You may have seen the below video before - it certainly did the rounds on Facebook for a while.
I was reminded of it early on our second morning in Chicago. James, unable to sleep - jet lag and two dinners will do that - had gone for a walk by the lake, watched the sun come up (ask to see his photos sometime, they're lovely) and had done a little more deep dish plotting, hence this dropped into WhatsApp at silly o'clock with the note "bowl pizza". The rest was somewhat inevitable...
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder is one of the city's more unusual spots. Founded by a lawyer - the origin story can be found here if you're interested - .it's cash only, no bookings and run by a man who, should catering not work out, could perform feats of memory on the cabaret circuit. We inquire about a table. He tells us 45 minutes. He asks for a name. James gives him his. Nothing is written down. We loiter outside for a few minutes - there's a waiting area, with beer shelf, so it's all jolly civilised - before a space becomes free at the bar. We're into our second Goose Island when the main man appears, addresses James by name and takes us to our table. It's taken 46 minutes.
Our table, like all the tables, is somewhat cosy - low of ceiling and a booth not designed for, well, anyone who eats any sort of deep dish, frankly. The "Grinder", incidentally, is a 10", fresh Italian sub. They are, we're told very popular but have they had their own YouTube video? Exactly. We're there, like most of the tables we can see, for the "pizza pot pie". Our server explains...
"We start with a ceramic bowl, and we layer the bottom with fresh Wisconsin brick cheese. Then we add sauce – either the home made vegetarian, or the meat sauce, which is the vegetarian sauce with pork sausage ground in. We add fresh whole mushrooms. Then we cover the bowl in a triple raised Sicilian white or wholemeal dough to make the crust. The pizzas bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, when they’re baked, I pick it up, flip it onto the crust, the cheese is on the top, and you have you own personal pizza pot pie."
And, some 30, 40 minutes later, we do. Well, one between three - quite how you could take down a personal one AND squeeze out of those booths is a mystery (although it might explain the above sign).
As we watch our own pie emerge from the bowl, Thom whispers that it's like watching something giving birth. He's not wrong. As mentioned in the "official report" it's a little more like lasagne than a deep dish, but that's not necessarily a complaint.