My brother was in town last Monday night, and it was his birthday, so The Wife and I offered to prepare or procure whatever he wanted for dinner. My bro was still reeling from witnessing Sunday's Maxwell Street food orgy (and he wasnt even there when Ultimo pulled out the photo finish trifecta of churro/eyeball taco/pork chop sandwich), so his wishes were simple: thin crust Chicago Pizza.
After polling Oak Park hounds (VI and Jim Peterson), I settled on Jim and Petes in Elmwood Park. Got two large (15) thin crust pizzas: sausage with fresh tomato ($10.50), and green olive/green pepper/onion ($12.25). Frankly, they didnt do much for me. The cheese was flat; the sausage was greasy; the vegetable ingredients were indistinguishable from the other components.
FLASH BACK TO MIDDLE YEARS OF THE EISENHOWER ADMINISTRATION
Im on the Northwest side, at a birthday party for the little girl down the street, name of Maureen Griffith. For her birthday dinner, she has asked for spaghetti that was one day old. When I hear this, Im taken aback. Its so reasonable, and yet so unconventional. She actually wanted her mom to make spaghetti, and keep it in the fridge for a day before serving it. I was touched by what seemed to be the eccentric request, the culinary sensitivity, the nascent chowhoundness of the kid, and for the first time in my young life, I felt a new affection, a longing, a passion for food, not fancy food, not perhaps even fresh food, but good food, done right.
FLASH FORWARD TO PRESENT TIME
Im headed out for the evening, and I need something quick. With some hesitation, I reheat the Jim and Petes pizza. Now, days later, it is marvelous. The cheese has acquired funkier dimensions, not just fatty but flavorful, rich and tangy; the sausage reveals itself as more than just ground meat it now has character, texture, and more peppery taste, hints of oregano and maybe fennel. Even the vegetables come across as individual elements married within the whole, much more flavorful and now complementary to the other ingredients.
That some food improves with age is no surprise, but that this pizza should be so much better exponentially better, immensely tastier, vastly improved after 48 hours of refrigeration really took me back. I was ready to write off Jim and Petes, but now, Id gladly order pizza from them again I just have to remember to let it sit for two days before eating.
Good night, Maureen Griffith, wherever you are.
Jim and Petes
7806 W. North Ave.
Elmwood Park, IL 60707