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Dining review: A taste of the second city on the left coast

Taste Chicago offers up a decent approximation of its titular town's ethnic cuisine

September 11, 2012|By Richard Foss
  • Taste Chicago's mini deep dish pizza is one of the specialites at the Italian restaurant on the 600 block of N. Hollywood Way in Burbank.
Taste Chicago's mini deep dish pizza is one of the… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

When I go to Chicago, I pack some clothes that won’t be coming back with me — socks wearing through at the heel, shirts that don’t really match anything else in my wardrobe, shoes that I think about wearing but rarely do. It’s not that I like visiting the Windy City badly dressed, but I know that every nook and cranny in my suitcase will be filled with food on the way back.

Chicago has ethnic delis that feature cultures rarely seen in L.A., and my luggage will be bulging with Lithuanian brown bread, Italian cured beef, arcane Polish cold cuts and other delights that are unavailable locally.

Now I have found a place at which I can sate at least some of my Chicago cravings — Taste Chicago in Burbank. The specialties inspired by Eastern Europe and Greece are missing, but the Italian and indigenous items are present and accounted for. The restaurant is small and spartan, decorated with sports team jerseys, menu boards and yellowing newspaper articles. A trio of TVs tuned to sports completes the décor.

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Besides Chicago dogs slathered with mustard, tomato, celery salt, peppers, and neon-tinged relish, the city is probably most famous for deep-dish pizza and barbecued ribs, so we ordered both. Deep-dish pizza is so different from New York thin crust as to be another species — a thick, dense crust with the toppings under the cheese rather than over, and usually with a layer of sauce on top. They are much more expensive than thin-crust pies, but much more filling, and people used to California or New York pies usually over-order and are surprised when two slices turns out to be a meal.

The thick crust also means they take longer to cook, so calibrate your time accordingly. We ordered a sausage and mushroom, and it was as good as you can get in L.A. — a little short on the sauce, and they used canned mushrooms instead of fresh, but it was still a pizza that would sell in Chicago, where they take these things seriously. True to form, we ordered the “personal” size pizza and it would have fed two people — we took half of it home.

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