Artichoke Heaven is not what one expects as a title to a review of a pizza place, but today it is appropriate.
Today was my best friend's birthday and she had recently discovered Chicago Fire Pizza. The one downtown is actually the second restaurant, since the original is in downtown Folsom. I had been to the Folsom one before and so I love the downtown one just as much. Anyway, since it was her birthday I hadn't really thought to review CFP, but just can't resist raving about those artichokes. I did not have the camera with me, so no pictures.
The downtown CFP is in a restored brick building that is large and spacious. They have one large room sectioned off which is good for large parties. The problem, as in so many other restaurants, is the noise. With nothing but hard surfaces the sound just bounces. Why must restaurants be designed like that? Everyone just talks louder and louder to make themselves heard and you end up with a headache! We had a long table of 20 down the center and then there was another birthday party of 20-something gals as well. It ended up a competition to see who could sing "Happy Birthday" louder.
Now to those artichokes. Til now my favorites had been the grilled artichokes at Banderas. There's a new winner in town. CFP bakes their artichokes with Caesar dressing, olive oil, lemon juice, and stuffed with lots of melty parmesan cheese. It arrived at the table and it was love at first sight. There was no scrimping on the cheese and the tartness of the lemon juice and tanginess of the Caesar just came together with a wonderfully tender choke. Now I will be hard pressed to choose between ordering a pizza or the artichoke and a salad.
But what about the pizza?
First, what is YOUR favorite type of pizza? Do you like thick or thin crust? New York or Chicago style? Deep Dish? Stuffed?
CFP has it all. The thin crust pizzas is indeed very thin, with a nice crisp edge while the stuffed pizzas are decadently thick with cheese and sauce and double crust. I like all pizza, but my favorite is stuffed. I always order the Chicago Fire Combo, with sausage, onions, peppers, pepperoni, and I leave off the mushrooms. What I appreciate about their version is that they have a generous layer of tomato sauce on top of the second crust.
Some day I'll review my all-time favorite Sacramento pizza place, which also makes stuffed pizzas. I'll tell you why CFP comes in second - they are limited on their variety of toppings and combinations. CFP's combos are pretty basic and boring. Even if you look to build your own combo, the ingredient list is, again, basic and boring. But I suppose that when you are dealing with the scale of pizza orders that CFP is cranking out each night, you need to have some limitations.
I have yet to have (and probably never will) dessert at CFP. I always so stuffed by the stuffed pizza that dessert never even crosses my mind.
A note about service. Each time I've been to the downtown CFP I've been with a party in the set-off banquet room. It seems a bit of out-of-sight, out-of mind. Our server tonite did hustle to keep our glasses full, but did admit up front that he had to hop between our room and the other room. So sometimes there were long gaps. We also had a problem with the wine. One glass of red my friend ordered had gone bad and had to be returned. Then a bottle of wine was ordered and yet out came two glasses of wine that my friends didn't like and didn't match what they previously had. But the waiter did correct it by taking the glasses back and exchanging it for the bottle they really wanted.
I do recommend CFP, but be prepared to wait. It's become pretty popular. I'd also like them to get around to opening for lunch. I'd be taking my office there for lunches if they were open.
A final note. I had taken my Meetup group there last fall. There were 15 of us and we ordered 6 large pizzas of all styles and combinations. At the end of the night we were all sated and definitely happy when the split came to only $8.57 per person. For that alone we will be returning there for another future event.
Addendum regarding the Zelda's comparison issue.
I don't like Zelda's. Reason? They do more of a flaky pie crust. I like bread crust. Simple as that.