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Pizza-'cue finds a home in San MateoSlice of Heaven - In Search of the Bay Area's Best Pizza
San Francisco ExaminerSan Mateo County Times
Wednesday, November 9, 1997Wednesday, July 30, 2003
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Slice of Heaven - In Search of the Bay Area's Best Pizza

San Mateo County Times
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Wafting through the air at Windy City Chicago Style Pizza isn't the smell of baking dough, garlic or artfully crafted tomato sauce; it's smoky notes of barbecue. The San Mateo restaurant is devoted to the culinary masterpieces of Northern Illinois - "knuckle-suckin' " Chicago-style barbecue and "hot, deep and thick" deep-dish pizza. The latter can certainly be called a masterpiece. We ordered Chicago's Spinach Pie ($13.85 for a 12-inch, six-slice medium). Dressed with mushrooms, fresh spinach and three cheeses, it arrived at the table piping hot. The ample amount of sauce provides a lubricating layer that causes the cheese to slide off perilously. The pizza may be a bit messy to eat, but it's delicious. The real treat is the crust, buttery and crisp with texture almost like a savory shortbread. But it's best eaten hot; crisp and buttery turns to soggy and greasy when it cools off. Combinations range from HEY! Meat Head (sausage, hamburger, salami, pepperoni and Canadian bacon) to Pesto-PestoPesto (pesto, tomatoes, olives and mushrooms). Windy City Pizza is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
-Elizabeth Jardina

Pizza-'cue finds a home in San Mateo

San Francisco Examiner
Wednesday, November 9, 1997
If you value your friendships, two subjects you don't discuss at a typical dinner party are politics and religion. If you value your life, two subjects you don't discuss at a typical foodie party are pizza and barbecue.

The fury of the devout or ideologically rabid can be impressive, but it pales before the choler of outraged foodies who believe their favorite pizzeria or barbecue joint has been unfairly maligned. Having been the recipient of their righteous wrath on more than one occasion, I'm happy (and not a little bit relieved) to say that if you're a fan of Windy City Pizza - San Mateo home of deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza and finger-lickin', "knuckle-suckin' " barbecue - well, I am, too.

If you're a fan of some other purveyor of preeminent pizza or killer'cue, I'm sure it's every bit as good as you say. Now please don't firebomb my car.

Anyway, Windy City has been around for a while - since 1980, actually, when it opened in Belmont. Even back then, it specialized in pizza and barbecue, a pairing about as common in the local restaurant biz as brain surgery and auto repair. But it wasn't until it was bought six years ago by Bob Yeats, one-time furniture salesman and lover of all things Chicago, that it made a serious run at pizza and barbecue superiority.

Yeats immediately put a stop to the blasphemy of cooking barbecue in the oven (!) in its own sauce (!). He installed a real smoker and began doin 'cue the only way that's right and proper - low and slow, over smoldering hardwood. From the Windy City itself he brought in pork sausage for the pizza, and Italian-style roast beef for the sandwiches, and generally upgraded everything else he could get his hands on. Forced to move in 1995, Yeats went on the road to San Mateo and set about creating his vision of a down-home but just slightly upscale pizza slash-barbecue joint.

Though in appearance Windy City is several degrees spiffier than your average rib 'n' pizza shack, there's nothing artsy or pretentious about the food Yeats' crew puts on your table. About as close to "cuisine" as it gets is a passable Caesar salad ($4.95), a big pile of crispy romaine dressed with a mild, creamy vinaigrette.

Everything else is as hearty and straightforward as a two-by-four to the appetite. First we took on a pair of deep-dish pies, 2-inch-thick monsters that range from $4.25 for a mini to $19.95 for a large, which should be enough to feed everyone on your block with leftovers for the next day.

One was a "Chicago special" - spinach, mushrooms and mozzarella and provolone cheeses. The other was eggplant Parmesan, which featured grilled eggplant, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms and a rich, tomatoey marinara sauce. Both were loaded down with good quality, fresh-tasting ingredients. Both had golden-brown, crispy-chewy, truly flavorful crusts - enough to give Yeats' competitors a rampant case of pizza envy.

If your tapeworm is still hungry, check out Windy City's stuffed pizza, the classic deep-dish number topped with another thin crust, then more cheese and more marinara. We tried one dubbed the "Boss Daley" (Remember "The police are not here to create disorder, they are here to preserve disorder"?) It practically overflowed with salami, pepperoni, sausage, onions, bell peppers and rivers of molten cheese; even the Boss Man himself would have approved.

With the pizza gone, it was time to dig into some serious 'cue. Cooked over white oak in a $20,000 smoker that can handle 900 pounds of meat at once, this is barbecue that can compete with the best the Bay Area has to offer. The sauce, applied only after the meat is done (!), is tomato-based, sweet and just a little bit tangy. I'd prefer a second sauce that boasts a bit more firepower, but right now it's one sauce fits all.

On the other hand, with ribs as good as Windy City's, you could slather them with ketchup straight from the bottle and still have something damn good to eat. Pork ribs ($7.95/four, $11.95/eight) are the real juicy, succulent, falling-off the-bone-tender deal. A thin crust seals in all their flavor while the lightly applied sauce accents their intense smokiness.

Brisket ($8.95), smoked 14 to 16 hours at 190° F, was almost as tender with lots of big 'n' beefy flavor. Beef ribs ($6.95/three; $9.50/five) were enormous, Neanderthal-looking things that were pretty good but neither as tender nor tasty as those fabulous pork ribs.

The biggest surprise was barbecued chicken ($6.50/half). Normally a 'cued bird is dry as Dennis Miller's sense of humor, but this one was moist, imbued with smoke and thoroughly delicious. You do have to get past the pink color of the meat, which actually indicates that it's been properly smoke-cooked, not dangerously under-done.

Just to run down the assortment of side dishes, which you car get in varying combination by ordering complete dinners instead of a la carte: Corn muffins are good but too sweet for me. Potato salad is old-fashioned American and very good. Baked beans are fine too, peppery and slightly soupy Cole slaw is adequate, but skip the mac & cheese unless you're a fan of tasteless yellow sludge.

If you value great pizza or barbecue, stop talking about 'em and get your appetite over to Bob Yeats' Windy City. It's a breath of smoky, savory, wickedly aromatic air.