It takes a bit of nerve to try a new pizzeria at random, without the recommendation of a friend or a Yelp review. The highest of highs allow for the lowest of lows. Lousy pizza can ruin your day on emotional, biological, and even spiritual level. Because of how great pizza can be, I contend that a bad pizza is worse than no pizza. The previous statement can be modified to refer to sex instead of pizza, and I’d still proudly stand by it.
When adventuring into a new, random pizzeria, there are a few things that can bolster my level of confidence. An Italian-sounding name helps. I’m more likely to trust a “Panzani’s” than a “Todd’s.” History is important, too. If a restaurant has been in business for a while, they must be doing something right.
Warming up to Armand’s Pizzeria
The Italian name of Armand’s Pizzeria and its place in the world of Chicago pizza since 1956, prompted me to try the pizzeria’s newer, chain location in Edison Park. I visited on a Saturday afternoon, and immediately enjoyed the vibe. The door chime reminded me of bells you hear on the L before the words “doors closing.” The man behind the counter looked vaguely like idiot comedian Tom Green. The dining area was bright and spacious. A pizzaiolo was hard at work behind the L-shaped counter. The environment was warm, friendly, and familiar.
I ordered the lunch special, a slice of pizza and a pop for exactly $4. I picked sausage so I could maintain a level playing field with my previous reviews. Also, a sausage pizza was the lone pie tanning under a heat lamp. Faux Tom Green asked me if I wanted a can of pop, or a small, medium or large fountain drink, which I found to be rather curious. In the interest of protecting having a small carbon footprint and saving the manatees and whatnot, I went with a small Dr Pepper.
I expected to be served a pie-cut slice, but the folks at Armand’s play by their own rules. I was served a pile of party-cut slices instead. How delightfully Chicago!
Cooling off on Armand’s Pizzeria
Unfortunately, Armand’s Pizzeria rulebook does not demand that the pile of party-cut slices be hot, or even lukewarm. I started with the adorable tiny triangle slice, iconic to Chicago’s tavern style pizza. It was cold. I wondered if the heat lamp was faulty or if the wrong bulb had been installed. Perhaps it was outfitted with one of those yellow bulbs that aren’t supposed to attract bugs but do?
The slices reminded me of what it’s like to arrive at a pizza party late, which often happens when my company springs for pizza and I’m stuck on a godforsaken conference call. I arrive 40 minutes after the pizza’s already arrived and end up settling for frigid scraps.
One should not have to settle for frigid scraps when paying for pizza. This is an egregious breach of the trust between the pizzeria and the customer. It is not a consumer’s responsibility to examine a slice under a heat lamp and attempt to divine if it is warm. I had fallen for the bait-and-switch. I’d ordered a fresh slice of pizza, and I was served quasi-Tom Green’s leftovers.
The Components of the Slice
I couldn’t formulate an opinion about the cheese. After cooling under the defective heat lamp, it had solidified and become tasteless. (I am vehemently against eating cold pizza because refrigeration blunts the taste, but that is a topic for another time.) The sauce was enjoyable, despite being cold. It was tangy and sweet with a hint of peppery spice. I suspect that if my slice had been properly served, rather than handed to me moments before being vanquished to the dumpster, the sauce would have been the standout characteristic.
In terms of the crust, I will give Armand’s Pizzeria the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was the intent of their recipe, rather than a product of the slice drying out before landing on my plate. It was thin and crisp, with a satisfying crunch throughout. The cheese and toppings bled to the edge of the crust, which was slightly charred. The pizza had been cooked to perfection. Unfortunately, that happened much earlier in the day, perhaps while I was eating breakfast.
To Thine Own Self be True
Even with the frigidness of the pizza, I’m tempted to give Armand’s Pizzeria another shot. There were faint glimmers of excellence in that ancient pile of pizza that still gives me a sense of hope. In an alternate universe, where my first slice wouldn’t have been cold, I imagine Armand’s would have become my favorite pizzeria on the Northwest Side. However, in our current universe I am a man of deeply-held convictions. I can’t bring myself to recommend Armand’s Pizzeria, or to give them another chance. Life’s just too damn short for cold pizza or bad sex.
6684 N Northwest Hwy
Chicago, IL 60631
Phone: (773) 930-4800
Every day: 11:00 AM-9:00 PM
- Armand’s has ten location in the city and suburbs; eight “pizzeria express” locations like the one that I visited, and two “full service” pizzerias.
- The lunch special with a bottle of domestic beer would have been $6.
- My slice was served on a stack of eight paper plates. Obviously, the people at Armand’s hate the environment.