AK Pizza – Albuquerque, New Mexico

AK Pizza in the Fashion Square Shopping Center on the Northeast Intersection of San Mateo and Lomas

I hate it. I think it’s an abomination.
There are so many awesome things here,
I don’t know why that should be featured.
It’s leading with your weakness.
So much other great stuff.”
~Anthony Bourdain

What could have rankled the ire of the world renowned celebrity chef, master raconteur and social activist?  Was it an injustice in dire need of exorcising?  Dystopian horrors in a faraway third-world country?  Devaluation of life?  Bringing to light those suffering in the dark?  No, my friends.  It wasn’t the broken world Bourdain railed against.  It was something much more apolitical…unless you’re talking about the politics of pizza, specifically between the warring factions of New York and Chicago.  What Bourdain found so appalling was Chicago’s deep-dish pizza.

Chicago deep-dish pizza is the Rodney Dangerfield of pizza.  Outside the Windy City, it gets no respect.  Cynics malign it as “not a pizza.” Others, such as Bourdain and former “Daily Show,” host Jon Stewart simply love to hate it.  In a particularly vitriolic rant, Stewart called it everything from a “fricking casserole” to “an above-ground marinara swimming pool for rats” and worse, much worse.  He suggested it would be complete with canned onion rings on top.  Even New Mexico resident George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, weighed in with “deep-dish pizza is an offense against the pizza gods.”

The Interior of AK Pizza

So what is it about Chicago deep-dish pizza that inspires such rancor?  Is it an exemplar of “too much of a good thing?”  As if there could possibly be too much cheese, too much sausage, too much deliciousness.  Do cynics find it offensive because it violates some sort of perceived cultural taboo as Chef Mario Batali seems to believe: “They (Italians) would kill themselves if they saw what was going on over there. They wouldn’t call it pizza.”  At least late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia conceded “It’s very tasty, but it’s not pizza.”

Perhaps, as with politics, pizza is all about preference…and as we know, in American politics, it’s not enough to disagree with someone.  Contrarians have to denigrate and insult things with which they don’t agree.  Jon Stewart, Mario Batali, George R.R. Martin and other contrarians can have their insults.  We’ll take the deep-dish pizza, the best description of which may be courtesy of Serious Eats writer Dennis Lee who called it a “towering, molten, glorious gut-bomb that deserves some serious love and respect.”

One Wall Honors Chicago Sports Teams and Sites

When my Kim introduced me to deep-dish pizza at the world-famous Lou Malnati’s in Chicago, I wasn’t sure whether we should eat it or climb it.  True to stereotypes, it was as thick as my mom’s multi-layered lasagna and must have weighed four or five pounds.   It was probably a good thing that more than 45-minutes elapsed between the time we placed our order and when it was delivered to our table.  The wait, amid the enveloping aromas, made us ravenous.  Thank goodness for that or we wouldn’t have been able to finish one and a half slices each.

When we heard that Allan and Kameko, the amicable husband-and-wife couple who have made AK Deli one of my favorite sandwich destinations in New Mexico, would be opening a Chicago style pizza restaurant, we weren’t sure what to expect.  “Chicago style” is a very broad term that doesn’t necessarily connote deep-dish pizza.  Sure, deep-dish is the pizza style most commonly associated with The City of Big Shoulders, but it’s certainly not the only pizza style developed in Chicago.  The Windy City even has a pizza with a thin and crispy crust similar to New York.

Deep-Dish 7″ Cheesy Beef Pizza

What we did know is that at AK Deli, Allen and Kameko transplanted a little bit of Chicago to Albuquerque, offering the most authentic and delicious Italian beef sandwiches, hotdogs and other culinary treasures of that toddlin’ town.  If they could do for pizza what they’ve done for other Chicago culinary delights, Windy City transplants and aficionados will be very happy.  Alas, the paint on the walls had barely dried at their Fashion Square space when the Covid-19 epidemic prompted a closure of AK Pizza.  Our inaugural visit took place under social distancing, personal protective equipment-wearing conditions.

AK Pizza offers pan pizzas in seven, twelve and sixteen inch sizes as well as ten, twelve and sixteen inch thin crust pizzas.  Topping choices include many of the usual suspects: sausage, pepperoni, bacon, red onion, spinach, black olives, tomatoes and mushrooms, but where most guests will gravitate is toward the specialty pizzas.  Five unique specialty pizzas, including “A’s Favorite” and “K’s Favorite” grace the menu.  So do “Chicago Faves” such as a Chicago Dog, Ditka Polish, Italian sausage, Italian beef, Italian combo and Cheesy beef.  Wings (buffalo/jerk/BBQ/lemon pepper) round off the menu, but you can’t do Chicago without Jay’s Open Pit BBQ Chips.

Deep-Dish 7″ Gyros Pizza

My Kim’s choice was a seven-inch deep-dish Cheesy Beef pizza, constructed with the same wondrous Italian beef you find in Italian beef sandwiches, green peppers and lots of cheese.  It wasn’t necessarily “towering,” but it was “molten” and “glorious, a four-slice orb about half an inch thick.  The one anomaly–perhaps one only a native Chicagoan would recognize–is the tomato sauce.  It’s just not something you normally find on an Italian beef sandwich (which is usually seasoned with dried oregano, dried basil, dried parsley and dried thyme).  The tomato sauce was nicely seasoned, too, but just a bit “strange” with Italian beef.  AK did manage something we hadn’t seen before–a thick crust with crispiness.

Also from the specialty pizza menu comes the Gyros pizza (gyros meat, onions, tomatoes, cheese), a Greece meets Italy tribute that’s about as pretty as a pie can be.  It’s splayed out like a sunburst with rounded red tomato slices peeking out from a molten blanket of cheese.  As with the cheesy beef pizza, tomato sauce is a bit of an anomaly.  Tomato sauce isn’t something you normally associate with gyros.  Once you get past that, you’ll enjoy this pie.  AK Pizza even serves up a side of tangy tzatziki sauce worthy of gyros in Athens.

Chicago Hotdog with Pickle

Chicagoans lovingly refer to the Chicago hotdog as “dragged through the garden” because of the many accoutrements with which it is constructed: yellow mustard, chopped white onions, neon green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash or two of celery salt on a poppy seed bun. Then there’s the Vienna Beef hot dog in a natural casing with its first-bite-snap. By the way, you should never say “Chicago style hot dog” because “style” implies Chicago’s hotdogs are a variation of an original.  Both AK Deli and AK Pizza serve a Chicago hotdog as good as any you’ll find in the Windy City.

Located in the shadow of downtown skyscrapers, Maxwell Street is a mile-long venue beloved by Windy City denizens because of its diversity of commerce and cuisine. Nearly seventy years ago, a legendary sandwich was invented on the corner of Maxwell and Halsted Streets. That sandwich has become almost as famous as the street in which it was born. In the Duke City you can find the Maxwell Street Polish Sausage sandwich only at the AK Deli and AK Pizza. Take a bite and you might swear you’re strolling along the Maxwell Street market. It’s every bit as good as you’ll find in Chicago. The canvas for this paragon of deliciousness is a soft celery seed bun in which is nestled a thick, well-seasoned beef and pork sausage with a smear of mustard, a tangle of grilled Spanish white onions and a couple of sport peppers. The aroma and flavor of those sweet onions is so addictive, you could make a meal of just those  beauties, but you wouldn’t want to. This is a sandwich that’s great because of the sum of its terrific ingredients. This is sandwich greatness!

The Ditka

Whether or not nay-sayers such as Anthony Bourdain, Jon Stewart and Guy Fieri would have enjoyed a deep-dish pizza at AK Deli may never be known. What is an absolute certainty is that Duke City residents will find plenty to love at AK Deli.

AK Pizza
1100 San Mateo Blvd N.E., Suite 22
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 265-0505
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 22 May 2020
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chicago Hotdog, The Ditka, Deep-Dish Italian Beef Pizza, Deep-Dish Gyros Pizza
REVIEW #1161

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, more than 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,200 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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8 Comments on “AK Pizza – Albuquerque, New Mexico”

  1. The pan pizza was a good value, but don’t think I’ll order it again. We will be back, however, for the Chicago Dog, which was terrific at the deli and terrific here. Welcome to the neighborhood.

    (Be sure to call ahead as their hours seem, um, fluid.)

    1. Here’s on of the better primers I’ve seen on pizza slang and terminology. There doesn’t appear to be a term for the “innards” of a pizza. It’s crust with toppings and no name. Maybe you can come up with a name.

  2. I lived and worked in Chicago 1990-91. I was excited to try “Chicago-style” pizza and so I went to Pizzeria Uno, purportedly to be the origin of deep dish pizza.

    The pan the pizza arrived in looked similar to an ice-hockey ring. There was eight-feet of barrier between me and the pizza. It was closer to a thick lasagna than the pizza I grew up on in California. Since childhood pizza, I have been fortunate to travel and have pizza in Sicily and Napoli. Chicago-style pizza is not pizza at least to me and to 60 million Italians. In fact, according to this article, Chicago-style is not legally considered pizza:


    Be that as it may, it is a dish and for many it is considered quite delicious and certainly quite filling. I for one will pass on AK Pizza pizza. But I’m open to its other hot dog offerings which I found street-dogs in Chicago to me quite matchless in quality and character.

  3. Yo! It’s not just about what’s in/on da pizza (diced anchovies no one? red peppaah flakes?), but how ya eat the slice of pie. For instance, when in NYC, do ya take a page from Costanza’s playbook https://tinyurl.com/o69jn32  which apparently duh Blazio does, e.g. https://tinyurl.com/yagsjvcc Apparently, Trump being da New Yorkah dat he is, can ambi-munch https://tinyurl.com/ybz5qjrm or is it that they do it this way in Mar-a-Lago https://tinyurl.com/y8gwrdkc Of course when he eats with a Lady and especially at a chic NYC venue https://tinyurl.com/y9hnbsx8 and https://tinyurl.com/y7zh4bmh  he displays his gentlemanliness and uses a fork while ever maintaining being Gender PC at other times https://tinyurl.com/yaum6x4o Apparently no one https://tinyurl.com/y9lwxx2x  folds?
    Whoa! apparently this Brooklynite enjoys his pizza this way https://tinyurl.com/y993326x altho one might wonder if he picked that up living in more staid Vermont.
    Alas, and while I specifically searched for NY’s most notable head, I could not find Governor Cuomo scarfing on a pizza! In contrast, he delights in sharing his FAV sausage https://tinyurl.com/y7led46v If nothing else, he has good taste.
    My FAV lest I was to be asked and with due respect to not having done a fun looking offering at AK’s Pizza yet? Saggio’s Milano: https://tinyurl.com/y8zylax6 #4 in the “Gallery”!

  4. I love ‘Deep Dish’ Pizza and look forward to the Beefy Cheese one! Are they only taking call in orders now.? Will need to compare to Chicago deep dish! Btw, Lou Malnati’s Is open in Scottsdale, AZ

    1. You can indeed call in an order and pick it up at the counter. Just make sure to wear your personal protective equipment.

      One caution, AK Pizza is located in the lower level of the Fashion Square Plaza just beyond the parking garage. Don’t look for it on the upper level.

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