Chicago's Best Pizza Might Be Found In An Unlikely Place

Soon Chicagoans will be able to taste the excellent pizza made by detainees at Cook County Jail.

Chicago is a town that always knows where the good pizza can be found. Thanks to the work of Chicago chef Bruno Abate, Chicagoans may soon be able to taste the delicious and high-quality pizza made by detainees incarcerated at Cook County Jail, Block Club Chicago reports.

Abate's nonprofit organization, Recipe for Change, provides culinary, art, and music education for the detainees of Cook County Jail—including courses on traditional pizza-making. The Italian-born chef and Chicago restaurateur now has plans to expand the reach of the program by opening a food truck and employing former inmates to run it.

Students of the Recipe for Change program can earn culinary certifications as well as learn other marketable skills for when they are released. Abate's program began in 2014 with 20 students and has since increased to 48, with even more requesting to join the program each month.

The pizzas use tomatoes and flour imported from Italy, and they're topped with ingredients such as hot chicken, sausage, pepperoni, and spicy vegetables. The pies are finished off in a brick oven that was brought to the facility in 2015 thanks to generous donations. The resulting pizza has a thin crust with some crunch, in keeping with a true Chicago pizza (no disrespect to deep dish). Some of the people preparing it are well-versed in Chicagoland pizzerias, and they say these pies are the best.

Abate plans to open the food truck in the springtime and station it right outside the courthouse across the street from Cook County Jail. The truck will, of course, serve up the handmade pies from former inmates, as well as paninis and salads. The truck will employ approximately 12 former inmates on a rolling basis, many of whom will be recently out of jail and/or on monitoring devices; their work with the food truck will hopefully be a reliable source of income as they determine their next steps.

Abate first mentioned plans of expanding the program beyond the jail's walls back in 2019, and now those plans are coming to fruition. In addition to the truck, which he imagines serving police officers, judges, lawyers, and locals after their day in court, Abate also plans to build a bakery and plant a vegetable garden in a grassy patch behind the nearby women's jail as well.

"Try this pizza, and you'll find there's more humanity to be given to people, more education, compassion, self-esteem, more hope," Abate told Block Club Chicago. "We're capable of being more creative to make the world a better place."

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