Local diners are fired up about Wauconda’s unique gourmet pizza restaurant and its one-of-a-kind taste. Discover what makes these pies a Zagaat-rated treat that’s worth the wait.
Slyce Coal Fired Pizza, 127 N. Main St. in Wauconda, has blown away diners in a big way ever since it opened four years ago. The 85-seat restaurant’s “secret” weapon? Made-from-scratch, coal-fired pizza. Hourlong waits, especially on the weekend, are not uncommon.
“Not only are customers bowled over by the pizza, but they’re also impressed by the selection of other food options and our wide variety of wines and craft beers,” says owner-operator Brittany Barth.
In addition, patrons enjoy the ambiance. “Customers say the vibe at Slyce makes them feel as if they were in the city,” says Barth. “They describe the atmosphere as modern – more upscale than a typical pizza place.”
Fueled by clean-burning anthracite coal, the oven reaches a temperature of 900 F and imparts a unique flavor and light char to the thin-crusted pies.
Barth, who teamed up with experienced restaurateur and chef Gary Bougie to launch the enterprise, oversaw the venue’s transformation from a former bar to a sleek, modern diner.
Bougie died this past April, following surgery, and ever since, Barth has become more involved in what goes on in the kitchen, to ensure that Slyce’s main goal of maintaining consistent quality is met.
Slyce’s mainstay is its thin-crust, hand-formed pizza. Dough is prepared the night before for use in 15 pizzas: 10 original pies with tomato sauce and five bianca, or “white” pies.
“Our most popular is No. 5, what I call our meat-lovers pizza,” says Barth. “It has meatballs, pepperoni, sausage and prosciutto. During the summer, No. 13 – with prosciutto, gorgonzola, Italian figs, cream and balsamic vinegar – ranks high with customers, who love its sweet-salty taste. In addition, diners can design their own pizza by individually selecting toppings, all of which follow a traditional mode.”
A recent addition to the pizza menu, No. 11, comes with pancetta, cream, mozzarella and a cracked egg on top, which cooks in the middle and is then sprinkled with arugula.
Among appetizers, a strong favorite is the artichoke dip, made with Italian-imported artichokes blended with cheese and roasted red peppers. “It all goes into our oven, where the dish bubbles up and takes on a creamy consistency,” Barth says.
Salads are much in demand, particularly the seasonal Farmer’s Market Salad that uses produce sourced from a small, local grower known as Our Farm.
Meatballs win kudos, as do the sandwiches. “A lot of people find themselves addicted to our two sandwiches – turkey and roast beef – which are cut to order and roasted in the coal-fired oven,” Barth says.
Two Italian dessert mainstays, tiramisu and gelato, were joined in late summer by homemade cannoli, a traditional Sicilian confection.
Beverage service at the Zagat-rated Slyce concentrates on custom microbrews. Ten artisanal beers on tap complement some 40 other labels served in bottles or cans. Wines come from California, Oregon and Washington as well as Italy and Argentina.
Slyce draws many diners from Wauconda, Lake Zurich and Barrington. Sometimes word-of-mouth brings in travelers on a layover at O’Hare. “We get people from all over,” says Barth. “There’s a cult of followers who thrive on finding new places.”
Carry-out service, while available, is sometimes put on hold during peak hours. When too many pizzas hit the ovens, says Barth, it takes time to regenerate the necessary heat.
Though reservations aren’t accepted, Slyce recently started offering a smartphone app called No Wait, that allows customers to get on a waiting list. By tracking their distance from the restaurant, the app estimates their arrival and serving times.
Slyce is open Tues.-Sun. from 4-10 p.m. The venue can accommodate private special-occasion lunches and, on Mondays, corporate events.