DIY Pie—MOD Pizza

August 2016 View more

MOD Pizza-054_800px

If religion and politics are the traditional verboten topics in polite company, pizza can’t be far behind. From the giant, folded slices of New York to the dense, stuffed monstrosities of Chicago to unusual regional toppings and variations like pineapple and kale, the chasms between pizza preferences run both wide and deep—and that’s without even touching on the heated party-cut versus triangle-slice kerfuffle.

So it’s a bold and optimistic soul who dares introduce another viewpoint into this highly charged and intensely emotional debate. Yet they keep coming apace, fresh-faced entrants with some novel take on the traditional pie. Following a flare-up of wood-fired, Neapolitan-style shops that engulfed Naperville in the past few years, the latest front in this ongoing taffy-pull or mozzarella-pull, to be more precise is the assembly-line fast casual concept.

MOD Pizza-Interior_800pxMOD Kind of Town

MOD Pizza, blowing in from the Northwest (Seattle) amid the new wave of pie-slingers, apparently thinks so much of the potential in Naperville for this format, in fact, that it has opted to grace our fair cityscape with not just one but two separate outlets among its seven area locations. Perhaps part of the reasoning for this—aside from Naperville’s outsized population—is the aforementioned explosion of Neapolitan joints here, as MOD too favors a general variation on the thin crispy/chewy crust style that results from several intense minutes in an 800-degree oven.

What sets MOD apart from the other wood-fired joints around town, however, is the build—“MOD” is short for “made on demand,” after all. Whether approaching the busy assembly counter at the South Naperville or downtown location, customers will find not only an extensive list of available sauces, cheeses and toppings, but a fully stocked display of those fresh ingredients, all at the ready to create their perhaps one-of-a-kind pie. Think Subway or Chipotle, but with pizza.

MOD Pizza-106_800pxDecisions, Decisions

This create-your-own philosophy sounds great in theory, of course. Who wouldn’t want to get a pizza just the way they like it? Nothing offensive to pick off or eat around, and no one to refuse when you ask for something non-traditional or off-putting like ranch drizzle or banana peppers (although cucumbers didn’t make the cut—sorry, Cosmo). But when confronted with the reality of the format—the plethora of choices and the paralyzing fear of whiffing on a good-sounding-but-bad-tasting combo—it’s easy to lose one’s nerve and freeze up at that counter.

Fortunately, MOD has about ten tried-and-true pie options on the menu board for those not fully confident in their DIY skills, and I chose to take advantage of this cop-out with a Caspian, a barbecue sauce base topped with grilled chicken, red onions, mozzarella and gorgonzola. While I went with the MOD size—an 11″ pie cut into four large pieces—6″ minis were also available, as were a variety of salads served atop a freshly baked pizza crust, if one is so inclined.

My companion, meanwhile, decided to intentionally assemble a pizza that I would never touch, with a variety of personal no-no’s such as mushrooms, black olives and artichokes. And she could have kept going, given the fact that MOD pizza’s come in at a flat price regardless of how many toppings one chooses to pile up. We also sampled the garlic bread made with a standard pizza crust which was very good, the cinnamon sticks, and a very rich chocolate shake, one of the few items on the menu that doesn’t spend time in that oven.

It was all enough to make us to believe that, even in an election year, MOD is likely to get the people of Naperville gravitating to the polarizing topic of pizza yet again.