Asking Chicagoans for their favorite pizza place is like asking them for their favorite baseball team. Nearly everyone has an opinion and they are hardcore about what they like and where they go to get it.
While there isn’t just one type of Chicago-style pizza since several types were developed in Chicago, it is best known for its deep-dish pizza which typically has a crust up to three inches tall at the edge, slightly higher than the ingredients, and includes large amounts of cheese and chunky tomato sauce. Pizzeria Uno is said to be the inventor of deep dish pizza and still is considered one of the best places to score a gooey slice.
Deep dish pizza is not to be confused with its stuffed pizza cousin which is even deeper than deep-dish pizzas (otherwise, they’re pretty similar). Stuffed pizzas are often even deeper than deep-dish pizzas, but otherwise, it can be hard to see the difference until it is cut into. Check out The Art of Pizza and see whether you can tell the difference.
Most pizzerias serve thin-crust pizza and what sets apart one place over another is usually the pizza sauce and pie crust. Chicago has its thin crust devotees, too.
While old school pizza restaurants are becoming few and far between in many parts of the United States, Chicago is lucky in that we have several options to enjoy. Just like our sports teams.
10 Danny's on Douglas
It's hard to beat old school pizza restaurants so when you find one like Danny's on Douglas, you can understand why devotees keep coming back to this joint conveniently located in downtown Elgin directly across the street from the Centre of Elgin. Aside from the choices of pizza such as thin, pan and stuffed, the venue has a full menu of other options such as pasta, sandwiches and even BBQ baby back ribs. Danny's regularly hosts music bands and karaoke on its stage weekly. Although there is ample seating inside, when the weather cooperates, diners can head outdoors to a small patio with several picnic tables. ((847) 742-5400)
9 Spacca Napoli
According to the restaurant owners, Spacca Napoli Pizzeria was inspired by the authentic aroma, taste, and craft of pizza found on the streets and in the pizzerias in Naples. The restaurant is spacious, well-lit, inviting and unpretentious and if the weather is nice, you can enjoy your pizza and a glass of wine from its outstanding wine menu outdoors. The Neapolitan pizza isn't usually what comes to mind when you think of Chicago pizza but Spacca Napoli does it right. For those who want gluten-free pizza, it can prepare it for you if you provide them with 24 hours notice since they make their crusts from scratch. (773-878-2420)
8 Burt's Place
Perhaps it's the quirkiness of the way Burt's Place runs its business that adds to its appeal. Or because it makes really good deep dish pies. If you've read any of the reviews or talked with anyone who has been here, you will quickly learn there are unwritten rules which includes calling ahead and pre-ordering your entire meal (not just the pizza). Once that's done, walk in to a pretty dim and small dining area in a non-descript building on a fairly quiet Chicago suburb residential street. People don't come here for the décor. Rather, they come to enjoy a deep dish light on the sauce and cheese but amazing fresh toppings and freshly made dough that doesn't skimp on the butter. Go heavy on the toppings since the sauce and cheese are so light. The pies are very affordable and the place has a nice beer selection, too. ((847) 965-7997)
7 Coalfire Pizza
The place is called Coalfire Pizza because its super thin crust style pizza is cooked in a brick oven at over 800 degrees. For those who prefer more of a traditional Neapolitan style pizza, Coalfire does the trick. It makes its dough fresh daily and its meats and vegetables are delivered every morning so it can include the freshest ingredients in every dish.
While some prefer to load their pizzas with lots of toppings, Coalfire recommends adding just two or three toppings. Among fan favorites is the Nduja which includes calabrian salami (a soft salami that you can actually spread), sauce, fresh mozzarella and chopped basil. ((312) 226-2625)
6 The Art of Pizza
This tiny strip-mall joint will never win awards for decor or ambience, but, fortunately, its pizza is so amazing that hungry patrons really don't mind. Choose from an irresistible thin crust, cheesy stuffed crust or classic Chicago-style deep dish. Toppings are plentiful so feel free to personalize your pie. A limited selection of Italian classics, such as ravioli and eggplant parmesan, can also be had. Take-out and delivery account for most of the business but a few tables and stools are on-hand if you'd like to eat in. Specials such as their sandwiches on Mondays and Tuesdays start at $2.99. A Sunday spaghetti and meatball dinner will set you back $4.95. (773-327-5600)
5 Piece Pizzeria & Brewery
Be careful as you drive by this Wicker Park pizzeria and brewery because it's likely there are people spilling out into the street since it's usually very packed. Not only can you enjoy award-winning pizzas and home brewed beer but it's a great location to watch sports on its flat screens that line the walls. Once you get past the party-like atmosphere, dig into the huge pizzas including a white sauce pizza (plain crust brushed with olive oil, diced garlic and mozzarella cheese). If you like clams, try the clams and onions white sauce pizza. Live band karaoke rocks the house at 11pm on Saturdays. ((773) 772-4422)
There is some debate among diners on whether the pizza here is considered deep dish or pan pizza. Pequod's uses the terms interchangeably but once you get past the debate, few will argue that its caramelized crust is stuff of pizza dreams. Their deep dish pizzas are baked in cast iron pans blackened by decades of seasoning. The overflowing cheese emerges from the oven as a halo of caramelized crust. The sausage is particularly tasty since it's seasoned with spices. It has two locations. The Lincoln Park location, which is near the DePaul University campus, is open until 2am on the weekends but the Morton Grove location closes at 10pm. ((773) 327-1512)
3 Pizzeria Due
Two true Chicago staples, Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due, serve classic deep-dish pies and are the local shrines that started the Chicago-style phenomenon. Expect a crowd at either of these sibling pizzerias and be prepared to wait. As you do, dream of a bacon cheeseburger pie, a shroom version, or the signature pizza, loaded with sausage, pepperoni, romano and mozzarella, and loads of veggies and tomato sauce. If, for some reason, you don't crave a pizza, consider burgers, salads, and everything from steaks to seafood and pastas. It gets crowded with tourists since it's close to several hotels but locals enjoy it just as much - they just know not to arrive at 7pm on a Saturday and expect to be seated within 45 minutes. (312-943-2400)
2 Lou Malnati's Pizzeria - River North
This old-school pizza shop knows a thing or two about pies and locals swear by the place's deep-dish crust which showcases all manner of toppings. Try the "Lou," named for the restaurant's founder. It includes fresh spinach, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, romano and cheddar cheeses. The "Deluxe" is a great value: cheese sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers.
Lou Malnatti's boasts several suburban and city of Chicago locations but those outside of Chicago can now enjoy that fresh from the oven pizza taste since Lou's ships nationwide. The pizzas are packed with dry ice in safe 'keep fresh' coolers. Its shipped pizzas are a popular care package idea for college kids or those who have moved outside of the area who crave a taste of home every now and then. (312-828-9800)
1 Pizzeria Uno
The place for Chicago-style pizza. The original Pizzeria Uno, while quintessentially American in theme and cuisine, deserves particular recognition for its fabulous thin-crust and deep-dish pizza pies, which send lunchtime crowds away full and happy. On the go? Check out their fabulous "Priority Lunches" which include everything from Chicken Spinoccoli (baked chicken and broccoli in pesto cream sauce) and classic Chicago pies to fish-and-chips and sirloin tips. If pizza isn't your bag, they also serve tasty sandwiches, burgers and pastas. Since deep dish pizza can take up to 45 minutes to be ready, waiters take your order outside while you're waiting for a table so it will be ready for you once you're seated. (312-321-1000)
About Megy Karydes
Megy Karydes has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and most of her life in Chicago. While she’s traveled extensively internationally, visiting each of the 50 states is on her bucket list.
An adventure seeker, she’s game for anything from mixed martial arts training to competing in obstacle course races. A self-proclaimed coffee snob and “greenie” who loves farmer-grown food and locally-grown craft beers & wine. She’s yet to find an outdoor beer garden she doesn’t like.
Mixing writing and food/drink is her specialty, especially when it involves travel.
Visit her musings on her insatiable appetite for life at www.WanderingTastes.com or www.KarydesConsulting.com.
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