Monday, August 8, 2011

Charlotte's Pizza - Barrington, IL

For many years, people have reminsced about the delicious thin crust of Charlotte's Pizza in Barrington, IL.  Having grown up in Barrington, there is not a pizza memory that I have that didn't include my family and Charlotte's Pizza.

To this day, I still remember going there my father, and sitting at the bar or one of the tables while we waited for our pizza to take home, or to dine in.  I can remember everything from the Whistle Orange Soda, to the Leinenkugel's that I was too young to drink.

I can remember Mr. Jim Pal's behind the bar, and how friendly he was.  And I can remember the time the cheese slid off our pizza, and onto my mom's thigh.  To this day, she still has that scar from the hot cheese burning her leg.

But most of all, I remember the pizza.  The crust was super thin, the sauce was one of a kind, the sausage was as good as it gets, and all in all, it is still the best pizza I have ever had.  
That being said, do you have any memories of Charlotte's you would like to share?  If so, take a moment and leave a comment.   In doing some research, I found the following article, and have cut and pasted it below.  I did not author this article, and cannot take credit for it, but I would still like to share.  This is definitely a piece of my childhood!  Cheers! 

The following story courtesy of:

My family was friends with Herman and Charlotte Pals, the owners of Charlotte's for many years. The earliest I remember going to Charlotte's was in 1953. It was just a bar then, located in an old wooden building on C&NW property between the railroad tracks and Route14 (Northwest Highway) at the intersection of Ela Road and Rte 14.

Charlotte decided she wanted to start selling food to their customers.  Herman agreed. Originally she just had sandwiches and hamburgers served with chips. The "kitchen" was a small storage area off to the left of the bar.

Soon, they were approached by a man (never knew his name) with the idea of serving a new item that was sure to catch on - pizza. From what I remember it was his recipe, but I can not guarantee this information. A two shelf oven was placed in this small storage area against the wall parallel to Rte. 14.

And thus began Charlotte's Pizza. About a year later the man moved on. The pizza became such a big seller, with people calling in orders after football and basketball games on the weekends that the wait time could sometimes run close to an hour.

Herman and Charlotte had three children, Richard, Mary Ann and Jim.  When the pizza business began to grow Charlotte had Jim and Mary Ann help her in the kitchen. The kitchen was expanded to handle the growing pizza business. Herman died during this time and the oldest son, Richard, took over running the bar. The pizza business was so large that they had to quit taking phone orders for a while.

Since the business was growing rapidly they wanted to renovate and expand the building. However, they were told that if they tore down the building they would not be allowed to rebuild in that location as it was railroad property. So they built a new, larger outer shell of brick around the old building. Once those walls and roof were up they tore down the old building and re- did the inside. (My dad purchased the old bar. It was located in our basement for 15 or more years until it finally fell apart.)

The bar now became a horseshoe shaped bar with turquoise leather. There were tables and booths off to the right and the kitchen was expanded again. The last time I remember there were two large ovens each with 6 or 8 rotating shelves. And, they were able to take phone orders again.  Mary Ann continued to work the pizza area but now had employees to supervise.

As with everyone else, my family misses Charlotte's. To me it was the cheese that was used that made the pizza so unique. If you ever had a chance to watch the pizzas being made you would have noticed that instead of a grated cheese it looked more like an extruded cheese - looking more like a macaroni shape. IF you were a friend, Charlotte would put a little butter on the top of the pizza for the last 5 minutes to brown the cheese.

When we came home one summer and found it closed we felt a big chunk of Barrington/Palatine history was gone for good. I was very happy to hear about the Sammy Pizza and am looking forward to trying it the next time I am in the area.

Hope this helps to clear up some of the early history.

Lu Ann Tague (nee Kerin)
Erie, IL

  This picture is from: who claims to have a picture similar to that of Charlotte's.  Although the crust looks a bit thicker, this could very well be the closest thing I have ever seen to Charlotte's so many years later! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

2009 Congruence 2009 Congruence Zinfandel (USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley) County, Dry Creek Valley)

Everything I love in a zin, without the over extracted jamminess! Gorgeous ruby red garnet color in the glass, and a nice fruity nose of strawberry, cherry, and other red fruits.  There are also some nice spice elements of black pepper, and tobacco leaf rounding out the nose.  

On the palate, the red fruits seem to be the shining star here.  This is not your typical in your face zin.  This is elegant, much lighter than I expected it to be, with perfect balance.  Some more red fruits on the palata, similar to the nose, with some raspberry, and just a hint of clove and charcoal perhaps.  If I remember correctly, there is just a splash of Petit Sirah added to this, which I think adds some nice structure and minerality to this wine. 

Nice elegant finish, and drinking well from the get go.  All in all, this is a well made zin, in my opinion made in the style of something from Ridge.  Drink over the next 5 years, but no reason not to pop and pour one of these bad boys now.  Amazing from the get go! Great job Steve!