The history of Aurelio’s stretches all the way back to 1959 in Homewood – the founding of the still-existing flagship restaurant as well as a pizza empire that has stretched as far away as Florida, Colorado and Nevada.
But despite reaching far into the country, Joe Aurelio has also made one heck of a pizza, no matter where it’s cooked. While the home base of Homewood is still most people’s preferred place to have one of Joe's pies, Chicagoans can stay within the city limits for one of the prize-winning creations.
While drivers can see the sign easily as they hit Congress just before the post office, actually entering the place will require a detour down to Harrison and Canal to find the entrance. A pool table, claw game and arcade cabinets tell you the place has kept away from any dubious redecoration.
But just because the bar is dimly lit doesn't mean it's seedy – large windows look out onto Canal's steady traffic, and shed light on the checkerboard tablecloths and two-top tables. Vintage beer trays and posters line the walls, and the staff checks in regularly to make sure you're not wanting for anything. Like, for instance, one of the orangish thin crust pizzas they've made their name on. The crust on top is cooked firm but not brown, and yet doesn't suffer from any dryness once it hits the mouth thanks to the sweet sauce hidden beneath.
While a deep dish or even a calabreze are still top quality, you'll do yourself a disservice if you haven't started with the thin. A medium cheese feeds two hungry folk for $13.25, or a one-topping runs $15.25. And if you're dining in, a bucket of five domestics can be yours for $15, or five imports for $20.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Dan Morgridge