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Getting Stuffed on Stuffed Pizza

This week, I took readers' suggestions and had stuffed pizza from three area pizza establishments. She is going to the gym every day next week.

See future food challenges at the bottom of this column, comment below and enter to win a $50 gift card to a local restaurant. For more rules and details, see the  guidelines.

Nothing could be further from traditional Italian pizza, with its thin crust and delicate toppings, than the Chicago invention of the deep dish pizza. Deep dish was invented in 1943 at Pizzeria Uno, with stuffed pizza, a variation on deep dish, coming along a few decades later. (To make the terminology even more confusing, both deep dish and stuffed pizza are referred to as "Chicago-style pizza"). Stuffed pizza is very much a pie, with an additional layer of crust over the fillings and sauce over the top crust. 

Chicago folklore says that Nancy's and Giordano's invented stuffed pizza at around the same time, but it was probably born in Nancy's kitchen; the Giordano brothers worked for Nancy's but ventured off on their own in the early 1970s. Today, most major cities have restaurants that attempt to create this Chicago masterpiece and the originals can even be found in the South: Nancy's has two Atlanta locations and Giordano's has locations in Florida, which should make us feel at home should we desire to retire there.

, Mokena

At least one reader recommended stuffed pizza from this Chicagoland favorite, and I was delighted that the Mokena location delivers to my house in New Lenox. I was also pleased that Giordano's offers an individual stuffed pizza, so I ordered the "baby spinach." I was concerned that the true experience of a stuffed pizza might be lost in its small size, but I needn't have worried. It was delicious. The sauce, cheese, crust and spinach were all in perfect harmony. 

The good: No flavor is lost in the baby-sized pizza.

The bad: I've been craving it ever since.

, Frankfort

Readers suggested Aurelio's and Enrico's, but since Enrico's offers their thick crust pizza on Wednesdays and Sundays only and I have a deadline, my Frankfort decision was made for me. I ordered a small stuffed pizza with spinach and mushrooms from Aurelio's (Gah! $18!) and brought it immediately home.

I was struck by how amazing the sauce was-- great tomato flavor, perfect seasoning. The mushrooms were a disappointment, though. Luckily, they didn't have the tinny flavor of canned mushrooms, but they certainly had the sliminess. In addition, the top layer of crust was awful; it was as if someone put a slice of wet bread over the top of the pizza.

The good: Aurelio's has a very tasty pizza sauce.

The bad: The mushrooms and the mushy top crust made this a very expensive disappointment.

, New Lenox

I have ordered from Nancy's several times in the year I've lived in Chicagoland, and when a reader suggested Nancy's, I felt sorry for the contenders because I was certain Nancy's would win. 

But they burned my pizza.

The bottom was burned, the edges were burned. When I got it home and opened the box, I was simply stunned that they sent it home with me. And it wasn't just that the crust was burned; the whole thing was overcooked. I had ordered the chicken cacciatore pizza (and added spinach), and the pieces of chicken were as dry as the cheese, which had achieved the consistency of styrofoam. In general, I think Nancy's stuffed pizzas are amazing, but unfortunately, they dropped the ball this time.

The good: Nancy's has a great menu of specialty pizzas in delicious combinations.

The bad: They had an off day when I happened to come in, and sold me a burned pizza. 

THE WINNER: Giordano's. Everything about that pizza was perfect. I wish I could snap my fingers and turn the rest of the Aurelio's pizza currently in my refrigerator into a Giordano's pizza. 

Note: I feel compelled to mention that I didn't phone Nancy's to complain. I regret that decision (and now it's too late) and feel I did a disservice to Nancy's because perhaps I could be adding a section here about how they did right by me. Readers, feel free to comment below how Nancy's (or the other places mentioned) have properly or improperly handled your compaints. 

Looking for local eats? Do you disagree with our taster? Head  over to your local Patch Places food and dining directory. Find new spots, read reviews and even post a your own reviews on the profile pages.

Future challenges include best waffle and local bar with the best tap beer selection. Please comment below with your suggestions! 

Erin Hunter July 31, 2011 at 06:17 PM
The chocolate batter waffle with fresh strawberries and bananas at Golden Oak in on Rt. 45 in Mokena is amazing. Great food and very friendly service.
N Yan July 31, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Giordano's does have great deep dish. Sad I have never been to the one in Mokena. For other deep dish choices, I do like Nancy's.
Bee Bee August 01, 2011 at 08:10 PM
We are HUGE Lou Malnati fans! Apologies go out to Giordano's, Nancy, Barracos, and Aurelios.......we would just rather drive to the TP take out store and bring it home! Its is to die for :)
Darin Johnson August 06, 2011 at 05:28 AM
I love Pizza Mia! If your not in the mood for a pizza try the "Chub". It's like a stuffed pizza only it has beef, gardinera, mozzarella cheese, and a garlic butter crust....so good! Served with Au Jus for dipping (No Red Sauce).
Michael Sewall August 07, 2011 at 04:33 PM
Hey Nicole, you won this week's random drawing to be a finalist for the gift card giveaway. Next week, we'll conduct another random drawing among the four finalists. Thanks for reading! To everyone else, make sure to read our latest Chowdown Showdown and comment for a chance to win the $50 gift card! http://newlenox.patch.com/articles/mmmmmbeer-who-has-the-best-local-bar-selection

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