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Roots Pizza needs some fine-tuning

Bruno Review: Roots restaurant 1924 W. Chicago Ave. Chicago Lasagna. l Keith Hale~Sun-Times

Bruno Review: Roots restaurant, 1924 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago Lasagna. l Keith Hale~Sun-Times

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1924 W. Chicago; 773-645-4949;

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Friday; 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Saturday

Prices: 12-inch pizza $14, 16-inch $19. Add two bucks to that price for each topping. Pastas $14-$16; sandwiches $10-$12.

Try: lollipop wings, pizza, lasagne, beer

Wheels: valet available; street parking difficult; wheelchair accessible.

In a bite: A sprawling pizza parlor emporium that digs deep into the world of pizza (“Quad-Cities-style pizza”) and beer. A horseshoe-shaped bar takes up most of one room, then a series of hi-tops, booths and tables straggle back to yet a couple more dining areas. More than 70 beer brands from just about every Midwest brewery you can name. Bring the kids. Service is slow or fast depending, on the depth of the crowd.

KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary;
★★★ Excellent; ★★ Very Good;
★ Good; Zero stars: Poor

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Updated: July 1, 2011 4:18PM

Here’s the setup. Roots Handmade Pizza on West Chicago is the work of the guys that put together the action at The Fifty/50 on West Division a few blocks away (a rocking sports bar with better than average food, which I reviewed favorably here about a year ago).

Pizza, beer, sandwiches, a couple of pasta dishes. Roots has hit all the hot food buttons. Pizza is the main focus, though. And the menu makes sure you know that: More than a few words are dedicated to the style of pizza (Quad-Cities, whatever that implies). Oh, wait, the menu explains how it’s done “Quad-Cities-style”: Malt crust, hand-tossed, secret sauce from scratch, top-quality ingredients, scissor-cut strips.” That’s probably more than I needed to know about the pizza here. Nevertheless I like a couple of those ideas — quality ingredients, hand-tossed. But in no way will you mistake this pizza for a classic Neapolitan or New York-style pizza. First of all, a Neapolitan pizza crust is made using flour (double O preferred), yeast, salt and water. Adding malt results in a crust that has a back taste of sweetness. Malt also enhances the color of the crust, making it look like it came out of a tanning bed instead of an oven.

The proof is in the pie, however. I didn’t go bananas over the pizza at Roots, but, since it was there in front of me, my wife and I did put away four or five strips of a sausage pizza: the crust edge was too puffy and too bready along with being too dry and bland. I thought the “secret sauce” had a pleasingly smooth texture backed up with a spicy flavor (the “secret” either Tabasco or Sriracha, I’m guessing). The menu noted that “[we] make our own sausage.” And the sausage crumbles were quite good. Scissor-cut strips are nothing new, but I liked it (a high-five here for extra effort), and it does make for easier eating (no knife and fork needed).

You can “build your own pizza” by choosing from no fewer than 40 options (meat, veggies, fruit, cheeses). If that isn’t enough, there are specialty pizzas like a BLT and taco. ’Nuff said about this pizza.

One of the pasta dishes tried was the lasagne. The menu description is an engaging read (housemade pasta, bechamel, blend of four cheeses), but the execution was less than exciting. The pasta was fine, but the filling, between the pasta strips, considering all that went into it, was so dry and tasteless it could have been made up of almost anything, but not something that I would expect to find in a true lasagne. This is easily fixable, but maybe this is how they do it in the Quad Cities?

An appetizer of meaty-good jumbo lollipop wings got tossed in a choice of plum or Parmesan pesto and that was a nice change from the usual (though some of the usual sauces, such as Buffalo, are available).


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