Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Garces Trading

It's been too long, my friend. In the midst of a Neapolitan pizza revolution in Philly, I'd forgotten the companionship and comfort of that most deepest of dishes, Chicago style. Luckily for us, we don't have to catch a flight to Midway to get a taste of Gino's East or Lou Malnati's (though I can verify that the price of the ticket is well worth it). We can get something almost as good as the original right on Locust Street. 

With his Windy City roots, Chef Garces is baking up an incredibly close rendition of the Chicago legend at Garces Trading Co.  I offer the following words of advice: This will not be a quick meal. This will not be a light meal. You will not be able to finish the whole thing - unless you've got several hungry friends.  The pizza will take about an hour to cook, so bring plenty of wine to keep your whistle wet. In the meantime, there are plenty of amazing appetizers to keep you busy.

When you first walk in, you're greeted by the meat counter and the olive oil tasting bar. Don't be shy about helping yourself to some samples of the various oils & vinegars. You can take home a bottle of anything you like. The "house" olive oil served with their fresh bread is better than you're going to see on most tables in this city. A pinch of salt sprinkled ever so lightly over the oil sends your taste buds over the top like dough boys on the Somme. You could simply nosh on this till the pizza comes.  

But man cannot live on bread & olive oil alone. Well, you probably could but there is so much other good stuff to try. Do get yourself a cheese plate. You can order as many cheese as you like for $7 a piece, but the cheaper option is to go with chef's selection - $15 for 3.  We had a great Valdeon, which is a Spanish cheese that is pungent and bluer than Louis C. K.; a soft cow, goat & sheep's milk combo called Rocchetta that was out of this world; and a Tomme Crayeuse that was firmer and tasted a bit like smoked gouda. 

Complimentary Iberico ham for the FoodBaby? Thank you very much. Imported directly from Spain, I started getting flashbacks to Madrid and bar hopping through late night tapas joints. This is the real thing. Literally melting in your mouth with the most luscious, nutty flavor imaginable. This is why I get out of bed in the morning.  

A surprisingly good smoked trout appetizer with apples and fennel escabeche. I say surprisingly because even the wifey liked it - and she's not usually a trout fan. The smoke is not overwhelming, and the skin has a great crispiness to it. Slivers of charred fennel, marinated in vinegar, and slices of granny smith add a tart counterpoint to the delicious fish.

Ah, the main event. The deep dish. A proper thick, baked crust that holds it's vertical integrity. Thank god they cut it for you or you'd never be able to get a piece out. The side angle shot lends some cred to the magnitude of this thing. I also love the image of the cheese oozing out the side, seeking relief from the weight of the toppings above. If you plan on having more than two slices, you better wear your eating pants.  Give your pizza a few minutes to cool, and the slices should hold their form.  It's knife and fork time from here on out.

You've got a good selection of toppings to choose from - artichokes, peppers, bacon, chorizo & sausage can all be had. We went with spinach and mushroom and were not disappointed. The tomato "sauce" has an amazing depth of flavor to it - understandable since it's described on the menu as a confit made from San Marzanos. It's thick and chunky, not smooth or runny in the least bit. What seems like pounds of mozzarella and gruyere lurk at the bottom, on top of that perfect crunchy yet somehow still soft and chewy crust. Like viewing rock striations at a geological dig, each forkfull is a near perfect cross-section of pizza mountain.  

There is of course an entire menu of other options at Garces Trading - none of which will take an hour to make. And just about everything on the menu is worth coming in for. The deep dish is pretty stellar though, and worth your investment of time and $30. They serve wine now, but still let you BYO or utilize the in-house wine store to pick up something last minute. The cheese and meat counters are rivaled only by DiBruno's for their quality and selection. Take your time and sample some parma ham, truffled olive oil, or some funky French cheeses.  You really can't go wrong here.

Food Baby Rating:  Triplets!

Garces Trading Co.
1111 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107


  1. Been here before but never tried the deep dish; this is now on my To-Do list.... I miss Chicago pizza

    1. Let me know when. I'll meet you there!