Quite some time ago I drove up to Cicero at lunchtime, hoping to score some pizza at Cicero Country Pizza (on Route 11, just south of Route 31). What I didn’t know was that CCP isn’t open for lunch Monday – Wednesday. Fast forward many months to the first nice day after our monsoon season, and our office gang successfully made the trek to Cicero Country Pizza. There are two large dining rooms with capacity for around 100 people total – although it was pretty empty when we arrived. As near as I can tell, delivery is not offered (it isn’t mentioned on the menu); this is basically an eat-in and takeout operation.
We ordered a 12″ half cheese, half pepperoni, and a 16″ with sausage, peppers and mushrooms. They were delivered to the table on stands after about 15 minutes. The crust on these pizzas was about 1/4″ thin in the middle, gradually thickening to about 1/2″ near the edge, with a big, poofy thick rim. The texture was generally soft, while at the same time having a thin crisp layer on the outside. It seemed to me that the gluten level was probably a little lower than I sometimes see, because the crust had an easier chew and could be bitten off easily. Interior structure looked really good, with evidence of a good rise and careful handling that didn’t deflate the dough during prep. I can’t be sure, but my impression was that this was “same day” dough, probably mixed that morning. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just an observation. Dough that has risen, or fermented slowly overnight usually has a different, more complex texture and browning characteristics, whereas same day dough has a little different taste. Either way, the result here was pretty good. My only real suggestion for improvement would be a little more baking time to brown it and crisp it just a little more.
The sauce was a welcome surprise, at least on the 12″ pizza. It was plentiful, bright red, very fresh tasting and mildly spiced, with no rough edges. I don’t have a single complaint about this sauce; it is pretty much what I think of when I conjure up an image of the perfect sauce. On the other hand, the sauce on the 16″ pizza (with sausage, peppers and mushrooms) was rather bland. One of the other guys at the table pointed this out also. I went back and forth between pieces of the two pies, again and again, and had to conclude that indeed, something was different about the sauce on the two! Either there were two different batches of sauce used (seems unlikely), or something about the toppings on the 16″ had a mysterious chemical reaction with the sauce to neutralize the flavor. The cheese was quite good – soft, white, not burned, not oily - although a little prone to sliding off in big sheets. The toppings were very good, although the mushrooms were canned.
Overall, this pizza worked pretty well, with relatively minor problems. I guess we’ll never know why the sauce could seem so different on the two pizzas. Please excuse me for spending so much time talking about that, because I don’t want to distract from the fact that this pizza had a lot going for it. The all-important first bite impression was very good, with a very tasty, fresh character coming through. It comes so close to being 4.5, but the others at the table concurred that it didn’t quite make it. Fresh mushrooms might have pushed it higher, a little more baking time for the crust might have pushed it higher, and better sauce taste on the larger pizza would have helped too. As it is, at a Pizza Geek rating of 4 out of 5 slices, I can recommend Cicero Country Pizza and its large, family-friendly dining areas as a good stop on your pizza tour.
Summary – Pros: excellent sauce, good crust and cheese. Cons: canned mushrooms.
What do YOU think? Have you tried Cicero Country Pizza? How was it? Click the comment link below and tell us about it!