Villa Nova Pizzeria (New Buffalo)
My parents go overboard for Christmas. They always have. In years we didn’t have a lot of money, my mom would buy things throughout the year and stash them until Christmas time just so there were several gifts under the tree for my brother and me. Christmas has always been her favorite holiday. She doesn’t have to go nuts anymore. All of us are financially stable and in a position where we can get our kids pretty much what they want, but my mom still shops for Christmas just like she did when we were growing up.
We finished up lunch at Casey’s Bar & Grill then headed to the Fairfield Inn & Suites back towards the highway to open presents. My parents were going to see Donnie & Marie and Four Winds New Buffalo and the Michigan border town is about halfway for all of us.
My sister-in-law had to get home to “log-in” to work Sunday morning so my brother and his family took off ahead of the snow storm that moved in Saturday night. J and I decided to just stay in town. Our plan was to get a hotel with a pool so L could swim, but she didn’t want to. She just wanted to play with her new Barbie’s and all the Barbie clothes she got to go with them. The Fairfield was a little on the expensive side, so I did the Priceline thing and got a room incredibly cheap at the Baymont Inn & Suites pretty much across the road from the Fairfield.
L and I hung out with my parents for a little while longer while J & B took a nap after my brother left. We didn’t stay too long because we wanted to give my parents some time to relax before their show and really, all L wanted to do was play with her toys, so after about an hour, we headed back to our hotel.
J suggested we order a pizza instead of packing everyone back up and heading out in the storm that was just starting to move it’s way into Michigan. I’m always fine with that and I saw an advertisement in the room for a pizza place. I looked up the menu and things looked good.
Villa Nova Pizzeria is a Chicago pizza joint that set up in New Buffalo. The thing is, is a Southside Chicago pizza restaurant. The “Southside” part is important because on the Southside, you’re not getting the big deep dish pizzas you’re used to when you think of Chicago pizza. You’re getting the exact opposite with crispy thin crusts instead.
The New Buffalo shop is one of four Villa Nova Pizzerias. The original is in Stickney which is on the south side of Chicago just to the north of Midway International Airport and I-55. That location opened in 1955 and has been in the family ever since. The other locations are in Lockport, IL (southwest Chicago suburb), Chesterton, IN and New Buffalo. We didn’t realize when we ordered this was a Southside Chicago shop, but being fans of that kind of pizza, we were stoked when we found out.
Villa Nova has a very minimal web presence. There isn’t one big site for all the locations and it took me forever just to find one of those YP.com pages for the Stickney location. With such a weak Internet presence, it should be no surprise there isn’t an online ordering option so I had to call it in.
We didn’t want to go crazy like we do when we order pizza at home because we didn’t want the leftovers. I kept it simple and ordered a 16″ Pepperoni for carry-out. The guy taking the order said it’d be about a half hour, so I hung around the room for a little bit and got some of L’s toys out while I waited to go pick it up.
Villa Nova is on East Buffalo Street just to the east of downtown New Buffalo. There’s a small building with a decent sized dining room and a huge outdoor patio. There’s a pretty large parking lot next to the building so parking on a busy highway isn’t an issue.
I walked into the building from the door closest to the parking lot. This takes you right by the kitchen which is out in the open so you can watch your pizza being made. There are a few tables once you get a little further into the building, but the bulk of the seating in the small shop is on the other side of the kitchen.
I found the cash register and gave them my name. Our pizza had just come out of the oven. I paid the $20 for the family size 16″ pizza and asked for a couple of paper plates and napkins. Luckily J reminded me of this before I left because I ALWAYS forget to do that when we order pizza in a hotel room. I would always just eat out of the box but the rest of the family isn’t as uncivilized as I am. I went out the door on the other end just to see how big the patio area is and in the summer, I’m sure the place is packed.
It was at this point that I realized they were a Chicago place when I saw the box. That got me really excited and when I got back to the hotel, I was really looking forward to digging in….although I would have realized it had I looked closer at the menu and saw the Italian beef and hot giardiniera as options for toppings.
The pizza from Villa Nova is a little bit of a different take on the cracker thin crust we like from places like Palermo’s 95th and Vito & Nick’s in Chicago, but it still retains a lot of the same qualities. The dough is made in house and it’s cooked right on the surface of the pizza oven instead of on a screen that would give it that really crispy crust. The pizza is cut into squares in the Southside tradition which makes this very easy for the little ones to eat without much cutting up.
The crust isn’t quite as crispy as a lot of Villa Nova’s competitors south of downtown. There’s more of a New York like quality to this crust. It’s easier to eat if you fold it over and make a little sandwich out of the sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. The sauce comes off a little sweet, but not overbearingly so while the pepperoni gives it just a little bit of spiciness. The pizza was delicious and we couldn’t wait to tell my dad about it. He’s the one that sort of turned me on to thin crust pizza (not the Chicago Southside thin crust…J did that) so we know it’s a place he would like As with a lot of the Southside places, the pizza to order is actually the sausage. They make their own sausage in house and load it up on the pizza. J isn’t a sausage fan and I didn’t know this going in, so we went with our usual.
Villa Nova Pizzeria was a huge surprise. It’s a little like comfort food to wandering Chicagoan. Pizzas with this type of thin crust are as hard to come by as the Chicago deep dish once you get outside of the city. Villa Nova uses those roots to take advantage of a popular Chicagoan tourist spot.