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Chuck's Chicago Adventure: Pizza and popcorn, please

I highly recommend any of the pizzas that we sampled. And if you've never had Garrett Popcorn, try it!

CHICAGO —

Chicago is forever linked to the art of making and tasting pizza.

As part of our Big Adventure, we decided to go to the expert on this delicious part of the city's food history. Steve Dolinsky has been a TV food critic for years here. This James Beard award winner also authored Pizza City, USA, the go to document on enjoying Chicago pizza. Dolinsky took us to four different places to gauge the different styles of pizza in Chicago.

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Robert's Pizza

Credit: WTHR
The crew enjoyed a thin crust pizza at Robert's Pizza and Dough Co. that featured a delicious crust fermented for three days.

Robert's Pizza and Dough Co. is nestled next to a canal near downtown. The setting is beautiful and the pizza delicious. We enjoyed a thin crust pizza that featured a delicious crust fermented for three days. Dolinsky said this was the key to the marvelous taste. 

"You see sometimes with inferior places, but first off into the dough bones, which are left on the plate, because the only thing with flavor is cheese and sauce on it, but this crust by itself is delicious, it's like, like a ciabatta or like a baguette," Dolinsky said.

Labriola

Credit: WTHR
Chuck's crew enjoyed Labriola's tavern-style pizza so much, they snuck back for more later.

Labriola was my crew’s favorite stop. It has been a favorite stop for pizza lovers since the mid 90's. This Italian staple, just off Michigan Avenue, is known for both its deep-dish pizza and its traditional tavern-style thin crust. It's the thin crust pizza that I had always equated with Chicago pizza as a kid. Oddly enough, I didn't see a lot of deep-dish Chicago-style pizza until after I moved from the area. 

"You're not alone. (Tavern-style) has been around for 80 years. Most Chicagoans say that’s Chicago-style pizza. It should be cracker thin. Easy to hold in one hand, you know, great for a snack, not intended to be a full meal, although it’s evolved into being a full meal!” Dolinsky said.

Both the tavern-style and deep-dish varieties at Labriola were tasty and the lines were substantial coming into the restaurant. 

Eataly 

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Pizza chefs at Eataly can whip up a Neapolitan style pizza, put it in a honeycomb oven and bake it for 90 seconds.

Eataly is a beloved downtown market and restaurant. Italian food, drink and novelties can be purchased here, but the big draw is the restaurant. Pizza chefs can whip up a Neapolitan style pizza, put it in a honeycomb oven and bake it for 90 seconds, quickly serving it up nice and hot. Steve says this pizza is a great alternative to traditional Chicago pizzas. Eataly's Courtney Arnett took us up close to with Chef Simone, who whips up these delicious pizzas.

"Neapolitan pizza is just, it's really an artistry. And so it's a beautiful craft as Simone has displayed, and he's an expert. I heard you say it is easily digestible. We offer 11 selections here at Osteria de Eataly of Neapolitan style pizza,"  Arnett said. "You walk away feeling not guilty,”

Bonci

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Bonci pizza is different, it's crispy, cut in slices – and with a dozen different kinds of pizza on display, you can sample several different kinds.

We were quickly transported from Chicago to Rome when we stepped foot in Bonci near the West Loop. This pizza is different, it's crispy, cut in slices – and with a dozen different kinds of pizza on display, you can sample several different kinds of pizza on the same visit. Dolinsky says Bonci is a great pizza that is catching on. 

"All these are baked initially in these handmade Castelli ovens from Italy, and you know they're Italian because we use Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, so they're made in these beautiful ovens, and then laid out here. But it's called pizza al taglio which is by the cut," Dolinsky said. "So, you tell them which flavor you want. Then ask, you know, how much do you want, they will cut that, and then they’ll weigh it, and then you pay by the pound.”

I highly recommend any of the pizzas that we sampled. But for me, the best was a pizza that was great not because of its toppings but due to the fermented crust. I picked Robert's pizza as my favorite. All of these places though will make a memorable and delicious visit to Chicago. 

Garrett Popcorn 

For decades, shoppers, workers and tourists have walked down Chicago's Michigan Avenue and turned a hard right, thanks to the alluring aroma coming from a small popcorn shop. Garrett Popcorn now has 50 shops around the world and an international online presence, but the flagship store we visited still operates as if it were the only store. We saw friendly staff, lines out the building and experienced the tasty treats that keep customers coming back. 

Garrett opened the first shop in 1949 and visitors and locals alike love the products so much, they have an emotional attachment to the brand. 

My favorite, and for that matter the public's favorite, is the Garrett Mix, a combination that owner Megan Chody says came from the customers.  

"Fun fact, okay, our fans created it. Our fans used to ask for a bag of Carmel Crisp and a bag of Cheese Corn, and then when they left theshop, they would mix them together and shake them up. When our family found this out,we'relike, they made theGarret mix, let's mix it for them," Chody said.

I got to work behind the scenes at the counter and was downstairs in the kitchen where I got a glimpse of the small batch cooking of the popcorn. Quality control is a big deal here. It's not an inexpensive treat and the team makes sure every bite is worth the cost. 

"What's so amazing is that people are passionate aboutGarrettpopcorn,so it makes us so easy to be passionate.  Weknow what goes into each recipe that we handcraft on a daily basis at every shop, and then our amazing team members make the magic happen," Chody said. "They deliver the customer experience, they deliver a beautifully packaged bag that people can proudly carry down Michigan Avenue and share their Garret love,we'rejust really lucky. It'sso fun to have something that so many people look forward to." 

And they do look forward to eating Garrett Popcorn. Chody has heard hundreds of stories about people getting treated with the Garrett Mix by grandparents at Christmas or how they received a tin while serving overseas. 

It's an emotional experience for many and a delicious can't miss stop for others. If you've never had it, try it! And if you love it, then keep in mind that soon, Garrett may be coming to select Indiana grocers.