about to go downhill. Starting with the pizza. The worst pizza in New York City is usually found in a rickety storefront sharing a block with a barrio bodega in a downtrodden part of town. Its too-thick crust and too-thin layer of weak sauce cover a film of plastic-tasting rubbery mozzarella, and if any pepperoni is present, it's there in name only, its flavor having long been trumped by age or covert substitution with a cheaper meat product.

Imagine my surprise to find this pizza sitting in my mouth at New York Slices, bite after every disappointing bite.

New York Slices cookie I looked to the other items we ordered to ease the pain. Silly me. Garlic knots were dry and under-buttered. The cookie (pictured) turned out to be a biscuit-dry, obscenely thick round cut from a sheet pan and covered in a paper-thin layer of frosting, not the squat, moist, frosting-laden Brooklyn delicacy I and my midriff have known all too well.

As for the Italian ice? Obviously melted and re-frozen--into a solid brick. Once I was able to pry the product out of its little yellow cup, I found the cherry syrup pooled on the bottom, as if cowering from the flavorless mass of rock-hard freezer burn above.

We gave up in mid-meal, threw our food in the trash and walked back to the car. As we weaved our way south through the construction on Sheridan Road, I made a command decision: "Go to Hollywood and take the Drive to North Avenue. We're going to Santullo's."

I used to work down North Avenue from Wicker Park's Santullo's Eatery. Like New York Slices, it lays claim to serving real, authentic NYC-style pizza. Unlike the Highland Park pizzeria, Santullo's gets it exactly right.

We walked in, announced ourselves as pizza refugees and ordered two pepperoni slices. The place isn't upscale--we weren't expecting John's super-crispy, red-tablecloth gourmet pie, mind you.

Santullo's EateryWhat we got, however, was the essence of every properly floppy, stringy-cheesy, crispy-crusted, spicy-pepperoni, tossed-in-the-air, cornmeal-on-the-bottom, thin-crust slice (pictured) from my childhood that you better fold in half and make sure the grease-dripping far end sits far away from your pants. To a native New Yorker like me, this is comfort food. Not fancy, but filling, tasty, messy and available by the slice.

Things aren't always perfect at the Wicker Park pizzeria. Yelp reviewers decry the occasionally soggy slices. It's true, sometimes the pizza is proper, sometimes the crust is tossed too thin to be manageable in your hands. Ask for your slices to come out of the oven a bit early to avoid the most extreme floppage.

The place also offers made-to-order oven-baked sandwiches (leave the Italian to Potbelly's and opt instead for the Roast Beef, made luxurious by roasted red peppers and carmelized onions and swimming in a spicy horseradish sauce), but most cash-starved hipsters know the place for its $2 happy hour pizza slices (4p.m. to 6 p.m., eat-in only). Choose from cheese, pepperoni or sausage slices or order special combinations by the pie.

Next time, I'll think twice about two-timing my Windy City thin-crust love. Thanks for the memories, New York Slices. Mostly of bad hometown pizza. I'm good on taking my New York slices from Santullo's Eatery from now on. If only they'd hand out paper weights to keep the cyclonic ceiling fans from blowing your napkins on the floor every five seconds, this place would be heaven.

New York Slices
1843 Second Street (Highland Park), 847-432-6979

Santullo's Eatery
1943 W. North Avenue (Chicago), 773-227-7960

GB store

Steve / September 3, 2008 7:06 PM

The pizza at New York Slices in Highland Park is the worst pizza I have ever had the misfortune of eating.

This is the nicest comment I can type about my eating experience there.

Aaron / September 4, 2008 4:37 PM

I am a big fan of the ol' black-and-white, and was so excited upon reading that this place you were reviewing had them.... and then I saw the picture. Dear god, that is an abomination.

Half & Half in Wicker Park had good B&Ws, but they closed. Anyone know of another place that serves decent ones?

cinchel / February 2, 2009 9:46 PM

i have not had a decent black/white cookie outside of NY..its sad but true. maybe i am picky

Julie / December 8, 2009 1:09 PM

Mike, opinions are like know the drill. Just as you had inconsistent luck at Santullos, perhaps your experience at NY Slices would be similar but you didn't give it another chance. No one's perfect. I would like to add that their frozen line is out of this world and I get dozens and dozens of compliments on NY Slices on Ice every time I demo their pizza. Just thought I'd present others' opinions, including people from New York. Everyone has their own preference and there's a type of pizza for every palette; what one finds distasteful another may find remarkable. Any educated, reasonable person won't too much stock into 1 person's personal experience and find out for themselves what they do and do not like.

GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

GB store



Drive-Thru on Flickr

Join the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

About Drive-Thru

Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Robyn Nisi,
Drive-Thru staff inbox:



 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15