Follow the Yellow Brick road to delicious pizza

A friend of mine recently got mad when I said bad things about the deep-dish pizzas made by Giordano's, a famous Chicago chain. Following that goofy food fight, we cheerfully shared a locally baked Chicago-style pie that was much better in my book.

It was the Tristano's Chicago Stuffed Pizza ($15 for a “small,” which isn't small), and you can get it — and should get it — at one of the better pizzerias in town: Yellow Brick Pizza.

Yellow Brick named that heavy-duty beauty — which isn't a flabby dough-bomb, but rather a crisp-crusted celebration of tangy sauce and comforting cheeses — “Tristano's” because Yellow Brick obtained the sauce-on-top recipe from the eponymous Grove City pizzeria which recently closed. Reviving the delicious pie is part and parcel of Yellow Brick's identity as a forward-looking business that honors the past.

That's been Yellow Brick's aesthetic since its 2009 inception, when it opened in a fashionably rehabbed laundromat in an Olde Towne East neighborhood that might've been described as “going-to-seed.” Now, the rejuvenated area boasts other trendy establishments such as The Angry Baker and The Olde Towne Tavern.

And the defunct laundromat is now a bohemian pizzeria with a tastefully eclectic soundtrack, playfully irreverent ambience and spectacular colored-chalk portraits of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and former-mayor Mike Coleman drawn by Yellow Brick-owner-and-artist Bobby Silver. As for service, I've had frustratingly slow meals in the past, but my recent visits unfolded smoothly.

Still duly renowned for an immense beer list, Yellow Brick has added cocktails to its large beverage arsenal. The two I tried were, well, interesting: The Necklace ($10), a potent oddball with tequila, Aperol, brandy, Fernet-Branca and chocolate-mint notes, plus the Ol' Tom Collins ($7), made with Hayman's Old Tom gin.

If a healthful non-pizza dish is calling, the hearty Kale Salad ($8) is a great option. It's a colorful, Mediterranean-style jumble of white beans, feta cheese, roasted red peppers and sliced kale that's not annoyingly fibrous. On the side: a bright and delightful sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.

Among other non-pizza items, the Meatball Sub ($10, served with chips) is a winner. Cradled in a toasted soft roll are gargantuan-yet-tender, nuanced homemade meatballs blanketed in rich tomato sauce and blistered provolone cheese. Banana peppers and roasted red peppers contribute to an addictive yin-and-yang tang.

When (“if” seems wrong here) you get Yellow Brick's wonderful Tristano's pizza, know that its excellent, garlic-scented crust — which conceals deep pockets of embedded cheese and is only super-thick along its attractively rippled, golden-brown edge — is atypical here.

But Yellow Brick's standard crust — thin-yet-sturdy, crisp-yet-chewy, yeasty and golden-brown — is terrific, too. Numerous pies have been designed to appeal to a wide variety of palates.

These vary from (prices are for medium pizzas) a zesty and salty crowd-pleaser with fennel-seeded sausage, thin pepperoni, bacon and ham (Flying Pig, $17.50); a virtual Greek salad (Mad Greek, $19); a riff on Buffalo chicken (Red Hot Pie, $17.50); an irresistible take on a loaded baked potato with thinly sliced spuds, crisp bacon, melted mozzarella, chives and judicious squiggles of sour cream (the tomato-less Boise Surprise, $17.50); plus a spicy and delicious taco pizza special with chorizo, corn, avocado, cheeses, black beans, El Arepazo-style cilantro sauce and more (Latin Lover, $25). All are carefully assembled and skillfully baked.

One of my favorites is the Rhode Island Red ($14). Basically just lots of top-notch sauce and shaved Parmesan cheese on an extra-crispy crust, it has a stripped-to-the-essentials simplicity that positions it as the skinny analog of that Tristano's pie. Because my aforementioned friend liked this pizza as much as I did, I think I'll give her beloved Giordano's another try.