Pizza review: Flour & Stone
355 E. Ohio St. 312-822-8998
Rating: 3.5 (out of 4)
When Flour & Stone opened in Streeterville last week touting "Chicago's Brooklyn-style pizza," I wasn't sure quite what to expect.
I spent a few pizza-eating years as a poor 20-something in Brooklyn and remember my local joint, Mario's Pizza, serving the same oversized, foldable slices as corner pizzerias in Manhattan. If the borough had established its own standout style, it was beyond my detection.
As it turns out, "Brooklyn-style," is more of a source of inspiration than a strict definition. Friends Chris Murphy and Shawn DeAmicis were inspired by the pizza they loved from their East Coast upbringing and wanted to feature a tangier sauce and fresh ingredients. They're not trying to replicate any one pizza parlor, Murphy said, though Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta's was thrown out as an example.
As for its location, the owners had one neighborhood in mind: Streeterville. It has plenty of hotel restaurants and chain eateries, but could use a pizza option that was a notch above the usual delivery joints, they thought.
And I gotta say, they were right. On opening weekend, it looked like every resident of The Streeter, the towering apartment complex that houses Flour & Stone (along with neighbors D4 and a newly opened location of coffee shop Dollop) was looking to get a taste. Would these pies be worth the wait?
The crust: These hand-pressed pies are baked for about five minutes in a 600-plus degree gas-fired ceramic oven that looks a lot like an igloo—and essentially acts as "a big pizza stone," manager Jennifer Barozzini said. Each pie is ringed with a substantial "handle" of crust that's puffier and chewier than a traditional New York slice. It has enough body that it doesn't flop over when you pick up a piece, so there's no need to fold it. The 13-inch diameter results in a six-slice pizza that's satisfyingly split between two people when paired with one of two salads (romaine or chopped, $7.50). Me? I put down three pieces at the restaurant and took care of two of the remaining three as a midnight snack. If you have a monstrous appetite, you might be able to eat it all in one sitting, but chances are you'll have leftovers.
The sauce: You might call this "the land of the two-ingredient sauces," Barozzini said. Red sauce combines imported Italian tomatoes with dried oregano, while the white sauce is simply olive oil with garlic that disappears into the crust.
The toppings: The first pizza I was drawn to—white sauce with bacon, red onion and crushed red pepper ($16.75) —has been Flour & Stone's most-ordered pie. With the way chunks of smoky applewood-smoked bacon mingled with sweet rings of onion and that punchy pepper, I can see why. The Vegetable ($20.50) is pricey, but you're paying for high-quality toppings: green pepper, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, red onion and spinach, none descending into mushiness as some veggie pizzas do. The margherita ($15.25) features the same mozzarella-provolone cheese blend as all the other pizzas, so it's not for purists who idolize the traditional Italian version with its blobs of fresh mozzarella; however, it is a damn good cheese pizza. You also can create your own pizza with toppings ranging from banana peppers to pineapple to anchovies ($14 plus $1.75-$2.25 per topping). The two add-ons that looked to me like they were plucked from New York pizzeriaswere broccoli and meatballs—though instead of slicing the latter into circles, here they're a pork-beef blend dropped onto the pie in sausage-like morsels.
The leftovers: The crust is a tad tough if you eat it cold, so a few minutes in the oven or a zap in the microwave is the way to go.
Everything else: Flour & Stone is open for dinner (dine-in and carryout 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday), with lunch and delivery to be added in upcoming weeks. They don't have fancy glassware (you'll get the same plastic stuff as for fountain drinks), but it is BYOB for now.
Bottom line: There's bound to be plenty of debate about what is and isn't New York about Flour & Stone's pizza. Though it doesn't have the trademarks of my Brooklyn pizzeria memories—cheap prices, by-the-slice options and a layer of grease on the counter—I still dug it, from the first piping-hot slice in the restaurant to the last leftovers the day after. Put aside your preconceptions about "style" and just eat it.
MORE PIZZA COMING SOON
Early March: Homeslice, 938 W. Webster Ave.
Mid-March: The Squared Circle, 2418 N. Ashland Ave.
Early April: Pie Hole, 5001 N. Clark St.
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