Chicago Sun-Times
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Precious Pizza Parlor Praised

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Thank you, GQ Magazine, for cluing me in on just what goes on in that mysterious storefront on Balmoral and Clark, but for also letting me know that within its doors I will find one of the 25 best pizzas in the United States.

For many of us who live in the neighborhood, we're surprised not only to find out that the pizza made at Great Lake is one of the best in the country, but also that it's a pizza joint. Those last two words may make the folks behind the carefully arranged wheelbarrow, a couple retro paint cans and flour sacks in the window cringe, I'm sure. But I guess I'm just one of the clueless sorts who can't figure out that a place that does not say the word "pizza" in its window or door, which has no indication to passersby that it makes pizza and that it's sole window display is something that looks like a slice of a Restoration Hardware vignette, is a pizza place.

It's not just me, though. I've walked past the place with friends and neighbors, and the "is it a bakery? a hardware store?" questions reminded me of the old, "Is it a floorwax or a dessert topping?" Saturday Night Live skit. Well, it turns out Great Lake is neither a floor wax or a dessert topping. It's a very highly regarded artisan pizza gallery, or so says GQ magazine. (Who gets local restaurant recommendations from GQ, anyway? People who get stereo-buying tips from Playboy?)

OK, so let's go there. When are they open? Well, it depends on what day you want to go. How about Sunday? Nothing like a nice Italian meal on a Sunday, eh? They're closed. Oh wait, they're open on Sunday the 31st of May. But other than that they're closed on Sundays. Mmmm, OK, how about Monday? Nope, they're closed on Mondays, as well. OK, well, I wasn't too keen on Monday anyway. How about Tuesday? This Tuesday -- fine. They're open from 5:30 - 9p.m. Hmm, that sounds good, let's meet there next Tuesday. No can do. They're closed on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. Huh? Oh, why don't we just meet there for lunch? Sorry, dinner only.

So, people cannot tell, either from the street or from its outgoing answering machine message what kind of a "shop" Great Lake is; they're open four, sometimes five, days a week, for four hours a night, there are maybe 16 seats in the place and you can't get a pop with your pizza. But their pizza is to die for and fans of the place will wait (outside, of course) an hour or so to get a table (or a seat at the communal one). You know, maybe this is an SNL skit!

Seriously, I'm sure the pizza here is great. There are even people who live in Chicago who swear by the crispy, all-organic goodness at Great Lake. And it's always great to see an independently-owned business do well in such a tough field, no matter what the state of the economy. But it seems to be just so much of an effort to dine there. I really wish them all the best, though, and congratulations on the honor from GQ.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.



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This page contains a single entry by James Scalzitti published on May 23, 2009 12:56 AM.

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