Hungry Hound: Wooden Paddle serves delicious pizza in southwest suburban Lemont

LEMONT, Ill. (WLS) -- The tiny town of Lemont in the southwestern suburbs is a bit sleepy when it comes to bars and restaurants.

But there's a new option downtown specializing in wood-fired pizzas called Wooden Paddle. Best of all, those pizzas are just a portion of the menu, which has a lot more going for it than just dough and sauce.

Wooden Paddle is the brainchild of a couple who fell in love with the area, bought the building and moved to town.

EXTRA COURSE: Homemade gelato at Wooden Paddle
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Extra Course: Homemade gelato at Wooden Paddle

The pizzaiola works quickly and quietly. Stretching dough made with high-gluten flour, topping it with ingredients exclusively made in the U.S., and baked in a wood-fired oven that's about 200 degrees cooler than the typical Neapolitan joint.

"I call it American wood-fired pizza. We didn't want to step on the Neapolitan's toes by calling it something it's not," said owner Jonathan Cowan. "A wood-fired pizza that's more local. More local flavorings, like a Chicago sauce and things like that."

Fresh Wisconsin mozzarella and soft ricotta are first baked on a crust, and after two minutes, the naked pie is removed. It's whisked over to a counter, where it's topped with paper-thin sheets of prosciutto and dotted with a sweet, rustic fig jam. Another option features crumbled gouda cheese and roasted mushrooms. Again, about two minutes in the oven, before being removed, and then post-bake, a few spoonfuls of oily black truffle bits along with fresh thyme. Eat them while they're hot, these delicate crusts don't last long.

"We didn't want to just be a pizza place. We wanted to make this more of a dining experience where you can pass a plate to share, some small plate options," he said.
And for that, there are salads - like this colorful one capped with thinly-sliced pears, embedded with walnuts, or a hearty meat, cheese and olive tray. Risotto fans will love the goat cheese-stuffed arancini.

"It's a goat cheese arancini, we use Laura Chenel goat cheese; great product, spice it up, make some risotto, wrap it around there, bread it, and we do a garlic aioli with it and it's just freshly-made. What we want to do with all of the dishes on our menu is make it in-house. It's not something you can just buy from a distributor and everybody has the same thing in town. We wanted to make sure you know it's only from our place," said Cowan.

There are traditional red sauce pizza joints pretty much everywhere in the region, but finding an artisan, wood-fired pizza this far southwest? Wooden Paddle is pretty much your only choice.

212 Stephen St., Lemont
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