2418 N. Ashland Ave. 773-904-8170
Look for: TVs airing professional wrestling seen through the front windows. Just north of the Ashland-Fullerton-Clybourn intersection in Lincoln Park, this pizza is the pride and joy of Lisa Marie Varon, aka TNA wrestler Tara, and it’s named for the wrestling ring where all the action goes down. With walls covered with wood planks and shadowbox frames displaying autographed wrestling photos and sequined costumes, it’s a little sauna-meets-wrestling hall of fame, but at least the sports allegiance is clear.
Best for: Those in multi-crust-ial relationships. If you like your pizza thin but hang out with devotees of deep-dish and hand-tossed, then you can all come to peace here. Varon’s husband Lee presides over the brick oven and draws on his experience from Fat Tony’s, the couple’s former Louisville pizzeria, to toss and press out crispy, bubbly thin-crust pizzas as well as what they call “traditional,” with a crust similar in thickness to a New York-style slice. Thin pizzas are sliced in squares and the traditional in triangular slices, but both are available in 12-inch and 20-inch sizes ($10-$30). Though Lee will tell you that the pizza’s best fresh from the oven, carryout is also offered and delivery is in the plans for later this year.
Loved it: Lisa Marie Varon, who excitedly chatted up her customers while working a hot pink baseball cap and shirt that matched the streaks in her hair. When I asked her if the blue cheese-prosciutto-apple pizza called Lisa Marie was her go-to, she admitted that even though Lee named it after her, she couldn’t possibly play favorites. I definitely dug its sweet-salty flavor and the sprinkle of arugula on top. I also tried the Kentucky Bourbon, a creative take on a barbecue pizza with dollops of creamy mashed potato and chunks of pork, which satisfied in a this-is-weird-but-good kind of way. There’s also a solid beer list (including cans of Two Brothers’ new American pale ale, Sidekick) and $5 milkshakes in flavors such as roasted marshmallow and peanut butter-banana.
Hated it: The bar’s namesake pizza, The Squared Circle, also called the Duck Fat Deep Dish. Cooked in square pans greased with duck fat, these pies have a golden exterior and a fluffy, light interior, but the unorthodox shape creates super-thick corners that are overwhelmingly bready, especially in the small 8-inch size ($14 plus $1.25 per topping) I ordered. It’s too bad, because the sauce—Lisa Marie’s family recipe—has a great zing to it, as do chunks of hand-pinched sausage. Maybe the 12-inch large ($22 plus $2 per topping) might be more balanced? Either way, heads up that, like most deep-dish pies, these take about 35-40 minutes to bake.
Bottom line: The small bar tucked in the back between the restrooms and the kitchen doesn’t make for a great hangout vibe, but what The Squared Circle lacks in ambience it makes up for in decent slices and friendly service. Reporters visit restaurants unannounced and meals are paid for by RedEye. email@example.com | @redeyeeatdrink
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