It takes a good amount of courage to open up a Cali-cool restaurant called Pacific Standard Time in the heart of downtown Chicago. “Import” restaurants typically go coast-to-coast or hit up Miami or Vegas, and the ones that stop here typically don’t last. Even the hospitality master himself had a hard time.
But PST isn’t actually a California import. It’s produced by some of the biggest names in Chicago dining and it’s scooping up best new restaurant awards and landing on all the hot lists. Forza to you, PST… but that don’t mean you can embarrass me in front of my friends.
Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if they didn’t have pizza - three of them to be exact:
There were two of us, so we ordered two pizzas – the Margherita and the Mushroom.
The pizzas arrive together, but I immediately notice the margherita and these little white squares scattered on top. So I poked it to get a good look.
“What is that?” my buddy asks.
“I guess…it must be…it’s a margherita so…cheese like a pecorino maybe, but cut in squares? Kinda weird though, there’s also red peppers on top…” I say with a total sideways look.
I grabbed a white square off the pizza and popped it into my mouth to continue the investigation. This was definitely not cheese. It was firm, crisp, and had a little sour taste to it.
“What the hell?” I say puzzled. “We ordered a margherita didn’t we?”
“Ha, I guess, you ordered, I don’t know,” my buddy says giggling at his friend, the supposed pizza guy.
Now, for the first time ever, I grab a menu and read the fine print to confirm what’s on a “margherita” pizza. Sure enough, preserved giardinera, casually listed below the tomato and mozzarella.
Sure I am disappointed now, but I still have no clue what these Cali bros put on my margherita. I’m confused, my buddy's amused. I don’t even have a guess on this pickled white chunk… Cauliflower? Onion? I asked the waitress next time around and guess what she tells me…
“That’s pickled kohlrabi,” she says nicely. My face into a half-smile as I mouthed the two words back to her. She walked away.
PICKLED KOHLRABI!? PICKLED KOHLRABI… ON MY MARGHERITA?! BRO!
Never in a million. I can’t think of a more unrelated food for a margherita-named pizza than PICKLED KOHLRABI… PICKLED KOHLRABI.
I’ll avoid therapy…barely…but this whole debacle tore me up (yes, these are the types of things that tear me up). I was shocked, confused, and embarrassed, but now I’m just upset. This isn’t cool, it’s wrong. You wanna put a pickled veggie pizza on your menu then do it. No problem from me whatsoever. But don’t call it a margherita. It’s not a margherita. I don’t believe in strict pizza rules - put whatever you want on a pizza if you like it - but the word MARGHERITA has meaning and it's earned its title. If you order a Caesar salad it shouldn’t show up to your table with sausage in it, for example. I don’t care what the menu says.
I get the whole Cali-cool theme of this place – the chill, push-the-envelope, comfortable vibe is very clear. It’s cool. I mean, right next to the red pepper and grated cheese is a side of ranch that comes to the table with every pizza. Another bold and awesome move. I slathered it all over my slices with no shame at all. Who cares? If you like ranch (or pineapple) on your pizza, then put it on your pizza. If you like pickled kohlrabi same thing. If you don’t, then we don’t have to fight. We don't have the same mouth.
Taste is subjective. What’s on a Margherita is not. It's tomato, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, grated hard cheese (i.e. parmigiana, pecorino). That's it. Somebody call the pizza police.