I was in Chicago not so long ago and had, for the first time in my life, real deep-dish Chicago pizza. It was about 3 inches thick, soft and gooey on the inside, crisp on the outside, with tons of cheese. It was topped with these huge meatballs that would have been ridiculous on its skinny cousin, but were just the right fit for this decadent monstrosity. This pizza was extraordinary and eating it was heaven. But it was also kind of rough. The crust was called “caramelized” and though it tasted great, whatever was done to “caramelize” it made it look uneven, burnt and a little sloppy. And, to be honest, the place we found this magical meal was kind of a dive. Or, rather, it was just some pizza place, with pitchers of cheap beer and different sports being shown on TVs all around us.
Here in the Silicon Valley, if you want a deep-dish pizza, you have two choices. You can go to Uno’s, the big chain where everything is formulaic and has been chosen by polls and committees and is guaranteed to be mildly reminiscent of the average experience of a thing that most people have found pleasant, or you can go to Paxtis. Paxtis serves beautiful deep-dish pizzas. The crusts are made of cornmeal and are perfect every time. The list of toppings is nothing short of gourmet. The restaurant itself is dim, with candles on the tables, and their wine lists are separate from their main menus. It is not just some pizza joint and you do not just go in there on a sloppy Sunday to watch the game.
But before I knew the difference, I loved Paxti’s. It’s not Chicago pizza, it’s the bourgeois, fancy, California bastardization of the brilliant simplicity of Chicago pizza, but it’s pretty great anyway.