This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

This past January, officials with the Dallas-based Pizza Patron chain enraged the John & Ken Nation by announcing they would accept pesos in lieu of dollars. An expected onslaught of racist e-mail and calls ensued, but Pizza Patron didn't back down; indeed, the pie purveyors announced the promotion was a success and would continue.

I don't hate Mexicans, so I imagine the bigger affront for opponents of the pizza-for-pesos proposal wasn't Patron's acceptance of foreign currency on American soil (many Mexican restaurants have done this for decades) so much as that the sponsoring business was a pizzeria—and one catering mostly to Latinos, at that. The thought that Mexicans could enjoy that most American of ethnic meals surely keeps Barbara Coe awake at night.

Deal with it, Babs. Investors are pouring dinero into Latino-themed pizzerias to grab a slice of the peso pie. Some chains, like La Pizza Loca, offer Mexican-specific selections topped with chorizo, Mexican cheese and carne asada. But most Mexican pizzerias fall along the lines of CHICAGO PIZZA, a small SanTana restaurant with five tables and a massive kitchen that takes up about 75 percent of the already crowded space.

If there's any type of pizza that seems natural for Mexican production, it's this Midwestern variety. The Second City is home to the second-largest Mexican community in the country, and the second-largest Mexican consulate serves the Midwest from there. Chicago has sparked many Mexican trends, from the klezmer-esque music genre pasito duranguense to the amnesty marches that gripped America last year. This is a city that even created its own type of tamale, for chrissakes.

But there's nothing Mexican about Chicago Pizza. Sure, the sports pictures are of the Chivas de Guadalajara soccer club, norteño music hee-haws in the background, and most workers are Latinos fully fluent in English who love to crack bawdy jokes at each other's expense. But the menu is proudly Italian-American—calzones, spaghetti, Buffalo wings, breaded cheesesticks, hot sandwiches as epic as a David Lean film—with no Mexican sides.

And the actual pizza? Deep. Thick. Wonderful. A crust that's simultaneously crispy and fluffy. Mucho toppings. As good as anything served in the Windy City. And affordable enough for any Mexican. So what's so wrong with reconquista again?



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