Even if the food at Passini’s Wood Fired Pizza weren’t good (spoiler alert: it is), employees at the nearby Peru City Hall probably would patronize it out of sheer gratitude.
Mystery Diner usually focuses on the dining experience at Starved Rock Country eateries, but Passini’s rates a somewhat broader discussion. The restaurant sits in a refurbished, two-story structure a stone’s throw from City Hall and, oh, were the police and city officials glad to welcome in Passini’s.
Its home is a vintage building with a storied past. Circumstances led to the city of Peru purchasing the structure and looking for a developer. To the rescue came Gary Hammers, who converted the upstairs into housing and found a taker for the lower level in Passini’s. Hammers did a good job, too; the interior was adorned with brick and has a homey, gathered-around-the-fireplace feel to it.
While the pandemic goes on, pizzas are available only by takeout, with curbside pickup. Pizzas are 10 inches in diameter, intended for one adult each, and come with the usual toppings (such as sausage, pepperoni) plus specialty varieties including crab Rangoon and Korean BBQ.
To try out several varieties, Mystery Diner tabbed a few friends to sample the pizzas while watching Round 1 of the NFL Draft. Football fans might not sound like discriminating diners, but be not fooled: They’ll vaporize anything tasty but leave less-appetizing foods untouched.
Service was swift and efficient. The Mystery Diner placed an order for five pizzas that were ready at the promised time. Pickup is on the building’s west side, marked with pylons and a sign bearing the phone number to call upon arrival. The server brought a handheld credit card machine for payment, and a printed receipt quickly was rendered.
The draft-day feedback was positive, if a bit distracted by the sports saga. Everyone approved of the quality ingredients and particularly noted the freshness of the cheese. While the pizzas were wolfed down, the perennial pizza debate was raised.
The issue is over which is better: deep-dish/Chicago-style pizza or thin-crust/New York-style. Three of my guests tacitly signaled a preference for the former, and Passini’s is closer to the latter. Consider, too, that the Mystery Diner hosted a decidedly unadventurous crowd who said “no thanks” to Korean barbecue pizzas and stuck with tried-and-true pepperoni.
The thin-crust pizzas are produced over a high-temperature wood fire that gives the outer edges a slightly charred crust and lends a unique rise to the dough, marrying the flavors nicely. Passini’s menu also includes appetizers and Italian subs; but pizza was the plat du jour on draft night.
The restaurant is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and orders may be placed by phone or text at 815-200-2935.
Everyone in our group agreed Passini’s is different from any locally available pizza, and the wood-fired method yields a truly distinct product worth trying.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff when ordering or picking up the food. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Passini’s Wood Fired Pizza
WHERE: 1830 Fourth St., Peru