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Restaurants & Bars 8

La Roma Pizzeria Trattoria, with side trip to Merlo

Mike G | Jan 31, 200308:59 PM

In a thread I can't seem to find about pizza on the NW side, I mentioned a place I'd seen called La Roma Pizzeria Trattoria, located at 3213 W. Irving Park. My thought was that the name suggested it was at least one step above your usual Joe's Pizza. Someone else-- Annieb?-- said they had been there but it was too much like your grandmother's house to be comfortable eating there.

Well, that's good enough for me! Having done so well at lunch at The Pharoah's, I decided to press my luck with kids in tow at this obscure storefront, as part of my ongoing quest to eat at lots of neighborhood Italian places (instead of the same 3 all the time).

At first I disagreed about the grandmother's house comment. I thought more like a placed trapped in 50s amber, which can be kind of fun and is certainly not unknown on the South Side among Italian places. One promising sign was that instead of the usual Sherman Kaplan WBBM review from 1985, they posted a New City Best Of Chicago award from 1993, which said here was real Italian pizza instead of the usual Congiorleonadwardos.

Okay, it kind of went downhill from there, I'll just say that. Between the TV blaring in the dining room and the fact that all the other patrons (all four on Friday night) were 60+ and seemed to know the owners and the plastic wrap on the tables and the generally not very welcoming attitude of the first hostess (we'd disturbed her TV), the grandmother's house atmosphere, like the evil of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, gradually revealed itself. All that was missing was a big ticking pendulum clock and the utter silence to hear its every move, and maybe a stack of Reader's Digests under the coffee table as the only thing for us kids to leaf through while the adults talked interminably about boring adult stuff. I expected Lawrence Welk to come on the TV at any moment.

And though the owners reportedly had come from Italy only a few years before New City touted them, this was no Merlo, where I'd eaten the week before and had fresh pasta, concentrated tomato flavor, and all the authentic artisanal tied-to-the-seasons yuppie goodness of the chic modern trattoria; the food was surely every bit as American-Italian as at Manzo's across the street. No, I take that back. There's probably a crowd that goes to Manzo's, and then a subset of that crowd that sees itself as savvy for eating the real stuff here. But that crowd is over 60, and I'm not in it. I ordered spaghetti puttanesca, and this was puttanesca safe for virgins.

However... I will say one thing for this place. I ordered a margherita pizza, visions of something thin and crackly and with strips of fresh basil like you'd get at Pizza DOC in my head. And I got a standard-issue Chicago cheese pizza, sure as if the place was called Joe's. But... taken on that level, it was pretty good. It wasn't the usual stomach bomb, the crust was light and fluffy (within the limits of that genre) and the toppings seemed to be pretty high quality, if totally standard issue. So to return to the question that prompted all this, if you want a pizza on the NW side, vicinity of Irving and Elston, La Roma Pizzeria Trattoria is certainly worth a try. I recommend delivery.

La Roma Pizzeria
3213 W. Irving Park Rd.  

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