We live in a city of baffling culinary combinations. Just this week, I ate at a Polish/Korean fusion restaurant in Bridgeport that tops Polish sausage with kimchi. Two years ago, Jeppson’s and Revolution Brewing joined forces to produce a Malort that tastes like Anti-Hero IPA.
In that spirit, two of Chicago’s most Chicago-y restaurants — Lou Malnati’s and Portillo’s — have mixed their signature dishes together to produce an Italian Beef Deep Dish Pizza. There are two varieties: one with sweet peppers and the other with spicy giardiniera. That’s a lot of Chicago comfort food crammed into a single pan. They won’t be sold in restaurants, but can be ordered at tastesofchicago.com, and shipped via UPS in dry ice.
I agreed to try both because I never say no to free food, no matter how much it sounds like a marketing gimmick. So Lou’s and Portillo’s sent me a pair of review pizzas. I heated both up, then cracked open an Old Style tall boy, natch.
The sweet pepper version I can endorse. It was kind of a surprise to bite through the thick cheese and find a chewy hunk of Italian beef — a larger piece of meat than ham, sausage, or pepperoni. It’s just enough Italian beef to make you crave an entire sandwich, which is probably why Portillo’s put it there. The spicy giardiniera, though, was so strong it made my nose run. I had to pound that Old Style to wash the sting out of my mouth. I offered both slices to a friend, though, and he preferred the giardiniera: “I normally don’t like spicy food,” he said, but the pizza “had a really good kick to it.”
What’s next? Vito & Nick’s thin-crust pizza topped with Lem’s rib tips? Harold’s fried chicken garnished with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt? I would try either of those combos, too — as long as they were free.