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October 17, 2008

The Gadabout—October 17, 2008

The economy is tanking. Last year it snowed in October. Sarah Palin just winked at you on TV. You need comfort in these trying times. You need a slice of Piece.

An award-winning pizzeria and microbrewery, Piece embodies the college-student soul all grown-up. The restaurant began in a converted garage—­a fact immediately apparent when you see its wide, lofty spaces, exposed wood rafters, and skylight. The slick décor of polished black furniture and bar stools perfectly mirrors the trendy twenty something character of North Avenue a few blocks from Wicker Park. More than 10 42-inch plasma TVs, usually tuned to Chicago sports, span the vast bar. If you remain unconvinced, there’s always Saturday night live-band karaoke or the annual Halloween costume party.

Piece’s pizza, strictly New Haven–style, arrives on huge cookie sheets primed for easy devouring. Quick refresher: New Haven means floppy and irregular, with a thin crust that’s oven-baked crackly on the outside and marvelously chewy on the inside. Hewing closely to tradition, Piece offers three basic styles. “Red” harkens back to classic American pizza, with just tomato sauce and mozzarella. “White,” unsurprisingly, lacks the sauce of “Red” and makes up for it with olive oil and garlic. Piece’s “Plain” pizza, described as “truly New Haven,” incorporates the red sauce, garlic, olive oil and parmesan but leaves out mozzarella.

We ultimately decided to hatch our own “legendary” version, referred to for posterity’s sake as the Extra Special Amazing Gadabout style. Our hybrid pizza alternated between mozzarella and parmesan like a Prius alternates between gas and electric, immediately catapulting to the top of our Chicago Pizza rankings. To take a page out of our playbook, order a “Plain” with mozzarella, ricotta, and onion. We admit, at some point, sausage may have been applied with the gusto of an environmentalist at an E85 pump.

Piece may have won over our stomachs with its pizza, but it won over our minds (and livers) with its witty, critically acclaimed beer selection. Worryin’ Ale (rye beer), Full Frontal Pale Ale (American-style pale ale) and Dark-and-Curvy Dunkelweizen (German-style wheat ale) are just a few of the beers on tap. Piece also sells its brews in half-gallon growler bottles—think of it as a beer “take-out” option. Rotating seasonal beers also come complete with their own name and personality. We sampled Baron von Awesome, an unfiltered wheat ale, over the summer and a special Oktoberfest brew more recently. Strangely enough, we can’t seem to recall its name….

The lively, collegial atmosphere and genius combination of pizza- and beer-making help Piece deliver a satisfyingly whole package capable of rousing your spirits when the gloom of the nation or the doom of school gets you down. With apologies to John Lennon, all we are saying is give Piece a chance.