At this hip, low-lit Wauconda lair, Northwest Suburbanites savor the specialty-pizza craze via 15 slightly charred house pies (plus a build-your-own option with primo ingredients like cracked fennel sausage, grilled artichokes, oyster mushrooms and capers), along with small plates, salads and sandwiches; two massive coal-fired ovens dominate the casual-chic space, which also includes an open prep station and counter, table and booth seating.
Gary Bougie is a true master of his craft. SLYCE Coal Fired Pizza Co. has grown from humble suburban beginnings into a nationally recognized pizzeria. Gary was kind enough to spare some time (on his day off) to chat about his pizza beginnings as a youngster, how SLYCE began, his thoughts on traditional American pies, and his philosophy on pizza.
Recently Zagat rated, this small northwest Chicago pizzeria crafts pies with precision, quality ingredients and bold simplicity. SLYCE is one of Chicago’s few coal fired pizza offerings, and rightfully earns their spot in Chicago’s pizza scene. The warm atmosphere and comfortable seating are complemented by the wonderful aroma.
Menu features to look out for are 15 specialty pies, including 5 white pizzas, with a build your own option. Sandwiches, small plates and salads round out the rest of the food offerings. For beverages, SLYCE is offering some great Italian-influenced wines, along with a tremendous beer selection both tap and bottled.
By Pizza Today Staff
Gary Bougie is co-owner and executive chef at SLYCE coal fired pizza company. Rather than go with a more traditional oven and product, Bougie introduced upscale fare to this working-class neighborhood — with great results. The restaurant has earned itself a place among the region’s heavily populated pizza scene.
Q: Coal-burning is one of the least common types of ovens we see in today’s market. What made you choose this type of oven over others?
A: Our pizza is a blend of traditional Neapolitan and New Haven style pizzas. The first American pizzas were produced from coal-fired ovens. So, keeping with tradition, we thought the coal method would best support the style and characteristics of what we wanted to achieve.
Q: What’s the difference between coal and the mineral you burn, anthracite?
A: Anthracite has a much higher carbon content than bituminous coal, making it very eco friendly. It started out with the same chemical makeup as bituminous millions of years ago; however, as the country’s landscape changed, the excess weight and temperature imposed on the coal reduced the amount of harmful hydrocarbons.
Q: How have your customers received pizza that is baked outside of the traditional pizza mold?
A: We have received an overwhelming positive response. Our growth has been constant, and we attribute that to word-of-mouth advertising from our customers. We have limited production due to our oven style, so on Fridays and Saturdays we don’t offer carryout. This allows us to focus all of our attention on the guests we have in our restaurant.
Q: You’re considering a second store. What are you looking for in a new location?
A: We are looking for areas that have that “bustling downtown” feel. You can feel the energy when you walk into our restaurant now, and we want the feel of any town we are in to match that energy. The demographics of our customers are “foodies” that appreciate our made-from-scratch approach to cooking.
Q: So how does your pizza bake under this process?
A: Our 850-degree ovens create the unique characteristics we are trying to achieve in about a three-minute bake time. We only bake three to four pizzas at a time to ensure every pizza receives the proper amount of attention. Five seconds in our ovens can be the difference between a perfect pizza and a burnt pizza.
May 2, 2011
Coal-fired oven sets Wauconda's Slyce apart | Posted by Carolyn Walkup
If you're looking for thick, hearty Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, Slyce may not be your piece of pie. However, if you like a thin-crust version of the classic Neapolitan-style pizza from Italy, complete with a variety of out-of-the-ordinary toppings, this Wauconda full-service pizzeria could be on your favorites list. Decor is contemporary and pleasant in a vintage building that has been completely renovated. A small bar in the front provides a pleasant area while you wait for a table, which can take awhile on busy nights in light of the no-reservations policy. Choice seats in the 65-seat dining room are the high-backed booths along the walls.
The two of us snagged bar stools and enjoyed the first sips of a full-bodied Italian Sangiovese and the first bites of our appetizer before our table was ready in a mere 15 minutes or so early on a Friday night. Wines are priced from $7 to $13 by the glass and $18 to $29 by the bottle. A nice selection of micro-brewed beers, plus a full range of mixed drinks also are available. Setting itself apart, Slyce has a coal-fired oven, which uses clean-burning anthracite coal and heats to a temperature between 850 and 900 degrees. This cooking method results in a crisp, slightly smoky-flavored crust that stands up well to most toppings.
Gary Bougie, executive chef and general manager, says he was aiming for “true Italian-American style.” “The original pizzas made in the U.S. were coal-fired,” he says.
Before opening Slyce last fall with partner Brittany Barth of Lindy's Landing across the street, Bougie worked at Georgio's in Crystal Lake. He got the idea for his coal-fired concept from a restaurant he saw in Florida. All pizzas are the same size — 12 inches — perfect for two or three to share, assuming you're having additional courses. Making artisan pizzas in small batches takes a little time, so having an appetizer is a good way to stave off hunger pangs. There are seven choices of small plates intended to serve two, mostly Italian-influenced, such as bruschetta, meatballs or stuffed mushrooms. We sampled the oven-roasted chicken wings with caramelized onion. These wings are quite different from the usual Buffalo wings served in sports bars and are much better, in my opinion. Instead of being deep-fried, they're roasted after marinating in lemon juice and herbs — a lower-calorie twist on the traditional and one I definitely would order again. We then opted for a salad, which would be enough for an entree if ordered alone. The classic is a simple toss of fresh mixed field greens, red onions, extra-virgin olive oil and oregano-infused white balsamic vinegar. The flavors were excellent — super fresh and lightly accented with the tangy dressing. Five additional salad choices are offered. Moving on to the main course, we tried a pizza bianca, or white pizza, with no tomato sauce. Toppings included mozzarella, Romano, fresh basil, dried oregano, arugula, prosciutto, garlic, goat cheese and extra-virgin olive oil. Very fresh arugula was piled in the middle of the sliced pie, lending almost a salad vibe. The flavors melded well together, although roasting the prosciutto bits brought out their saltiness more than I like. Another quibble is that the mozzarella and Romano masked the taste of the goat cheese. Other topping combinations range from meatball, ricotta and garlic with tomato sauce — a best-seller — to a pizza bianca with Gorgonzola, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. You can also build your own toppings from a long list of choices, starting with a base that includes tomato sauce, mozzarella and Romano at $11.99 before adding more toppings. Meats and extra cheeses can be added for $1.75 per ingredient, and produce for $1.25. Protein choices are fennel sausage, pepperoni, prosciutto, meatballs or anchovies, while vegetables range from oyster mushrooms to marinated eggplant.
Everything except the desserts is made in-house, Bougie says. That includes grinding bulk sausage and seasoning it with Slyce's special spice blend. For anyone not ordering pizza, the menu lists two warm coal-fired sandwiches on focaccia — house-roasted turkey or roast beef. Another patron boasted that the turkey is the best he's ever eaten. Following our pizza, we ended on a sweet note with a shared tiramisu. Cocoa powder and creamy mascarpone cheese were the predominant flavors in this pleasantly light version. Gelato, available in four flavors, is the only other dessert choice. Service was very efficient, despite the full house. The knowledgeable waitress knew the answers to our questions and kept a carafe of ice water filled.
Slyce is a welcome contemporary addition to Wauconda's quaint Main Street.
December 29, 2010
Top Eight Pizzas of 2010 According to Daniel Zemans | Posted by Daniel Zemans
The Skinny: The best coal oven pizza in Chicagoland.
Slyce Coal Fired Pizza Company: Chicago does not have much of a coal oven pizza tradition. Coalfire has been a massive success since it hit the scene a few years ago and Castel Gandolfo has won critical acclaim even if the masses have yet to embrace it. But way outside of the city in a town called Wauconda, Slyce, which just opened a couple of months ago, is putting both of those places to shame.
November 10, 2010
Slyce: Chicago's New Coal Oven Pizza Champion | Posted by Daniel Zemans
Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. —The Mgmt.
A little over a month ago, I got an email from a concerned Slice reader named Tyler S. to encourage me to check out a brand new place called Slyce Coal Fired Pizza Company in Wauconda, a small town 45 miles away from downtown Chicago. Tyler wrote because he was excited about the pizza but concerned about its future:
"Honestly, I am quite worried it could leave me as unexpectedly as it arrived. In the city, these types of places stand a fighter's chance, but in the far suburbs, I think much of the passion put into these disc-shaped delights is lost on the local audience."
I prefer to let places work out kinks so I didn't head out there right away. I figured early customers and reviewers would point out any flaws and the restaurant could adjust. I have no idea if this place started on top of its game, or if there are particularly insightful customers in Wauconda, but this place is putting out some seriously excellent pizzas. I'm a fan of Coalfire (reviewed here) and Castel Gandolfo (reviewed here), but based on my first experience at Slyce, there is a new coal oven champion in town.
Slyce is a creation of the team behind Lindy's Landing, another Wauconda restaurant, but the pizza passion flows from General Manager Gary Bougie. Bougie began his pizza career at 14 when he got a job with now-defunct local chain Jake's Pizza. He continued to work at pizzerias through college and even while in culinary school. After a few fine dining stints around the country, he made his way back to Illinois where he eventually met up with the owners of Lindy's.
The menu offers ten red pizzas, five white pizzas, and a build-your-own option that starts with a base that includes tomato sauce. For my first pizza, I chose a custom pie topped with sausage and fresh mozzarella. Everything about this pizza was outstanding. The creamy house-made mozzarella and the fennel-heavy sausage (currently brought in, but soon to be made at Slyce) were both top notch. The rich, lightly tangy and sweet tomato sauce sang with flavor that comes from mixing four different types of canned tomatoes. And fortunately, that wonderful combination was served on a worthy crust.
I loved Coalfire when it opened but over time I've noticed an increasing predilection for serving undercooked pizza. I can't be certain, but I suspect that came about after too many people complained about "burnt" pies. As I headed out beyond the suburbs to get to Slyce, I was expecting a pie that would suffer similarly. I could not have been more wrong. This magnificent crisp and chewy crust, made from a blend of high protein flours, had a great rustic flavor that was complemented by a gentle kiss of carbon that left no doubt as to the heat source behind the pizza. The only "flaws" were the slight wetness of the crust and the use of shredded basil, but these are really minor complaints.
If you were only going to get one pizza at Slyce, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you missed out on the tomato sauce. And frankly, the sauce is so good that I'd recommend all pizzas be red. But for readers allergic to tomatoes or with severe cases of acid reflux, I can assure you that the white pies are made with as much care and served on every bit as good of a crust as the ones. I went with a pizza with mozzarella, gorgonzola, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
The blend of tangy and creamy cheeses along with the extra kick from the garlic and extra tang from the sun-dried tomatoes was really a great combination that was smoothed out pretty nicely by the generous pour of olive oil. If I was going to be extra picky, I'd say that I would have preferred this pizza with the added creaminess that fresh mozzarella brings, but the same thing can be said about virtually any thin crust pizza made with commercial mozzarella.
The restaurant industry is tough these days, and I have no idea if Slyce is going to make it. But if the kitchen consistently puts out pizzas like I had last week, I think there's a good chance that the owners will follow through with their plans to open additional locations. I only hope that one of those new places is significantly closer to my house
October 12, 2010
Lake County Journal (Grayslake, IL)
A new ‘Slyce’ of dining comes to Wauconda
Author: MYSTERY DINER
Section: County News Estimated printed pages: 3
Article Text: WAUCONDA – Any restaurant that uses a giant fork and spoon as wall decor must realize that customers are going to expect to dig in with both hands. At Slyce, that’s the right attitude to have.
The new Wauconda restaurant has only been open a month, but a recent Friday night visit proved this pizza joint is doing something right. Slyce’s parking area is small, so it doesn’t take many customers to fill the back lot. A gentleman in a bright orange Slyce T-shirt, however, directs traffic to other parking availability near the eatery – a nice amenity, considering the place was filled with so many people, it was obvious they had not all parked in the lot. My dining companion and I decided we couldn’t justify not trying Slyce’s coal-fired pizza – after all, the restaurant’s name refers to a serving of the specialty – so we scoured the menu and chose a meatball, ricotta and garlic pizza for $13.74. But first, we decided to split an appetizer.
Since we had bypassed the pepperoni, artichoke and mozzarella pizza in favor of the meatball pie, we opted to try the eatery’s coal-fired artichoke dip for $8.99. It came to us in a heavy ceramic dish that was filled with pieces of sliced bread circling the steaming dip, and it was delicious. The artichoke, onion, cheeses and roasted red pepper had so much flavor, my dining companion thought the bread was baked with different seasonings before he realized it was the dish itself that had such a strong taste. Just as we were finishing up the dip, our pizza was delivered to our table and set at our chin level on a wire rack, similar to the way many Chicago pizza joints serve their pizzas. My first impression of our entree was that the meatballs tasted like real meatballs, not just ground beef that had been plopped on top as an afterthought. Combined with the ricotta cheese and garlic, the toppings made me think I was eating a real Italian meal instead of a slice of pizza. My dining companion was most impressed with the crust, which he described as the middle-ground between thin crust and pan crust.
The slightly charred pizza rim hinted that the pizza had been cooked in the coals of the fire – Slyce’s claim to fame. We enjoyed our meal sitting in a high-backed booth that cut some of the noise from surrounding parties, and noted that the restaurant was very clean and well-staffed. Patrons also have the option of sitting on bar chairs directly in front of the chefs who prepare the meals, or they can congregate around the bar.
The menu is small, but Slyce boasts specialty pizzas done the right way. And with a handful of dining delights, such as our appetizer, and salads we were told are large enough for two people to share, Slyce seems the ideal spot for a casual date night – classy enough to impress a significant other, but low-key enough to not put too much pressure on the situation.
Slyce also has a very family-friendly atmosphere, which we witnessed first-hand as a party of 20 – comprised mostly of children younger than 5 – were catered to that Friday night. Though several weeks past opening day, the restaurant still passes out orange comment cards to better gauge how to serve its customers. We wrote down our opinion – Slyce is a cool place to stop for a bite.
• The Lake County Journal Mystery Diner feature sends a staff reporter to local eateries of all kinds. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Diners visit a different restaurant each week. Contact the diner at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you go...
What: Slyce, 127 N. Main St. in Wauconda Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday
Contact: 847-469-8840 or www.slycecoalfiredpizza.com
Caption: Though Slyce offers mostly specialty pizzas, the Wauconda restaurant’s menu also includes several appetizers, such as coal-fired artichoke dip for $8.99
Copyright 2010, Lake County Journal, Shaw Newspapers. All Rights Reserved.
Record Number: 353a25c12bf5eceb02d298dff7c1f905542c5f
Slyce of Life
“I was 14 years old, bagging groceries at Jewel [in Algonquin], but there was a pizza place across the street [Jake’s Pizza],” says Gary Bougie. “I thought making pizzas would be a lot more fun than bagging groceries.” So began a lifelong love affair with pizza. While taking a year off to try his hand working for a food distributor (where he was the resident pizza expert), Bougie met Brittany Barth, general manager of Lindy’s (115 Park St., Wauconda; 847-526-9789), her family’s dockside restaurant on Bangs Lake, and they began to collaborate on a pizza project. The result? SLYCE Coal Fired Pizza (127 N. Main St., Wauconda; 847-469-8840)—a modern pizzeria with a coal-fired oven. The hand-stretched thin-crust 12-inch pies, made from scratch, start at $11.99 for the basic cheese and go up to $15.49. “People don’t say, ‘Oh, it’s so good,’” says Barth. “They say, “Oh, you can taste the fresh ingredients.’ I don’t think people are used to that.”