Saturday, December 13, 2014

Review: Rosati's Authentic Chicago Pizza, Bloomington IL

Bloomington, Illinois is a small city of about 75,000 people. It has its own tiny airport, but otherwise sits 2 or 3+ hours from four major metro areas - Chicago to the North, St. Louis to the South, Des Moines to the West, and Indianapolis to the East.
Thin crust pizza from Rosati's

The Bloomington-Normal metro area is home to Illinois State University, but it is the home office of State Farm that puts Bloomington on the map. 
Jake: wears khaki, likes pizza

One year ago in Normal, I stumbled upon Monical's, a regional pizza chain. It looked faceless and bland - as most chains are - but it turned out to be surprisingly good.  I chose a thin-crust party-cut pie, and liked the flavor, the construction, and the friendly Midwestern service. See full review of Monical's HERE.

This fall, I had a return visit scheduled for Bloomington, and I did some research before the trip. Pie makers on my radar were Stolfa's, Tobin's, Lucca Grill, and Rosati's. A two-day visit offered a chance to sample two different Bloomington pizzas.
Click on any image for full-size resolution

The night I arrived, I navigated my rental car to the hotel in the rain on a bitterly cold night. That factor alone pushed me to choose Rosati's for dinner that evening, because the nearby location would deliver to my hotel room. (I visited Lucca Grill for lunch on the following day - full review HERE.)

I had modest expectations for Rosati's. While most of the web reviews are positive, Rosati's is a Chicago-based chain with more than 50 locations in Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Nevada, and North Carolina.  When a chain gets that big, the recipe needs to be simple enough for new hires to execute properly.

Rosati's offers four crust styles: thin crust, double dough, stuffed pizza, and Chicago-style deep dish. The deep-dish was tempting; I want to re-examine my bias against deep-dish pies. But I decided that to give deep-dish a fair shake, I should be in Chicago and eating one of the great ones, not a chain pie in the suburbs. Hence, I opted for the thin crust pizza ($11.50), with sausage topping ($1.59).

My 12" small pizza was delivered within the promised one-hour time frame by a friendly deliveryman braving the wet and cold night. It was still hot, and - perhaps due to the plastic mesh between the pie and the box - not steaming itself soggy. The pie arrived in almost "fresh from the oven" condition."
Plastic mesh under the pie in the delivery box

Underside of the crust

Like Monical's, Lucca Grill, Rubino's in Columbus OH and Vito & Nick's in Chicago, this thin-crust pie sported the party cut, with bite-size squares instead of triangular slices. The more I have this kind of pizza, the more I appreciate it. 

To my delight, the topping was genuine chunks of authentic Italian sausage, and not precooked slices or crumbles. The deep-red sauce was lively and well-spiced. The cheese was a role player, but applied in proper proportions. The crust was also a winner, but was perhaps the weak link here.  It had the right texture and served well to hold the toppings, but it was a tad bland and dry - borderline cracker-like. It might have benefited from a bit more oil.

The crust was the most significant drop-off from the thin-crust pies at Lucca Grill, Rubino's, and Vito & Nick's. The pizza at those three old-school pizzerias is superb; this was a surprisingly good version as rendered by the Rosati's chain. Comparing Rosati's to Monical's, the other regional chain: the crust is better at Monical's, and everything on top is better at Rosati's. Neither pie will make you swoon, but either makes a fine choice.

Rosati's gets a 6 for the crust, 7 for the cheese, 8 for the sauce, 9 for the sausage. It joins Monical's, Bertucci's, Grotto, Russo's, Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza, and California Pizza Kitchen as a chain pizzeria that is worth the calories.

Rosati's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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