Robert’s Pizza and Dough Co.

*I received a complementary meal for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Patio season is just around the corner and you'll definitely want to put this place a the top of your al fresco dining list. Robert's Pizza & Dough Company has a lovely patio space on the river with pretty views and a fun vibe. And the food...OMG, the food.

My friend Mary Lynn and I visited for brunch at the start of Chicago Restaurant Week. We sampled some amazing menu items and paired it with the bottomless mimosas. If you're looking for a go-to spot for weekend brunch, this one is perfect.

There's a nice variety of items specifically for brunch in addition to their regular menu of small plates, soups, salad, sandwiches, pastas and pizza. I went with the chiliaquilles - a favorite breakfast dish that my friend, Paul, introduced me to years ago. So much flavor and so satisfying. You can add shrimp or chicken to it if you'd like a little extra protein.

Mary Lynn opted for the French toast topped with cimmamon, whipped cream and fresh berries with a side of bacon. I was glad that was her pick - she shared a little and it enabled me to try something from the savory side and the sweet side. Owner Robert Garvey stopped by our table and explained that the bread for the French toast is made from their pizza dough, which gives it a unique texture and flavor that are out of this world. 

Robert's is one of those places that opened not long before the pandemic, so it faced a lot of challenges not long after its start. The location, the large river facing windows and an overhead heating system he installed helped as most people initially were opting for outdoor dining. "That heating system saved us," he said.

With a new patio season coming, it looks like it will be a busy time for the eatery, which has been nominated for Best Outdoor Dining in the City in the Chicago Tribune's Reader's Choice Food Awards. The patio has about 50 seats down on the dock and Garvey said it's a perfect vantage point for watching the weekly fireworks.

Robert's boasts fresh, local ingredients and one thing you absolutely must try when you are there is the pizza. It really is the star of the show. It's made with a homemade crust that Garvey perfected after several years of experimentation. The transplant from New York said he had a "slice a day" habit when he lived there and worked on creating his own crust that compared to the pizza he loved back home. After about 8 years, he got it just the way he wanted it.

He made it often at home for family and friends and it turned into more an underground restaurant than a hobby. He'd host private dinners at his home and have chefs that came to his home to try it. Finally, at his wife's urging, he took that crust recipe and started his own restaurant. 

The pizza we tried was "The Funghi." If you're a mushroom lover, you've got to try it. Absolutely one of the best pizzas I've ever had. It was made with a truffle cream base, shiitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms, with fresh mozzarella and ricotta from the driftless region of Wisconsin, thyme and garlic. The crust was thin and airy with a nice char on the edges and perfect crunch.

He also gave us a hint for re-heating at home - 7 minutes in a toaster oven at 425 degrees. You can tell that tons of research has been done in making this pizza the best it could possibly be. His passion is evident and I'm so glad that he didn't keep it all to himself and opened this space to share his talents with hungry Chicagoans.

We also ended the meal with a sweet little treat - the zeppole. It's made with the fried pizza dough - or "za bread" as he calls it. Then it's tossed in cinnamon and sugar. Zeppole reminds me a little of beignets and it came with a couple dipping sauces. It's not over-the-top sweet and the light little bites are a perfect finish.

I don't know about you, but I am sooooo looking forward to a pretty normal dining season again in Chicago. I feel for all the restaurant owners and workers who have worked so hard the past two years through shutdowns, restrictions and mandates to keep going. I hope they all get a lot of love this summer - especially Robert's, which I know will have many busy days ahead once Mother Nature gives her nod of approval for a beautiful Chicago summer.

Put Robert's on your foodie bucket list this year for brunch or lunch or dinner or some sharable bites with friends and cocktails on the patio.

Robert's Pizza & Dough Company
465 N. McClurg Court