Albano’s Pizzeria, Cicero/Lyons, Ill.
As my college friends can attest to, I’m a pretty frugal guy. While they were buying drinks and going to bars each weekend, my wallet was known as the place dollars go to never be seen again because of how rarely they saw me buy anything.
I’ve gotten a little better at that since then, but with that reputation, it follows that I love a good deal, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than at Albano’s, known for what it labels as the nation’s largest pizza puff. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, but what I do know is that it’s located in the Chicago suburbs, it checked in at No. 8 on the Chowdown Countdown and it’s totally worth a visit.
For those who don’t know, a pizza puff is a Chicago version of the calzone, piled with toppings, cheese and sauce and cooked inside the dough. However, the difference between your standard calzone and a pizza puff is that the pizza puff is fried rather than baked, which is almost certainly less healthy but certainly not less tasty. In fact, as usually happens when you fry something, this is really excellent.
Besides being really excellent, it’s really huge. As I said, I have no idea whether or not these are actually the largest pizza puffs in the country, but if they aren’t, they’re darn close. Albano’s pizza puffs are the size of a football, as they really load on whatever toppings you ask for. On my visit with my wonderful lady Amy McFann, we went with chicken, mushrooms, olives, spinach and ricotta to pair with the sauce and mozzarella that come standard. Each bite was filled with a great mix of all of those toppings.
Notice I said we there, as in we split one. This is the way you’re supposed to have the pizza puff. They are so large that the picture at the top of this blog is half of a pizza puff. Yes, half of this takes up a full dinner plate. These are not made for one person to eat. We actually had some left over after splitting it. This is how it looks before you split one. This one is baked, which we had on a second visit.
Surprisingly, though, while it isn’t made for one person, it’s priced for one person, which is the great deal I referenced at the start of the blog and why I brought up my legendary cheapskate ways. The standard pizza puff is seven dollars, with each topping costing you 75 cents. With beverages, dinner for two or more people costs less than $15. If you can get multiple people to agree on the toppings, this might very well be the best deal in Chicagoland.
Beyond the pizza puff, Albano’s serves everything you’d expect at an Italian restaurant, with pasta, pizza, soups, salads and sandwiches dotting its menu. I can definitely recommend the pizzas whether you get standard or deep-dish, having tasted the quality of the ingredients in the pizza puff.
That said, unless you just don’t like calzones (since you can order baked as a regular calzone), I can recommend the pizza, but I won’t because of the greatness that is the pizza puff. That’s the reason you come to Albano’s: a unique, high-quality meal at a very low price. When you have that, that’s really all you need.
Time to go: Lunch/dinner. The pizza puff is great eating for either meal, and Albano’s is open seven days a week.
Wait during my visit: None. Even though it’s Chicagoland, it’s the land part of Chicagoland, which means the restaurant traffic isn’t usually bad. Things could be a bit worse at the Cicero location, which is a little closer to Chicago proper than Lyons.
Location: Albano’s offers two locations, one at 8699 W. Ogden Avenue in Lyons, Ill., and the other at 5913 W. Roosevelt Road in Cicero, Ill.
Parking: It’s available right in front of the restaurant.
Cost: Very wallet-friendly. Most entrees are under $15, with the pizza puff at $7 and yielding at least two meals.
Website: Albano’s Pizzeria
Signature items: Pizza puff