If you’re reading this, I know I don’t need to tell you about real Chicago pizza, because you’re probably one of my fellow Lake County residents, and we know our pizza. Thin, deep, Chicago-style, saucy, meat-lovers, drool.
With so many pizza options in the Chicago Area, I wanted to introduce you to Antioch Pizza Shop as they celebrate 40 full years in Lake County this summer! Wayne McManus and a partner started out in 1977 as a small shop with a few parking spaces and a pick-up window serving the finest pizza around. Around 2000, they added dine-in and delivery to really expand their offerings and experience.
Art and Karen Wicklein purchased Antioch Pizza Shop in 2008, and have worked to make it the wonderful shop that it is today by expanding to some outdoor seating and still offering Barq’s Red Cream Soda — one of the few places that has it — while still using the same recipes from 1977.
The menu is extensive and so delicious! I say this with such certainty because the deep dish pizza has been a go-to for our family for years, and the generous owners let us sample most of the menu recently. We loved everything so much, we came back a few weeks later and grabbed more delicious goodies when I was in the area. (They even catered an event for Little Lake County; it was well-planned, satisfyingly delicious and included everything we needed.)
Fresh ingredients, including Chicago-made sausage, bring Antioch Pizza Shop to the top in the area for quality and flavor. Their truly unique flavors are fun and draw crowds. Tuesday’s Stuffed Pizza night is an incredibly busy night, and the pizza we tried — Bacon Cheeseburger — was delicious.
Antioch Pizza Shop offers daily pizza deals, two slices and a drink for $5, so we grabbed their special ‘The Western’ topped with BBQ sauce, sausage onion, bacon cheddar and mozzarella. Their bacon is no joke, it is so thick and flavorful that I just want a side of that, please.
Since our family arrived after a busy day and we were very hungry, we placed an order for an appetizer sampler and cheese curds right away. My kids bounced around waiting and enjoying drinks from the soda fountain. The red cream soda happens to be our favorite and we’re so glad to know of a place that has it!
My son was “being a kid” the day we visited, and insisted on eating a hot dog for dinner instead of pizza… seriously? He gobbled that up and we all swiped fries here and there. They were thin and crispy, but not matchstick thin, potato-y but mild enough that we all stole the fries while we waited. This place knows how to fry stuff. They also offer other sandwiches such as Italian beef and burgers.
It wasn’t long before we got the package of battered goodness of appetizer samplers out of the kitchen. The batter on each item was so smooth, fried to the perfect crunch, and it didn’t cut the roof of my mouth. I really, truly could not say enough times how much I loved the texture of these onion rings, mozzarella sticks, mushrooms, zucchini and jalapeno poppers. I don’t normally try “other” food at pizza places, so this was such a fantastic surprise.
A short while later, our pizza came out. It was more of a double-dough style with one-half bacon cheeseburger and one-half pepperoni toppings. The topping to crust ratio was spot on, but I think I’m more of a “sausage girl” than “cheeseburger.”
My favorite type of pizza is deep dish, and Antioch Pizza knows what it is doing. I love the extra saucy, almost juicy-deep dish pizza. The crust is the perfect combination of buttery taste and doughy texture. I sort of consider myself a pizza pro, as I’ve had it once a week for my entire life, what can I say? Pizza brings my family together.
After dinner, Karen suggested we grab dessert: cookies, cannoli, ice cream, shakes or malts were on the menu. I love ice cream, especially when it is topped with chocolate and peanut butter. I let my husband choose the ice cream, and he went for plain vanilla…. boring! I wish that I could just scoop it up and give you a bowl right now. Maybe it was the perfect temperature that made it so amazing, and I mean that in all seriousness despite how ridiculous it sounds. Scoopable but so soft, creamy and rich, yet not too thick.
However, the staff at Antioch Pizza Shop prides itself on amazing hand-dipped shakes and malts so we had to try one. We’d been in the restaurant for awhile at this point so I felt like we knew the staff — lots of college kids and maybe a few high schoolers, so we asked for the their best recommendation and landed on something I’d never typically try — a peanut butter and jelly shake. And yes, it tastes just like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Next time I got for a treat, I’m getting a chocolate peanut butter shake because I can already imagine how perfect it will be based on the PB&J flavor!
It is no surprise that Antioch Pizza Shop has franchised and opened another location in Lindenhurst (which is far too close to my home and easy to access). The climate of the shops are upbeat, inviting and full of people ready to serve. Karen and Art give back to the community through fundraisers and volunteer work, and they lead their crew by serving first. It was fun to watch the interaction behind the counter. You could tell that the employees really enjoy being a part of the team at Antioch Pizza Shop.
They also have fun throughout the year by serving teachers a free slice of pizza for Teacher Appreciation week, offering heart shaped pizzas year round (with lettering, even!), and having Santa deliver pizza on Christmas Eve. Karen and Art are passionate about their business and it shows through everything we experienced at Antioch Pizza Shop.
What is your favorite thing to order at Antioch Pizza Shop? Let us know in the comments section.
Disclosure: Antioch Pizza Shop provided the writers’ family a complimentary meal to facilitate this review, all thoughts and opinions are the writer’s own. Antioch Pizza Shop graciously provided catering services for the Little Lake County Annual Meeting.