On Feb. 14, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that Chicago-style deep-dish pizza “shouldn’t be called pizza.” Perhaps aware of the potentially volatile reaction to his declaration, Scalia later sought to dial it back a bit, saying, “It’s very tasty, but it’s not pizza.”
I’m sure Chicagoans appreciated his effort. It may be tempting to view Scalia’s decision as an extension of his well-documented “strict constructionist” and “original intent” doctrines of judicial interpretation. Or maybe, the Queens-raised Scalia’s ruling is an extension of his also-well-documented tendency to favor his own interests, be they pecuniary or emotional.
These may be points that Lucy Montgomery, a recovering lawyer, would appreciate. Montgomery and her husband, Mike Welch, purchased Chicago Brothers Pizzeria (10423 San Diego Mission Road in Mission Valley) from its founders earlier this year. If anything, the quality of the signature deep-dish pizza has improved under their helm.
The leading characteristic of deep-dish pizza is—as the name would suggest—its thickness. Deep-dish pizza more closely resembles a pie or casserole rather than a flatbread. Chicago-style pies are cooked in round, oiled steel pans up to 3 inches deep with a thin crust pulled up around the edges to just below the pan top. Whereas thin-crust pizzas get sauce, then cheese, then toppings, the deep dish is filled with a generous layer of cheese, and then toppings, before the chunky tomato sauce is applied.
The best of Chicago Brothers’ deep-dish offerings is the meat lovers’ pizza, featuring pepperoni, sausage and ham. The richness of the meats and the mozzarella cheese is perfectly balanced by the acidity of the marinara sauce. Chicago Brothers’ crust is thin, almost buttery, and slightly crumbly, with a crisp exterior and light, almost airy interior—it’s a pleasure in and of itself. The “Masterpiece” (pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, onions, green peppers and black olives) is another good deep-dish choice, and the sausage and mushroom is an off-menu delight.
Chicago Brothers also offers “thin crust” pizzas in the relatively thick, doughy San Diego style—think Filippi’s or O’s American Kitchen (formerly Pat & Oscar’s). There are better examples of this style in town. It’s not half as good as the deep-dish pies (though the spinach and feta is tasty). A better non-deep-dish offering is the calzone. Think of it as a rolled thin-crust or a cross between a pizza and an oversized empanada. The cheese version (mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan) is simple but good, especially with the accompanying marinara sauce. The veggie calzone brings mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives to the party. I’d have preferred if the olives stayed home.
In the end, though, what Chicago Brothers is about is Chicago-style pizza. There’s none better in San Diego. Perhaps if Jon Stewart had sampled it, he’d have known better than to go on hisepic anti-Chicago rant (“Let me explain something: Deep-dish pizza is not only not better than New York pizza; it’s not pizza. It’s a f***ing casserole”). Perhaps his first clue should’ve been that he was agreeing with Scalia for the first time in recorded history.