DECATUR — Authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza is a subject of passionate debate among pizza lovers and chefs
Among those joined in the heavy discussion are Donnie’s Homespun Pizza owner Neill Dresen and Alma Grason, a Chicago native actively involved in Decatur's nonprofit community. The two decided to bring their delicious dispute to the table for a fundraiser to the Feeding the Hungry campaign.
Both kinds of Chicago-style pizza will be available on Saturday, Jan. 20, at Donnie’s, 126 S. Oakland Ave. The event will offer a separate menu along with the restaurant’s usual fare. Patrons can build their own pizza or order the traditional pizzas both chefs make.
“But you should order one of each,” Dresen said.
The prices range from $8 to $30, depending on the size of the pizza. Wine is also on the menu, with select varieties available for free tastings and purchase by the glass or bottle.
The event is a fundraiser for local hunger relief. Grason is the chairwoman for the Decatur’s Feeding the Hungry campaign.
The program is a nonprofit actively engaged in the community through the Philoptochos at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. The Philoptochos Society’s mission is to promote philanthropic outreach, help the poor, feed the hungry, help victims of disasters and offer assistance to those in need funded through charitable fundraising efforts.
Grason said she wanted to create a fundraiser that would help children at Johns Hill Magnet School providing extra food or grocery gift cards for families in need.
Grason reached out to the school district to help. In the past, the campaign has given away food such as Thanksgiving food baskets.
A Johns Hill teacher will be receive the funds shortly after Saturday’s pizza challenge.
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“I wanted her to meet the owner himself,” Grayson said.
The two pizza makers met at a meeting for another nonprofit organization, the Brick House Foundation. Dresen invited Grason to his restaurant to try his deep dish pizza.
“She has a traditional way, and I have a traditional way,” Dresen said.
Grason said the Decatur style of deep-dish is different than others. “They put the sauce on the bottom,” she said. “Chicago style, it is on top.”
Grason said different Italian regions and areas have their own ways of making pizza.
“Then there’s Decatur,” she said. “That’s not a deep dish.”
Grason is from the Chicago neighborhood known as "Little Italy," which is filled with Italian restaurants and markets.
“Where everybody knows everybody,” she said. “And I still have family living there.”
The two chefs are hoping the competition is the beginning of more kitchen challenges and other opportunities to help the community.
“Wait until we battle over pastitsio (greek lasagna),” Grason said. “That’s a real challenge.”