This is going to be a strange post, because it’s almost an advertisement for a business that I have absolutely nothing to do with. A couple of years ago Steven called and said Lou Malnati’s was coming to town. So What? I said. Who’s that? But I always listen to the Italian side of my family……so I investigated. Apparently it’s one of the most famous Pizza franchises in the Chicago Area. I interviewed the Manager, who was a member of the Malnati family, and he filled me in. When people heard they were coming to lowly Arizona for their very first trek outside Illinois, the internet went crazy. Why not LA? Vegas? More “cool” places? Well, if you are familiar with Portillo’s in Tempe Marketplace, you know that they are also a lifelong Chicago store. Because of their success in Arizona, Lou’s management thought Malnati’s might work here too. (Don’t forget, the Chicago Cubs have a very long history here!). Needless to say, Malnati’s has been a huge success, and has already opened a second store (take-out) in the Arcadia area.
So what does this have to do with my blog? In our many visits to the store at 1st Street and Camelback in Phoenix, I was not expecting to enjoy the pizza, because we just don’t like Deep Dish pizza–or at least we thought we didn’t. (they do also carry thin crust). But this Buttery Crusted masterpiece is out of this world. (NOTE: they tell you to expect a longer than usual preparation because the pizzas are made to order and deep dish takes longer.) Added to the wonderful food is a charming atmosphere. A cheerful bar, great decor, wonderful service. A large refrigerator filled with Malnati take home goodies greets you at the entrance. Pizza, salad dressings, and plenty of other wonderful treats can go home with you. But of all the dishes we have tried at Lou’s place, the salad is my favorite. Yes, you heard me. My kids were shocked too. I’ve never raved about a salad in my life! Here’s the best I can do to describe it:
Mixed greens, chopped tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, Gorgonzola cheese, black olives and salami bits are all mixed together and topped with this unbelievable sweet balsamic vinaigrette. That’s it. But to me, what makes this salad so great are those little crispy salami bits. Crunchy! If you follow my blog (and if not, why not?), you know that a few months ago I posted Italian meats made into “crackers” by drying cold cuts in your oven. Look under Appetizers for Salami Chips. I would use that recipe and smash them into little pieces to duplicate the Malnati taste. AND, you can buy his dressings on line. There is also a recipe for the dressing on the internet, but I am not posting it because I tried it and did not think it tasted the same.
As I said at the beginning of this post, it is a strange one. No real recipe (except for the salami bites), but just a ringing endorsement of a terrific product. Beware: It’s an icky traffic drive from almost anywhere to their location on Camelback just east of Central. And it’s always a pretty long wait. We try to get there by 5, so it’s not as long. And summer is a little easier too. But it’s such a fun place, and you can take a lot of stuff home (we found their frozen take out pizzas that you bake at home to be pretty close to what they serve at the restaurant). IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not getting any kick backs from Lou. He died a long time ago! I just like the place!!!