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 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 (otherwise, they’re pretty similar). 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.
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)
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)
Spacca Napoli Pizzeria
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)
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)
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)
The Original Gino's East of Chicago
Chicago-style pizza has won droves of ardent fans, and this restaurant is probably the downfall for most of them. Just try to resist the irresistible, deep-dish Chicago pizza with oozing cheese, rich sauce, and fresh toppings from its crisp, cornmeal-infused crust. The spacious dining room seats 500 but still the lines form, and people eagerly await what is considered the best pizza in the town (or maybe anywhere). The ambience is casual with graffiti-covered walls (no profanity!) and dark booths. But people don't come here for the environment; they come for the pizza. You can even take a frozen one home if you call ahead. (312-943-1124)
When it comes to gooey cheese, chewy crust, Chicago-style pizza, this is the place. A thick, doughy crust is covered in a rich tomato-based sauce, and finished with the toppings of your choice. A couple of slices will fill you up. The more traditional thin crust is also an option, but those looking for a new, unique experience will want to 'go deep.' Not a pizza fan? That's okay. They also serve yummy sandwiches, burgers, pastas, and yes, even salads. For those 'on the go,' their delicious "Priority Lunches" include everything from both types of pizza, sirloin tips, fish-and-chips, and the fun-to-say Chicken Spinoccoli (baked chicken and broccoli in pesto cream sauce). Since deep-dish pizza can take up to 45 minutes to bake, waiters take your order outside while you're waiting for a table, so it will be hot and fresh once you're seated. (312-321-1000)
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)
Vito & Nick's Pizzaria
Vito & Nick's is a South Side institution. For nearly a century, this old school restaurant has specialized in a thin, crispy, cracker-thin crust pizza and seasoned sausage. It's been featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," among other tv shows. You can try their Italian beef and giardiniera pizza, or their egg and pepperoni pizza. But most people prefer the Vito & Nick's House Special, which is a sausage, mushroom, green pepper and onion pizza. The menu also has meatball sandwiches and pasta dishes. A longtime family business, the interior has been described as "an Italian grandmother's basement" filled with families and sports teams. (773-735-2050)
Lou Malnati's Pizzeria - River North
This old-school pizza chain knows a thing or two about pies, and locals swear by the place's buttery deep-dish crust. You can keep it simple and order just sausage (either crumbled in the cheese, or served as one big patty within the pizza), or 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 has several locations in the suburbs and city, and those outside 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. They make popular care packages for college kids or others who miss Chicago. (312-828-9800)
About Jamie Bartosch
Jamie Bartosch is a lifelong Chicagoan who thinks her hometown is the greatest city in the world. She is an award-winning newspaper reporter, a freelance travel writer, and the mother of two great kids.
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