A walk down memory lane: A taste of 1996 pizza

A walk down memory lane: A taste of 1996 pizza

A Taste of 1996 at Chicago, The Pizza Place Chicago, Sarit Centre, Food Court. Photo | Maryanne Owiti

I had pizza for the first time in 1996, from Chicago Pizza on the first floor of Sarit Centre where Haria’s Outfitters now stands. I remember it vividly because every pizza I’ve had after that has been compared to that Meatlovers Supreme slice still embedded in my taste buds twenty-five years later. It’s like your first kiss. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve had after, the first always stays with you. So, I was giddy with excitement to learn that there is once again a Chicago Pizza in Sarit Centre, this time in the second-floor food court.

The reviews I’d read online were mixed at best, discouraging at worst but not enough to override the powerful pull of nostalgia. Again, it’s like meeting your first crush after a long time. Even though you’ve moved on, you still want to know how they are doing. The differences are immediately obvious; the font of the signage is different and it shares a kitchen with an Indian cuisine restaurant. The Chicago Pizza I knew only served pizza. Despite the sinking feeling I get that this might not be the same pizza from my childhood, I still place my order for a small Bacon and Mushroom Pizza. The wait staff are friendly and inform me that my order may take a while.  It takes thirty minutes and I’m can’t complain because the smell takes me back. I take the first bite and it’s 1996. I am stunned because it tastes the same. A lot may have changed but the special blend of base ingredients is the same recipe from all those years ago.

The dough tastes artisanal – billowy soft crust with crispy edges for a chewy, crackly texture. The restaurant boasts of ‘making exceedingly good pizzas using only the freshest ingredients’ and you can definitely taste the freshness in the mushrooms. The bacon is Canadian which is leaner and meatier than the fattier American or British bacon. While less greasy, the pizza is no less decadent when combined with stretchy cheese.

There are eight vegetarian and ten non-vegetarian combinations to choose from including a tandoori chicken option which is popular. You can have these in the deep-dish Chicago style (I ordered my pizza in the Chicago style) or the original thin crust in the Italian style. The presentation can be better – the paper plate is more suited for a food truck set-up at an outdoor festival than a mall food court – but if it’s a walk down memory lane you’re after or maybe you want a taste of what 1996 was like, Chicago Pizza Place is the time machine you want.

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