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Pizza review: Jet's Pizza

Pizza review: Jet's Pizza
2811 N. Ashland Ave. 773-857-2080
Rating: !!! 1/2 (out of 4)

In 1978, two brothers used their grandmother's recipe for Sicilian-style pizza, and Jet's Pizza was born in Sterling Heights, Mich. Decades later, it's amassed a cult following and expanded to 200-plus locations, including the first in Chicago last month.

My friend Tom, a former Michigan resident, counts Jet's rectangular deep-dish pizza as one of the things he misses most after moving out of state. I asked him to enlighten me. "It's greasy and fatty ... but somehow in a good way," he said. "It's light and crisp and gooey and buttery, all at the same time."

I've heard some compare it to Pizza Hut, but Tom won't have that. "It's not at all like a slice of Pizza Hut or some other fast-food chain abomination—a brick of guilt that immediately fills your soul and your arteries with remorse. Jet's warms you like a hug." He also warned of its addictive properties. "The law of diminishing returns seems not to apply: Five slices into a large deep-dish (the only acceptable way to order a Jet's pizza) and already I'm thinking about how I can work my way into my wife's half without her noticing."

As it turns out, Tom isn't the only former Michigander crazy about Jet's. The Lakeview location has been swamped since opening just before the holidays, said franchise partner David Falato.

"You ever watch those old zombie movies where the people are in the house and the zombies start pounding on the doors and the windows? That's what it felt like," Falato said. "We were getting the store unpacked … and the phone would not stop ringing. We weren't even open."

The process of mixing the dough with a proprietary flour blend and letting it rise takes several hours, and the shop has had to shut down twice after running out of dough, Falato said. Luckily, there was plenty on hand the night I visited.

The crust: If I'm eating pizza and the crust is average, there's a fair chance I'll abandon it on the edge of my plate so I have more room for the good stuff. With Jet's deep-dish pie, the crust was my favorite part. It somehow defies the laws of pizza physics: it's light and airy but indulgently rich at the same time, with a caramelized edge that's a bit like Pequod's. The buttery quality of the crust reminded me a little of Pizza Hut (sorry, Tom), while the soft middle reminded me of Rocky Rococo—though admittedly it's much better than both. The corner pieces are especially crunchy and caramelized, which explains why Jet's has coined something called the 8 Corner Pizza—basically two small pizzas put together in a large box, so all eight slices have those crispy corners.

The sauce: Jet's tomato sauce is oregano-laced and adequately applied, with neither too much nor too little in any given bite.

The toppings: A blanket of mozzarella covers the pizza from edge to edge, stretching with melty strings when you pull off a piece. Pepperoni is textbook; some slices feature a delicious char-kissed edge. Specialty pizzas are in line with most neighborhood joints, from a barbecue chicken pizza with bacon and red onions to the Hawaiian with ham, pineapple and bacon.

The prices: Cheese pizzas range from $7.99 for a six-slice small to $13.99 for a 15-slice extra-large, plus a buck or two more for toppings depending on the size. Specialty pizzas are in the $11-$13 range for a small and hover around $20 for extra-large. Big groups (Super Bowl, anyone?) can go for the 30-slice party trays ($23.99-$43.94).

Everything else: I agreed when the staffer helping me asked if I'd like to add cinnamon sticks ($3.99) to my order. These icing-drizzled breadsticks are a nice sweet foil to all the saltiness, but I'd skip 'em and save more room for pizza next time. Wings, breadsticks, salads, subs and calzones (dubbed Jet's Boats here) round out the menu. For crust and breadstick-dipping, made-from-scratch ranch sauce is a nice alternative to the packaged stuff. It's worth noting that deep-dish pizza also is sold by the slice, but there aren't any tables to eat at inside, so prepare to grab-and-go.

Bottom line: Jet's also sells thin-crust pies as well as a thicker hand-tossed round pie, but they're forgettable compared to the crave-inducing standout that is the deep-dish. If you live within Jet's delivery boundaries (Irving Park Road to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, Armitage Avenue to the South and California Avenue to the west), consider yourself lucky. If not, you'll have to pick it up yourself—or hope that another location (more are in the works) opens soon near your place.

Reporters visit restaurants unannounced and meals are paid for by RedEye. lmarnett@tribune.com | @redeyeeatdrink

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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