Palermo’s 95th Pizza & Restaurant- Oak Lawn, IL
I feel like I should explain my idea of the perfect pizza. Not that I feel the need to validate my opinions, but at least give you an idea of why I’m so hard on pizza joints.
We all have a pizza joint we love. Mine is in Oak Lawn, IL. A few years ago, I had never heard of the place. In fact, it was a few months after J and I started dating that she even brought me to her family’s favorite place.
I blogged about Palermo’s 95th on Mid-Michigan Dining, but thought I’d bring the issue up again here so the new set of readers can understand why it seems like I don’t like most pizzas. The thing is, it’s not that I don’t like them. It’s just that they just don’t come close to the pizza that I compare everything to.
Palermo’s 95th is near the intersectino of 95th Street and Cicero Avenue in the southside Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn. It’s not just a pizza joint. It’s actually a pretty fancy Italian restaurant that happens to do an incredible pizza. There is a formal dining room with white table cloth service, but there’s also a carry-out window in the back.
Parking is pretty awful. There is a lot directly behind the building, but it’s almost always full. You’re lucky if you find a spot. There’s a huge parking lot directly across the street, but don’t even think about parking there. The owner of that building will tow. Even though 98% of the lot is empty, he does not take kindly to Palermo’s customers taking up his spots. The building fronts a very busy Cicero Avenue so there’s no street parking. They do offer complimentary valet parking which isn’t a bad idea if you’re not familiar with the area.
Most of the time, we just do carry-out or delivery. I’ve eaten inside the restaurant twice. The first time was the first time I had ever had Palermo’s pizza. The other time was our wedding rehearsal dinner. We turned a lot of people on to Palermo’s that night and I still get comments about just how good it was.
On our most recent trip home, J called her mom as we were passing Paw Paw and asked if she’d have a pizza waiting. It worked out almost perfectly. We beat the pizza by about three minutes.
J’s mom ordered an XL cheese pizza so we could all eat. The pizza is so good, even a plain cheese pizza is something I crave. My favorite combination though is a pizza with Italian beef and hot giardinara. It combines my two favorite things. Pizza and Italian beef. It’s a combination you won’t find anywhere else in the country. J’s parents turned me on to that particular pizza and I, in turn, have turned others on to it.
The thing that makes pizza on the southside of Chicago so special is the way they are cooked. We always ask for our pizzas well done. That means the cheese comes out with a golden brown cheese and a dark, crunchy crust. To me, this is the perfect pizza. To outsiders, it’s burnt. If you read reviews on Yelp, you can always figure out who are the regulars and who are the non-southsiders. There are only a few pizzerias that do this kind of pizza. Vito and Nick’s is the more famous one, but Palermo’s does it better. If the pizza comes out a little darker than you’re used to, you know it’s done right. It’s the only way I want to eat piza now and why you hear me complain so much about chewy, doughy crusts.
Palermo’s pizza has a cracker thin, crunchy, flaky crust with a dusting of cornmeal on the bottom, but the sauce is the star. The sauce is a ladled on pretty thick and it’s very sweet. I’ve played around at home trying to replicate it and I come the closest with a combination of carrots, honey, and brown sugar. Not your normal ingredients in a pizza sauce, but Palermo’s is so different. I don’t know for sure if that’s what they use, but I know that combination gets as close as I’ve been able to come.
Palermo’s 95th is one pizza that I’m alright with paying a higher price. The extra large pizza starts at $20 before you start adding toppings, but it’s worth it. I’ve never had a pizza anywhere that tasted like Palermo’s 95th and I don’t think I ever will. J told me before I ever had my first taste of the joint that it will ruin me forever on pizza. She was right.