Most people don’t think of themselves as having an accent, but we all do. Most people don’t think there’s any kind of pizza besides the kind they grew up with, but there are.
My long-time friend Patrick Barclay (currently owner/operator of a wood-fired pizza truck operating out of Dekalb – no name as yet) doesn’t like authentic Neapolitan pizza. He’s just not that enthusiastic about a pie that can have an almost soft and loose texture in the center and a firmer, crisper, sometimes charred crust. He just doesn’t like it; it’s not his kind of pizza; it’s too different from what we grew up with in Elmhurst during the sixties, and he’ll have none of it.
Roots Handmade Pizza opened last week in Ukie Village, and it’s serving Quad City style pizza, which I suspect is also not going to appeal to everybody. This regional pizza has a clear personality, and it’s is probably going to have its zealous partisans as well as many others, who grew up with different kinds of pizzas, wondering, for instance, why anyone would pile tortilla chips on a pizza pie.
You may love a lighter crust, you may dig a deep-dish, but you have to hand it to the Quad City style pizza: it’s got character. I like crunch, and the malt-heavy dough of Roots’ pies is probably one of the crunchier styles of pizza you’re going to find.
Some portions of the edge (the prized bits for Quaddies) are maybe an inch thick and you can see that the pie is cut in a way uncharacteristic of Chicago pizza’s more grid-like cut pattern: there’s one cut made down the center then a series of perpendicular cuts, so as to maximize the number of pieces with crusty ends. The Quad City pizza is also cut with a scissors, because that’s the way it’s done in Davenport, Rock Island, and the Molines. Seems like a lot of work to scissor through the pie rather than quick-cut it with a rotary knife, but the kitchen here is going for authenticity, and I sincerely admire that.
I usually prefer wine with pizza, but the maltiness of the crust on the Quad City pizza mates well with beer. Roots has a very strong selection of regional beers on tap and in bottles.
The Big Mick seems a pie-based simulation of a McDonald’s hamburger, with seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce and diced pickle. Couldn’t finish this one, but I’m not a fan of ground beef on a pizza pie, though I have another old friend who prefers it over all other toppings. De gustibus non est disputandum.
The Taco pizza is probably the one that will raise the most eye brows. It’s house-made sausage with mozz and cheddar, covered with the aforementioned tortilla chips. We found that it perked up a bit with the packaged taco sauce, which was as generic a salsa as one could imagine. Carolyn, my wife, thought they should have served a higher-quality taco sauce, but that’d be wrong because that’s not, so we’re told, how it’s done in the Quad Cities.
It’s worth a drive to Roots Handmade Pizza, if only to experience a version America’s favorite ethnic food that will likely strike Chicagoans as quite foreign and strange. I feel it’s important to accept and appreciate those regional variations on familiar foods, even if the ways of others may sometimes frighten and confuse us.
Roots Handmade Pizza
1924 W. Chicago