Brooklyn-Style Pizza Perfection at Flour & Stone
Being from the East Coast, New York-style pizza is something I yearn for on an all too regular basis. Most of Chicago's attempts at New York-style pizza are sad, cardboard-y flops, and it breaks my heart. My rock bottom was the time I visited my family in New Hampshire and I craved good pizza so badly that I went to my favorite local pizzeria, wrapped a few slices in foil, and brought them back to Chicago with me. I shudder to think what the airport baggage personnel must have thought of me. But that's an apt summary of Chicago's New York-style pizza scene. We have a few options, but most are inconsistent. Flour & Stone, a new-ish pizza entrant in Streeterville, is the closest I've experienced to the pizza of my youth.
(Pizzas at Flour & Stone)
Flour & Stone captures the overall experience of a New York-style pizzeria sufficiently enough. It's a tad too spiffy and robotic to be a legit New York-style pizzeria, but it excels with its polished counter service and glistening pies. The space is quite modern for a pizzeria as no-frills as Flour & Stone, divvied into three floors (!) with a smattering of quaint tables and fancy photography. Technically, the pizza here is Brooklyn-style, per Flour & Stone's mantra. Is it just me or is this the first mention of Brooklyn-style pizza ever? Obviously New York-style is a thing, but I didn't know each borough had its own category. Seems a little greedy, New York. We have Chicago-style pizza (don't even get me started), but we don't have Wicker Park-style pizza. It's pretty much just New York-style, made with hand-tossed all-flour dough, spread thin, adorned with a generous but not too heavy-handed dosage of toppings, and baked in a 600-degree stone oven. The pizzas aren't quite as wide as the saucer-sized New York standard, nor are they as greasy and floppy, but these are all assets I feel improve upon the New York template.
The menu is pretty minimal, with just seven pizzas and a couple salads. You place your order at the counter, take a number, and meander to your table. Food is delivered within a few short minutes after that. Flour & Stone does a masterful job with basic classics like the margherita, bedecked with vibrant tomato sauce, fresh basil, mozzarella, and a lush drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Sausage is especially divine, sprinkled over the Classic pizza in herbal, robust nuggets along with slivers of piquant pepperoni, and red sauce. The Sicilian is a mighty white sauce version, building off the creamy base layer with bacon, red and white onion, and crushed red pepper, which sets the whole thing ablaze. But in a good way. All pizzas are 13 inches, ample enough to feed two guests or one starving sumo wrestler. What makes Flour & Stone special is not merely the fact that they excel in replicating the New York-style pizza formula, but they treat each pizza like a superlative loaf of bread. Each crust emerges from the oven with the feel and taste of a thin sheet of sourdough bread, crisp on the outside, chewy inside, and flecked with tender crust bubbles. The fresh toppings bring it all to life, like an artist decorating a blank canvas. And now I no longer need to smuggle pizza from New England.