PORTAGE, MI — The owner of a modest pizzeria, Portage, points to her family’s pizza dough and sauce recipe as she explains why she’s so successful.
“The secret is in the sauce,” says Jennifer Taylor, owner of Chicago Style Pizza. “You won’t find a sauce close to ours anywhere around us.”
More spicy than sweet, a recipe invented by Taylor’s parents, Jack and Cindy, over 40 years ago, is locked away in Taylor’s house. And of those who work at Portage every day, only CEO Danny Durante, Taylor’s brother-in-law, knows the recipe.
“That’s what really sets us apart from other pizzerias in the area,” Taylor said. “This is the consistency of the dough. We’ve spent a lot of time perfecting the process and training the staff so they know what they’re doing when it comes to making dough.
“Consistency is very important to us so that people know what they are getting every time they come.”
A pizza shop located at 10420 Portage Road since September 1979, two years before the birth of Jennifer, the eldest of Jack and Cindy’s three daughters, slice by slice.
Jack and Cindy Taylor, who worked together as teenagers at a pizzeria in Oak Lawn, near Chicago, moved to Michigan when they were only 20 and 19 at the urging of Jack’s father, who had a cottage in the area. found there were no real pizza options in Chicago.
“There is a common misconception about what Chicago-style pizza is,” Durante said. “It’s not just a pizza with toppings. Chicago also has a lot of thin crust. They call it tavern style but it’s really thin, thinner than average (chain pizza). There is also a deep plate, pizza in a pan, similar to Detroit, but round. You put the cheese first, then the filling, then the sauce on top.”
Both the thin and deep pizzas offered at Chicago Style Pizza are cut for a party or square.
The filling, which is baked like a pie with two layers of dough, more filling in the middle, and then sauce and parmesan on top, is cut into a pie.
“There are a couple of other places in the area that have adopted stuffed dishes, but there’s still nothing quite like what we do, especially because of this sauce,” said Taylor, who, along with her two sisters, Jessica Maxime and Kaitlynn became the owner of the restaurant. Taylor in 2019, months before their father’s death.
All three daughters, despite still living in the area, have other full-time jobs, leaving husband Caitlin Taylor, who has a restaurant management degree from Michigan State University, to manage day-to-day operations.
In addition to the three types of pizza on offer, the restaurant also offers oven-baked starters, calzones, Rizzo bread — a special cheese bread named after 2016 Cubs World Series hero Anthony Rizzo — and Cubbies Sticks, a sweet cinnamon desert that, like Rizzo’s bread, is made from deep dough dish.
Located south of downtown Portage, delivery range is limited to Portage, Vicksburg, a bit of Schoolcraft and Scotts, but about 90% of the business is delivery, according to Durante. The small roadside pizzeria also has three stalls outside, which are popular in the summer for holidaymakers after the lake, he said.
The pizzeria is planning a massive renovation this fall that Jennifer Taylor says will give them more space, allowing them to add new equipment and expand the menu a bit.
Chicago Style Pizza is open for takeaway and delivery from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 2:00 pm to 8:30 pm on Sundays. During this time, the pizzeria is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. To order call 269-323-0807 or visit www.chicagostylepizza.net.
To celebrate the start of summer, the pizzeria will also be running a special promotion for all delivery orders made from the boat ramps from June 1-12: a free koozie, a floating boat keychain, and a full set of takeaway plates, napkins and plastic utensils. .
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