Sunday night, I had pizza at Burt’s Place in Morton Grove, after calling in our order four days ahead of time, right down to the sizes and toppings and what time we’d arrive, because, if you don’t know this already, Burt’s is not just any place — it is a landmark, made famous largely by Saveur Magazine and Anthony Bourdain. It’s kind of understandable that such a place would have some rules — and Burt’s does. The biggest, most important rule is very simple, but it’s vital: you must call ahead.
I was there with my friend Jacqui; her fiance, Murdo; our blogging friend Whitney; and her boyfriend, Dave. We’d known about the rule (it’s recommended that you call days or sometimes weeks in advance), not just because Jacqui had been before but also through online reviews, which, by the time we met Sunday, it seemed most of us had read and, honestly, been a little intimidated by.
The rules are designed for a purpose — the deep-dish Chicago-style pizzas take a while to cook, and it makes everything more efficient if they can have your food ready when you arrive. Burt’s Place is small — a little brown building with the look of a two-flat, set at the end of a quiet, residential street, unassumingly, enough so that you almost wouldn’t notice it.
Inside, the decor is eclectic — dolls, vintage telephones, a few framed articles that have mentioned the restaurant. When I walked in (I was the first to arrive from our group), there was only one couple eating, and Burt — the Burt, who’d talked to me on the phone just a few days before — was out there in the dining area, standing by their table and joking around about fried chicken or something.
He headed back to the kitchen soon after, when the all-reserved tables started filling up, only popping out once or twice to bring some fresh pizzas or answer the phone while his wife, Sharon, was serving other customers (like us!). Beyond all the rules and the hype and the experience, though, let’s get to the most important thing: the pizza.
Despite what the very unfortunate above photo (dim lighting!) suggests, this pizza was excellent. Like, seriously excellent.
It’s classic deep dish, made in high-rimmed, heavy, black pans that allow for a substantial crust to form and caramelize not just on the bottom but all around the sides. I don’t know how they do it, but the crust is sturdy enough to hold in one hand, without its bending at all, yet not greasy in that way where you need a couple paper towels just to wipe up all the extra juice on your fingertips.
Personally, I also loved (LOVED) that this wasn’t a cheese pie — do you know what I mean? If you’re at all familiar with Chicago-style pizza, you know a lot of them are crust, several inches of cheese and then sauce and toppings.
The cheese on Burt’s, on the other hand, was just right. I got cheese but as a complement to all the fresh tomatoes, spinach and garlic on my slice.
And at the end of our meal, Sharon took the time to divide our leftovers equally into five paper bags because we were “such nice kids,” even though she was very busy, and that made me decide, if I hadn’t already liked her and Burt for their passion for what they’re doing and for being a beloved mom-and-pop restaurant that is going to do things their way, I had to like them after that. Go visit, and see if you don’t agree (just, seriously, call first! and bring cash!).
8541 Ferris Ave
Morton Grove, IL 60053
Phone Number: (847) 965-7997
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.