As soon as you enter South of Chicago, the new pizza/Italian place on Virginia Avenue in the heart of Fletcher Place, you’ll notice the mouth-watering aroma of baking pizzas. In fact, following your nose might be the best way to find this brand-new eatery because they don’t yet have an official sign (although the green and white, branded awning has just arrived).
Inside, South of Chicago is a laid-back, no-frills kind of joint furnished simply with white, round tables decorated with red, glass candleholders. All the sodas are in cans, all the plates are paper, and all the cutlery is plastic. The interior looks like a Chicago sports fan’s rec room with painted-over wood-paneled walls, a flat screen TV playing sports, and decorations such as Bears banners and White Sox signs. Taken as a whole, the place seems like it was airlifted directly from the Windy City to the Circle City. It’s definitely authentic.
And that authenticity extends to the food as well. The menu is fairly simple. They offer 14- and 18-inch thin-crust pizzas and 14-inch deep-dish pizzas plus several different kinds of sandwiches (Italian beef, meatball, and BBQ beef) and a few family-style meals (lasagna, Italian beef, and meatballs).
On my recent visit, my friends and I took a seat, ordered some drinks and some breadsticks, and asked the owner what kind of pizza he recommended. He suggested that we try a deep-dish sausage and pepperoni pizza, so that’s what we ordered. As we waited the half-an-hour for the pizza to bake, we tried the breadsticks. They weren’t traditional, rounded breadsticks – they were more like sliced, crispy strips of garlic bread – but they were quite good nonetheless. They were served with a chunky, tasty red sauce that boded well for the pizza. By the time our bread was gone, the red sauce was all soaked up, too.
When the pizza arrived (sooner than expected, actually), we were not disappointed. Simply put, it was awesome! The crust was excellent, good and thick throughout, firm at the edges, but still moist and delicious inside. The toppings were great, too, especially the sausage, which was spicy and fennel-y. I complimented the owner on the sausage and he told us that he actually drives up to Chicago every week or two to buy it directly from the makers there. This guy definitely takes his Chi-town roots seriously!
South of Chicago is open Mondays through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, and Saturdays from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Alas, they are closed on Sundays. They also cater and offer delivery (317.203.7110). I have a feeling I’ll be calling them for a delivery soon. I must try their thin crust pizza. And their Italian beef. And their lasagna.