This Saturday, I took my wife and daughter to Pizzafest. Pizza being one of my favorite foods, and street fairs being one of my favorite activities, I thought this event would be friggin awesome. I was friggin wrong.
According to the website, this event took place in 2007 and 2008 before taking a multiyear hiatus. Back then, I think it was held where I used to live in Lincoln Park during law school. I never made it to the event back then, but I don’t think anyone else did either, which is probably why it took such a long time to return to the summer streetfair schedule.
This year, the street fair was located just off the Wilson red line stop. Even though it’s literally only a couple miles from where I live, it’s a world apart. Up there, the el stops don’t have elevators, which, when you arrive with your baby in a loaded stroller, makes for a really pleasant surprise. And by “pleasant,” I mean “shitty.”
Once inside, the entire street fair was only two blocks long, making it the shortest streetfair I have ever been to. Also, there were only 3 pizza vendors at this event. Only 3! And each was disappointing in its own way.
The first thing we did was find some shade for our Third Wheel, and I bought a lemonade. These are at just about every street fair in Chicago. They call it “fresh squeezed” lemonade. For $5, they will squeeze the juice of half a lemon into this novelty cup, and then drop that used-up lemon half into the cup. They add ice and then fill with pre-mixed lemonade. It’s pretty terrible until you add the vodka that I bring from home.
The first pizza we tried was from Geor-something Pizza. I couldn’t read the banner, but it was something that sounded ridiculously similar to the more famous and more local Giordano’s Pizza in Chicago. I think they were called Giordino’s or something like that. They are apparently the best pizza in McHenry County, wherever the hell that is. And they were the only deep dish pizza vendor at the entire Pizzafest.
This slice cost me $5. As for how it tasted, it was pretty good, I guess. I don’t like deep dish, so I’m a bad judge. The crust was less sweet than deep dish pizza dough usually is, which was a plus for me. And it was a medium deepness. It reminded me of Lou Malnati’s.
The next pizza I tried was Beggars Pizza. I think these guys are pretty big on the South Side. I never go to the South Side. And even though I go to the location that just opened up near the law school to drink after I teach on Fridays, I’ve never had the food there. That’s probably because my first experience with Beggars Pizza was during a murder case I worked on a couple years ago. It had nothing to do with the food or any restaurant location, but the two are just linked in my head.
The slice was $3, and it was pretty good. Heavy cornmeal on the bottom of the crust made for a crunch that was nice at first and then got tiresome. The sauce was super sweet, as pizza sauce in Chicago tends to be. And the cheese was a little rubbery. These guys had a really elaborate pizza cooking rig that they brought with them. It was like a huge rotisserie smoker mixed with a pizzeria style pizza oven. I think they go to a lot of these types of things. They were definitely the best organized of all of the pizza places there.
The next booth I had food from was Chicago Dog House. In my opinion, these guys were the best in show at Pizzafest, and they didn’t even make pizza. They had a Margherita Pizza Dog, which was their normal hot dog with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil, and pepperoni. It was delicious and messy. This booth was run by a couple of young Asian dudes, serving up modern-food-truck-style food and cranking Talib Kwali out of their sound system, which is pretty much the definition of stereotypical Asian Americanism these days.
The pizza dog was really good though. Plus, the casing was really thick, which was a real turn-off to my wife and meant that I didn’t have to share. That being said, the execution left a little bit to be desired. The pepperoni was cold, and it wasn’t the good kind that is so well-cured that you wouldn’t dare cook it. The basil was bruised and looked like green used bandages. Plus, the cheese wasn’t melted.
The last pizza I tried was Caponies. They are located at 7,000 something West Irving. I didn’t even know Irving stretched that far west. They brought a mobile wood-burning pizza oven, which I thought was a cool idea. But the line took forever. I waited for ten minutes to get to the front of the line. Then, I discovered that, after you order, you then face a 20 minute wait for your food.
The weather was exceedingly hot that day. I had my wife and baby wait in the shade while I got this pizza. While I waited in line, I could feel the sun slowly cook my skin. Patience was in short supply.
My daughter was starting to overheat, so she and my wife left to go wait in the air conditioning of a nearby McDonalds, which happened to be full of what appeared to be recent escapees from a substance abuse clinic. At least they lowered their voices when dropping their f-bombs, which I presume was in polite deference to the fact that my daughter is a baby.
By the time I did get my pizza, my wife was pissed off, my daughter was having a meltdown, and I was double in the doghouse. We ate the pizza, but no pizza is worth what it really cost me to have it.
To get home from Pizzafest, we then had to wait for the bus next to a trio of creepy old dudes drinking Natty Ice. The men weren’t waiting for any bus; they were just using the bus shelter as their own, personal man-cave, I guess.
Overall, this entire street fair pissed me off. I don’t think it will make it another year. But even if it does, I’ll never go.