CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are several great sandwiches available in Chicago. The Italian beef and the Maxwell Street porkchop come to mind, but for our Hungry Hound, finding a good Chicken Parm is just as rewarding. He's sampling four exceptional versions this weekend, and for his final Saturday Night Sampler here on ABC 7, he's got a whirlwind tour for us.
For New York natives like Robert Garvey, a good chicken parm sandwich is as memorable as a good slice of pizza. Thankfully, as the owner of Robert's Pizza & Dough Company in Streeterville, he can tweak his excellent dough recipe for sandwich bread.
"One of my favorite things as a kid growing up was a good chicken parm, so I thought since we're serving pizza a nice chicken parm would go along well with a meatball parm, as well as our eggplant parm," he said.
His dough ferments for three days in the fridge, adding complexity.
But first, they dredge Amish chicken.
"Put that in a little egg wash, flour, breadcrumbs..." said Garvey.
Those breadcrumbs also contain Parmesan, oregano and basil. The chicken is pan-fried in a trio of rice, olive and avocado oils.
"Toast the bread just slightly in the oven, put a little marinara down, put a little marinara on the chicken, mozzarella over the top of it, we put it back in the broiler, kind of melt the cheese, add a little bit of fresh basil, finish it with a little Parmesan Reggiano and put the top of the bread on it; it's a great sandwich," he said.
Since 1950, the family at D'Amato's in West Town, has been pulling their famous sheet pan bakery-style pizzas out of their massive coal-fired oven. But now they're using their incomparable bread for chicken parms as well.
A ladle or three of marinara, plus fried chicken and slices of mozzarella get placed back into the coal-fired oven, until the cheese melts and the sandwich is warmed throughout. Don't wait too long to eat it.
"This is the Parm 3.0," said Rob Levitt.
As executive chef at Publican Quality Meats in the West Loop, Levitt has made the sandwich his own.
"I wanted to do something where you actually taste nice, moist, juicy chicken, so we use whole thighs; we put Parmesan in the breading. It gets fried, it gets sauced, it does get gooey mozzarella. And then we put more Parmesan on top, he said.
Levitt said one factor is the complex breading.
"You still get this nice, juicy piece of chicken inside and it stays really crispy," he said.
His other secret is the bun. More precisely, what he does to it.
"We brush the bun with garlic butter. It's like eating delicious garlic bread with chicken parm in the middle," he said.
In Oak Brook, the last place you'd expect to find chicken parm or Detroit-style pizza, for that matter, is in the Michael Jordan's restaurant, sandwiched between 22nd Street and the toll road. But that's where you'll find Chef Bill Kim's Pizza and Parm Shop, a takeout and delivery-only concept.
"What's better than fried chicken and the same toppings on a pizza?" said Kim.
Fried chicken is topped with zesty marinara, grated pecorino and shredded mozzarella, before making its way to the oven to be heated together.
"Really good, breaded chicken, homemade marinara sauce and nice bread - a brioche bun," he said.
To finish, Kim takes a few liberties with tradition, treating this Italian original more like a Southern fried chicken sandwich. I'm not arguing.
"A little bit of mayonnaise and a little pickle," he said.
And Kim plans on expanding pretty quickly. In the next week or so he's going to expand his pizza and parm concept in the Urban Belly store in Wicker Park. The second location is now up and running in Wicker Park as well, again, for takeout or delivery.
Robert's Pizza & Dough Co.
465 N. McClurg Ct.
1124 W. Grand Ave.
Publican Quality Meats
825 W. Fulton Mkt.
Chef Bill Kim's Pizza & Parm Shop
Inside Michael Jordan's Restaurant
1225 22nd St.