Chicago serves up artisan pizza options

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago has dozens of great pizza places serving various styles -- deep, stuffed, thin, tavern and even Neapolitan. But there's also many artisan pizza places.

The soppressata, fennel sausage and bacon jam pizza at Paulie Gee's Logan Square, isn't the type of pizza you'd find at most joints. Or take the arugula version with black olives; the hot chili peppers embedded in the cheese with roasted tomatoes and a hint of Japanese five-spice, called togarashi, isn't your run-of-the-mill kind of topping. And the crust? A fantastic hybrid of chewy and crunchy. Clearly, Paulie Gee's - with its impressive wood-fired oven - traffics in artisan pizza.

"I think the most important part is really the dough resting. The cold fermentation process really adds a lot of flavor to the dough. It also adds extensibility to the dough and makes it more manageable over time," said Derrick Tung, of Paulie Gee's.

Just a few miles away in Lincoln Park, Pizzeria Bebu also does artisan pies, beginning with the dough, of course.

"Jeff, our chef, takes incredible care in his dough, and it's something he's been working on for a very long time; something he's very passionate about," said Zach Smith, of Pizzeria Bebu. "Our unique blend of flours gives us a certain process that allows the dough to become chewy and crunchy and airy. It's a very light texture."

A three-day cold ferment helps, but that care extends to the toppings. A recent special included spiced tomato sauce, homemade lamb sausage, pickled red onion, feta, fresh cilantro and a drizzle of yogurt. Four to six minutes in a gas-fired, brick-lined oven results in pies with complexity and great chew.

Another good option: the carbonara.

"We do it here with our housemade pancetta, a little bit of egg yolk, it's very, very comforting," said Smith, of Pizzeria Bebu. "We're saying we love pizza and this is our opinion of it but I guess you could call it artisanal pizza."

So as much as Chicagoans love to talk about their pizza, Chicago has six styles of pizza: deep and stuffed, Neapolitan, and then in the thin category, thin, tavern-style (square-cut, very thin and crispy) and artisan thin.

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In this week's Extra Course, Steve Dolinsky looked at the wine program at Pizzeria Bebu.

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