I admit it: I stereotype pizzerias. Shameful, I know, but it's just so easy—the red-and-white checkered tablecloths, the thick-moustached pie-tossers named "Papa" that hold so much wisdom. This is the reason I accidentally walked right past Union Pizzeria; it looks nothing like my image of a pizza place.
Housed in a building that looks more like a warehouse than a restaurant, the floor-to-ceiling windows expose a vast lounge of mineral-colored art-deco furniture and a dimly lit, cavernous dining space. The slender light bulbs that seemingly float in clusters above the bar look like lightning bugs captured in glass jars, and the exposed rafters, wires, brick and pipes make the massive space feel both edgy and down-to-earth. As you walk through the main entrance, dark wood shelves stocked with bottled beer stare you in the face (always a good first impression, if you ask me).
The chatty diners look like they could hang for hours, maybe due to the handful of cold and hot sharing-plate appetizers ($3-$9) like chickpeas in olive oil, rosemary and lemon; Italian olives with fennel and orange zest; veal and pork meatballs with ricotta and tomato jam; and Shrimp DeJonghe with tarragon and garlic breadcrumbs. Though quite a tease size-wise, they won't compete with the different daily entree specials and pizzas cooked in a rounded oak-burning oven ($11-14).
Union also facilitates a performance room, SPACE (Society for Preservation of Arts and Culture in Evanston, get it?) and behind that a studio for the private musicians club, League of Creative Musicians, where members can record their art without any of the restrictions that come with being signed to a label.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Puhala