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Thin crust shines at Chicago-style pizzeria

January 31, 2017 GMT

When it comes to pizza, I usually agree with the legendary Mel Brooks, who said, “Sex is like pizza, even when it’s bad, it’s good.”

There are hardly any pizzas I wouldn’t take a slice of if you offered me one. That is until I visited Rosati’s in Jefferson Pointe.

When I tell you the crispy, thin-crust pizza was the best pizza at this chain best known for its Chicago-style, deep-dish pies, that should tell you a lot. But I have a lot more to tell, including some examples of management ineptitude that had me flummoxed to think of a place with worse service.

Let me tell you some of the good first.

My thin-crust Godfather pie, which was topped with Italian sausage, fresh garlic, onions and hot giardiniera was quite tasty. The crust crunched like a cracker, the pickled mix of vegetables gave it a punch of flavor and there was plenty of sausage. If you love giardiniera, you will love this pie.

I had half of it without the spicy pickled stuff, and liked it even more as the roasted garlic was more pronounced. I would order this pizza this way every time because it gave me the best of both worlds.

My thin White Pizza was also good, but it was not supposed to be thin. I asked for it with the double-dough crust – a slightly thicker crust with a hand-rolled edge. My server admitted her mistake and offered to cut me a break on the bill, but the pizza was so good that I declined.

This pizza had olive oil instead of red sauce, fresh garlic, sauteed spinach and fresh tomato slices. It was exactly what I expected and though this thin crust was not as crunchy as the Godfather, it was still acceptable.

The Chicago-style was not acceptable in any way. And I would turn it down if you offered me a slice.

It had a dreadfully soggy bottom crust – so soggy the thick layer of cheese actually had more texture. The chunky pomodoro sauce on top was also horribly salty, which added to its awfulness.

The pizza was served on a dimpled silicone tray that was full of greasy and watery runoff from the poorly reduced sauce, which is probably why that crust was so soggy.

Rosati’s does not cook its deep-dish in a deep dish or pan at all, I was told by my server. She said the restaurant uses conveyor ovens instead of high-heat deck ovens. Had I known that before I ordered, I doubt I would have even dared try a Chicago pie there in the first place.

It is also worth noting that I was warned that I would have to wait about 40 minutes for a Chicago pizza, and it, indeed, took that long. However, I was not warned of a wait when I ordered the thin pies and they, too, took 40 minutes to arrive.

The rest of the food was mediocre:

* Dough Nuggets – I received a huge order of these nicely browned, tender, Parmesan- and herb-dusted beauties that were sitting in a pool of butter. Easily the best appetizer.

* Chicken wings – They were pretty big, and the Parmesan-garlic seemed a bit crispier than the standard Buffalo.

* Turtle Cookie Dough Fudge Brownie – This dessert had a dense thin brownie topped with a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough with layers of caramel and chopped pecans on top. I would have it again.

* Side salad – Dreadfully plain with an iceberg-heavy mix of iceberg and romaine lettuce and few onions and grape tomatoes and shaved Parmesan.

* Penne and Grilled Chicken a la Vodka – It had a creamy sauce I liked with a fair amount of tender chicken, but no better than what I could get at a quick-service Italian restaurant for much less money.

* The Cheef sandwich – It had a generous amount of tender, juicy, thin-sliced Italian beef, but that beef had no seasoning or flavor. I had it with sweet peppers and giardiniera, and they were the only thing I could taste. The au jus was also flavorless.

There also was no real atmosphere to speak of at Rosati’s. It is nice inside, but has no character. It has standard wooden walls, a big stainless steel bar, black exposed ceiling and matching tile floor that screams turnkey business, which is what this spot in Jefferson Pointe has become over the years.

And then there was that service, or lack thereof.

During one visit, when there were only a few parties in the place and a number of empty tables, I was asked to wait 15 minutes or so while a table was cleared. That special table they cleared for me was next to the kitchen door with all of the noise coming from it. I then asked to be moved and was obliged … right to one of the tables that was empty as soon as I walked in the door.

During another visit on a busy weekend when the place was packed, there was a large booth and a four-top table open when I submitted my name. I was then told I would have to wait about 35 minutes to be seated. I pointed to the empty tables and asked why I could not be seated there. I was told the servers were overwhelmed and could not handle waiting on me.

I requested a manager and asked if my party could at least be seated with the understanding we would face a wait. Again, I was refused. He would rather we stand.

During each visit, Rosati’s seemed overwhelmed and the service suffered. My servers made sure to tell me as soon as they came to my table how understaffed they were and how bad a day they were having.

I guess they hadn’t been given a chance to sit down either.

Restaurant: Rosati’s

Address: 4240 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Phone: 209-3979

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: Pizza

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Wings ($8.49 for 6; $14.99 for 12), Dough Nuggets ($7.99), garlic bread ($4.99), mozzarella sticks ($6.99), Chopped Salad ($9.99), Penne a la Vodka ($10.95), Cheef ($9.99), Chicago pies ($14.99 and $2 per topping for 10-inch; $19.99 and $2.50 per topping for 14-inch), specialty pizzas ($17.99 for 12-inch; $20.99 for 14-inch; $24.99 for 16-inch; $28.99 for 18-inch), brownie ($5.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.