PILSEN — Chef Matt Wilde wanted to open a shop that would stand out — so he turned to an unexpected ingredient for his dough: Old Style beer.
The combination of beer, 00 flour, active yeast and a secret spice blend makes for Wilde’s “Pilsen-style” pizza, a cross between New York style and Sicilian that is foldable but has a bread-quality, Wilde said. Old Style was a great choice of beer in the dough because it doesn’t give too much flavor that would disrupt the pizza itself, he said.
The concoction has proved popular since Wilde opened Bob’s Pizza at 1659 W. 21st St. in 2019. He’s added two more locations and has an eye toward more spots.
“It’s still a yeasted dough, but we cold ferment with that carbonation of the lager,” Wilde said. “It’s just crazy how they all work together. It took a long time to keep it under control.”
Wilde, originally from Minneapolis, said he opened his first Bob’s location after working primarily in fine dining. It’s named after one of his business partners.
“I never really saw myself making pizza or being in a kitchen that wasn’t fine dining,” Wilde said. “If we were going to do pizza, I wanted to do something different, and the integrity had to be pretty high.”
After finding success with the Pilsen location, Wilde opened Bob’s Pizza in Old Town, 1512 N. LaSalle Dr., in June 2020, and another in suburban Evanston at 616 Davis St. in March. A West Loop location has temporarily closed during the pandemic.
At each location, customers can grab 16-inch pizzas with toppings that range from classic to unusual.
Pickle pizza “is our most eaten pizza by far,” Wilde said. “People have come from out of state for it.”
The Pickle Pizza ($22) features a garlic cream base, slices of Mortadella, Wilde’s signature cheese blend, dill pickles and fresh dill.
Other pies include the Spinach Pesto & Stracciatella Pizza ($22) topped with prosciutto, sun-dried tomato and baby arugula, and the Wild Mushroom Pizza ($22) with onions, cheese and white balsamic.
Wilde wanted something special to set his pepperoni and sausage pizzas apart, too. His classic pepperoni comes with whole basil leaves, while the sausage pizza includes pickled onions.
Wilde said every pizza is sprinkled with sea salt, herbs and black pepper.
“I always like to say one of the things that really separates our pizza from the next is when our pizza comes out of the oven, we garnish the pizza just like you would on the front line of a fine-dining kitchen,” Wilde said.
In addition to the specialty pizzas, customers can grab a special March Madness-themed pizza at all Bob’s Pizza locations through April 10.
The Heat Check Pizza features a classic tomato sauce with spicy sliced beef, pickled habanero peppers, basil, garlic, lime crema and a cheese blend.
Wilde said he’s eyeing neighborhoods to find a fifth home for Bob’s Pizza, but he hasn’t settled on anything yet.
In the meantime, Wilde will participate in Steve Dolinsky’s Chicago Pizza Festival, which will feature different styles of pizza from across the city July 23-24.
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: