Walk a few steps south of campus to find Bob's Pizza, one of four locations serving up head chef Matthew Wilde’s Pilsen-style pizza in the Chicago-Evanston area.

Since its post-pandemic reopening in fall 2021, Bob’s Pizza has become an immensely popular locale among Northwestern students. Their made-from-scratch pies and Tuesday night trivia make for a delightful affair with a wide range of appeal, evidenced by the throngs of people who flock to Davis Street each week.

“Bob’s Pizza has really planted it’s foot with that crowd because it’s a pizzeria,” Wilde said regarding university clientele. “It’s simple, everybody loves pizza.”

The warm glow of neon lights and flat-screen televisions illuminate the dining room for a classic sports dive feel. The central bar is a hub for conversation and drinks, while the foosball table tucked in the back corner offers ample entertainment.

Cozy leather booths line the exterior of the space drawing customers in to enjoy a slice or two. Though an ideal atmosphere to watch the game or connect with friends, what truly sets Bob’s Pizza apart from its competitors is its emphasis on high-quality food.

Bob’s Pizza first opened in Pilsen in 2019 with the mission to create a comfy, casual and low-stress dining experience. Now a four-restaurant chain, with locations in Chicago’s Old Town and West Loop neighborhoods, the unique model and menu are a clear success.

Wilde said each location caters to a different experience. The expansive patio built in a shipping container is a draw at the West Loop Bob’s Pizza while the BYOB Pilsen pizzeria has a much homeier atmosphere. The Old Town operation is kept small to accommodate city living and Evanston opened specifically with the student demographic in mind.

Before Bob’s, Wilde maintained an esteemed background in the culinary arts for over twenty years in both France and the United States. He said this exposure to a world of food and fine dining aided his development as a pizza chef.

“I took everything that I knew about food and thought, How do I make pizza special?’” Wilde said.

Though Chicago is known for its numerous pizza styles and is jam packed with restaurants of the kind, Bob’s Pizza found a niche through innovative preparation techniques. The pie itself draws inspiration from traditional American and Italian influences and is the result of years of flavor experimentation.

Research and repeated trial and error contributed to Wilde’s unique blend of New York and Neapolitan traditions served at Bob's Pizza. Wilde lovingly named his pizza “Pilsen Style" after the restaurant’s hometown. Unlike traditional recipes, the dough  calls for the addition of beer and a multi-day cold fermentation process.

“It’s got all of the bubbly, crusty lift on the exterior like a Neopolitan pizza would,” Wilde said. “It’s thin and hand pulled, but also a big pizza, so you can fold the slice just like a New York slice.”

Along with the well known Margarita, Bob’s specialty pies include the Pickle Pizza, which features mortadella, a garlic cream sauce and dill pickles and can be made vegetarian upon request.

House-made oatmeal cream pies, a vanilla cream sandwiched between two chewy cookies, are a decadent and nostalgic dessert to finish off the meal.

When stretching, quick-firing and topping the pies, Wilde said attention to detail is key. Each pie is garnished by hand with fresh herbs, cracked pepper and sea salt, an elevating aspect Wilde credits to the upscale dishes of his past endeavors.

For Wilde, pizza improvement is never a done deal.

“It’s a constant evolution and growth,” Wilde said. “Just when you think you’ve figured out the yeast, water, dough and humidity equation, something happens that throws you for a loop.”

Though Bob’s Pizza is not vying for a Michelin star nor is Wilde still plating with precision tweezers, the restaurant is a comfortable melde of a neighborhood staple and college dive with the flavors of an upscale eatery. At Bob’s, approachability, integrity and quality coincide.

“It’s still just a pizza,” Wilde said. “But we put a lot of work into it.”