Pizza. Chicago. Synonyms that go together.
Growing up an hour outside of Chi-town, I know a good pizza when I taste one. I am not talking about chain pizza joints either; I am talking about those local ma and pa establishments that are able to stand the test of time. I have travelled the country, I have lived in another state, but there can be only one number one. That number one, I am talking about goes to my hometown. Rockford, Illinois. Rockford, just like many other cities in Illinois have pizza joints on every corner. Down here in the south, there are Waffle Houses.
Not every pizza is the same though.
Just like, Madonna, Adel, and Cher it is good enough that it is known just by one name. Lino’s, has been around since 1971 in the same one location (not sure about one location……they have been in that spot since my family started eating there in the mid-80’s). They have expanded and remodeled over the years, but it is still the same old fashioned Italian cuisine you come to expect from an A+ establishment. We once, talked to the owners frequently and both Jim and Joe are superb gentlemen. They were kind enough to share the recipe of their special salad dressing once (although we no longer have it).We also learned; they go into the Chicagoland area often to gather their supplies. This dedication to finding quality, fresh ingredients results in tremendous authentic food your mama would be proud of. I cannot really speak for many items on their menu, as we would always order a pizza and salad, but have heard from other family and friends that other menu items have equal attention in detail.
Let’s talk pizza.
First of all, this is thin pizza, not that “pie-like” pizza Chicago is most known for. By thin, I don’t mean New York thin either……it is a great balance between both. On top of the quarter inch of crust, is ladled a generous portion of sauce followed by our choice ingredient, pepperoni. This pepperoni is fresh! Finally, they spread on a heaping quantity of freshly grated cheese. The cheese ends up being just as thick as the crust it has been placed on. The oven they use is the same oven they have always used, so you get the years of pizza cooked in the oven charred onto the bottom of the crust. That extra special charring makes the chewy crust tasty. This pizza is cut into squares and your family will be fighting over the middle pieces. Although, they now serve their pizza in a box versus a paper bag, it is still just as special. Order the special, you will not be disappointed, plus you will need that pop to wash it down. Plenty of napkins are also recommended.
I carry special memories of Lino’s with me. My father always had grease running down his fingers, around his wrist, and onto his forearm. It was also never-ending that he wore a light colored shirt and got grease stains on them every time. My dad is no longer with us and it was hard eating Lino’s recently for the first time without him. We would always split the pizza in half and claim those halves before even touching the delicious creation. I would try to get the bigger half and leave him with the smallest. This past weekend I ate half and paused for a little while after saying, “Dad, this is your half”. I am not proud of this fact, but I ate three quarters of that pizza. The following night I ate the same amount. Boy was it awesome though. We would always joke that we were really going up north to visit Lino’s rather than visiting our family and in most cases this was true. Sorry fam.
Lino’s used to be closed a couple days out of the week, so we would usually have to schedule our trips around when they were open. That is not the case anymore! They are now open 7 days a week from 4:30 – 10. The earlier you order the better…….they get busy quickly. Their carryout has been expanded and allows for more room. It used to be the size of a small bathroom. They have also hired more help because that one poor darling was just getting worked to death. You can still see them make the pizzas while waiting for yours and it is a real kick to see how fast they work. There has often been talk of them sending out frozen dried pizzas and very seldom they do upon special requests, but the cost is too much for them to do so in mass quantity I guess. Take and bake would also be a great idea going into the future and maybe someday all of our hopes and dreams will come true. In the meantime, I try to stop by every time I am in town and that is not often enough. Once every two years doesn’t cut it for this pizza lover.
To find out more on Lino's click here.