I’ve whined in the past about Cincinnati’s mediocre pizza offerings. Sure, there are some exceptions — Dewey’s springs to mind — but for the most part, nothing here wows me.
Uno’s pizza was something I used to look forward to when I visited my Chicago siblings, back before I discovered that there were other Chicagoonly indulgences I’d rather spend my caloric allowance on. Uno’s pies were a knife-and-fork experience, stuffed with a ton of salty cheese and savory pork sausage on a crust that was more pastry than dough. When Uno’s opened here, I got bored with it quickly, though. After an Uno’s frozen pie from the grocery store, I decided I’d had enough.
So, would Chi-nnati, a new Cincinnati-Chicago hybrid, become my new pizza Mecca? I went with an open mind and two dining companions, including a bicycle racer with a youth-fueled appetite for carbs.
Chi-nnati’s east of I-71, in the Kenwood Towne Centre area. It’s not a small space — the ceilings are high enough to play basketball, and there’s an under-utilized bar area. For now, it’s got a good selection of beer and a lot of wine from which to choose. (More on that in a moment.)
We started with a couple pints of Goose Island 312, named after Chicago’s telephone area code, and perused the appetizer menu.
There was Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil ($5.95) that sounded pretty good, but with pizzas on the way we decided to forgo the bread base and try the Da Calamari ($8.95).
The menu and the servers at Chi-natti’s warn diners that the pizzas aren’t fast, so we thought we’d better put in our order promptly for a small thin crust Let’s Veg ($12.95) and a medium deep-dish All-In ($20.95) just to give each crust style a try. I thought it might be fun to give the Chicago-style Chi-nnati’s Hot Dog ($3.95) a twirl, too.
A platter of calamari arrived quickly, nice and hot, and
offered plenty for the three of us to share. It was impressively tender
and tasty, but the marinara dipping sauce — described on the menu as
“zesty” — was notably bland and would have been much better with a
little pepper for depth.
As the wet, flimsy bev-naps dissolved under our empty beer glasses and we waited for the pizza to appear, we decided to venture into the wine list, where some Italian reds sounded interesting — the Savuto blend ($8), Cecchi Chianti ($7) and Foppiano ($6). I’m far and away not a wine snob, but of the three glasses, the Chianti was the best — and it needed to breathe for a good 20 minutes before it was drinkable.
I’m happy to report that the Chicago hot dog was a hit. The beefy dog, authentically topped with hot peppers, a pickle, chopped onions and celery salt, was accompanied by a side of homemade coleslaw. I also saw an Italian Beef sandwich ($7.45) go by the table that was stuffed with roast beef and looked pretty decent.
The pizza? I wasn’t wowed. Something as simple as salt and a drizzle of olive oil might have perked up the crust. It was definitely crisp, but bland, on both the thin and deep dish pies. The veggies on the thin crust pizza were assertive, especially the onions and the garlic (an additional $1 topping), but this is not a cheese-lovers’ pie. While the sausage was good on the deep-dish pie, it was orphaned (like the pepperoni, mushroom and cheese) under an abundance of chopped tomatoes. I’m sure that made for a healthier pie than the fat-bombs of my Windy City memories, but it certainly wasn’t as satisfying.
We had better luck with the desserts — a rich but not-too-sweet Flourless Chocolate Cake dusted with cocoa ($5.95) and the gently flavored Tiramisu ($4.95). Chi-nnati’s also offers Gelato ($3.95), which our server told us is from Kansas City, which is neither Chicago nor Rome. Perhaps a hybrid of the two?
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