For the extra hungry, the Art of Pizza fills the valuable real estate in your belly with stuffed, pan and thin pies that loyalists rave about. You might need help carrying the stuffed pizza from the take-out outpost in the South Loop or the original shop in Lakeview, but make no mistake - this is not quantity over quality. The sauce is herbaceous and chunky, Wisconsin cheese is plentiful and the crust walks the line between crisp and chewy. Eureka! The Art of Pizza may be the only place in town offering hot and ready slices of thin, pan and even stuffed crust pizza. The Lakeview shop has been thrilling pie fans for more than 30 years and "best pizza" awards line the walls of the cozy eat-in area. You'll return to sample pan pizza, which sports a buttery crust, and the thin version, too.
Recommended for Pizza because: The Art of Pizza may be the only place in town offering hot and ready slices of thin, pan and even stuffed crust pizza.
Jacky's expert tip: Check the website for daily non-pizza deals from meatball sandwiches and fried chicken to ribs and ravioli.
Pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci chose Chicago as his first pizzeria location outside of Italy and the throngs are loving his Roman-style pizza cut with scissors and sold by weight. Bonci offers only fresh, natural ingredients primarily imported from Italy and considers "Agriculture as culinary art" so expect ever-changing toppings on the Roman-style crust. You probably won't experience the same pizza twice since options can change hourly and Bonci has more than 1,500 recipes that have emerged from the Italian ovens. Expect a mix of cured meats, cheeses and seasonal produce. Recent choices include fried onion, mozzarella and Parm; lemon ricotta; spicy eggplant; and Prosciutto Cotto. Moisten the pipes with single-serve beer, wine and canned cocktails. The place is small and can get mobbed at lunchtime.
Recommended for Pizza because: Bonci chose Chicago as his first pizzeria location outside of Italy and you can't get fresher ingredients since daily toppings are unpredictable.
Jacky's expert tip: Bonci accepts plastic for payment so save the cash for your cabbie.
This is pizza before pizza got all fancy. Marie's Pizza & Liquors effortlessly zaps you back to the 1950s with charming waitstaff, jazz trios entertaining, Italian beef and salads plus tavern-style pizzas with a cracker-thin crust and an easy price tag. The fact that you can buy a bottle of grapes at the liquor store and have it with your pizza is a plus. Seven decades on the northwest side and employees working there for 20-30 years means Marie's must be doing the pizza business right. Not to mention that in the 21st century, you can get a large Marie's Special - sausage, green pepper, onion and mushroom on a cracker-thin and crispy crust, for under $20. Marie's has a parking lot and there's street parking, too.
Recommended for Pizza because: Revisit the mid 20th century at Marie's for inexpensive tasty pizza and an adjacent liquor store for adult beverages.
Jacky's expert tip: Marie's offers a number of half-and-half pizzas so everyone can be satisfied.
After founder Burt Katz's passing in 2016, the new owner's effort to replicate Katz's pizza received the stamp of approval from the family. Burt's Place still turns out impressive deep-dish pies, not belly-busting thick but crispy and caramelized with a one-of-a-kind flavorful sauce. Do yourself a favor and call ahead and pre-order your meal. It's small and can get crowded when the kitchen is slammed. There is a year-round heated patio now, too. The pan pizza is lighter on the sauce and cheese than at other places but perfectly balanced with fresh toppings and just made dough that doesn't skimp on the butter. Don't miss a pie with house-made sausage and giardiniera. Expect a decent selection of beer and wine these days. Look for a city location opening in the future.
Recommended for Pizza because: The pizza at Burt's Place changed Anthony Bourdain's deep dish loathing mind about the Chicago culinary institution.
Jacky's expert tip: The new year-round heated patio has added seating to Burt's Place.
Piece brought New Haven-style pizza to Chicago and a happy-go-lucky attitude to the restaurant scene. Piece may have been among the first in town to offer unusual toppings (mashed potatoes, seafood, honey butter fried chicken, among the options). New Haven-style pizza is made with a proprietary red sauce and topped with garlic and Parmesan cheese and finished with olive oil. No mozzarella. You can also get plenty of iterations with cheese, barbecue sauce or brushed with olive oil (white pizza). The craft beer list is stellar and you can't lose with any of the award-winning Piece brews. If you're in a group, consider ordering an array of different small pizzas for a tasty adventure - like red pizza with pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions and Hot Doug's famous Atomic Sausage. Pizza fans return for tasty thin-crust pies, cheery service and reasonably priced craft brews.
Recommended for Pizza because: Since 2001, Piece has been the heartbeat of Wicker Park with award-winning brews and sassy pizza pies.
Jacky's expert tip: Be prepared to wait on weekends or show up in the early evening.
The northernmost pizzeria in the city of Chicago, Candlelite has been a neighborhood fave for tavern-style pizza since 1950. The sign outside evokes as much nostalgia as the thin and crisp crust with homemade sauce and fresh toppings. In fact, Candlelite is exactly the kind of place that influenced this sort of pizza to be dubbed, "tavern-style." Of course, the best pizza anywhere is what has just emerged from the blazing oven and landed on your table. If you're in the neighborhood, by all means, set the GPS to get to Candlelite. The menu lists more than 20 starters from brisket nachos to poutine tots as well as tailgate chili, wraps, sandwiches, burgers and nine salads. Move onto specialty pies (sausage, peppers, Provolone to an "Angry Hawaiian); and white pies including the Candlelite White with garlic oil, fresh mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan and goat cheeses, caramelized onions and roasted garlic. Otherwise, build your own tavern-style just the way you like it. The popular pizzeria that has been serving customers for more than 70 years in Rogers Park has spent months perfecting the ultimate frozen pizza recipe so you can get one delivered no matter where you're planted.
Recommended for Pizza because: Tavern-style pizza is what Chicagoans actually eat on the regular and Candlelite was there from the beginning.
Jacky's expert tip: Check the website for daily specials like half-off wine or buy one pizza, get one pizza free.
Step into 1965 at Vito & Nick's, a South Side institution in the Ashburn district. The specially seasoned sausage, tasty sauce and dough are identical to the stuff used on the thin, crisp pizza in the mid-'60s (when this location opened) - the family has been spinning dough for 90 years in total. From the strips of carpet paneling the walls to the neighborhood folks celebrating team wins and birthdays, Vito & Nick's is truly a slice of old Chicago. Don't be surprised to see hungry diners toting luggage on their way to or coming from Midway airport. Good bets include Italian beef and giardiniera pizza, egg and pepperoni pie or Vito & Nick's House Special, which is a sausage, mushroom, green pepper and onion pizza. The menu also has meatball sandwiches, pasta dishes and the Friday special is all-you-can-eat smelt.
Recommended for Pizza because: The family-owned South Side institution has legions of fans touting it "the best" since 1932.
Jacky's expert tip: Remember to bring cash! Credit cards are not accepted.
Formerly Pizza D.O.C., owners Carol and Dianne Himmel kept the pizza oven and the D.O.C. standards and added European (specifically German) dishes to the menu and everything is wúnderbar. Pies emerge sturdy, crisp and just slightly charred from Chicago's first wood-burning pizza oven. Try the delicate balance of a simple Pizza Estive (Mozzarella, fresh sliced tomato and basil; a surprising Pizza Patate & Rosmarino, redolent of rosemary and thinly sliced potatoes; or a rustic sausage and mushroom Pizza Boscaiola, among the dozen choices. You can go all Italian (pizza plus chicken Parm or spaghetti and meatballs) or head in a Teutonic direction - steak tartare; smoked salmon on freshly made pretzel bread; plates of German sausages and cheese; liver dumpling soup; schnitzels; and homemade spätzle baked with Swiss and Gruyere. Count on charmingly old-fashioned decor, plentiful German beer on tap, plus outdoor seating and occasional live music.
Recommended for Pizza because: When you're craving a perfectly executed Roman-style pizza AND a Bavarian pork shank with pretzel dumplings, head to Himmel's.
Jacky's expert tip: A gently reheated slice or two of Pizza Silvio & Gabriele, piled with arugula, prosciutto, sliced tomato and Parmigiano, makes a light, fresh breakfast or lunch the next day.
Family-led Lou Malnati's Pizzeria has been turning out the definitive Chicago-style deep dish pizza since 1971 in Lincolnwood and today there are more than 50 locations in the Chicago area and two in AZ (Cubs' spring training fans have to eat somewhere). Practically every neighborhood pizzeria offers a pan-style pie, but Lou's remains the arbiter of Chicago style. Every pizza is handmade from scratch using the family's secret recipe for the flaky, buttery crust but that's not all: the Malnati team hand selects California tomatoes, the exclusive sausage blend covers the entire disc and the fresh mozzarella comes from the same small dairy that has supplied Malnati's forever. If you don't go deep, order a thin and you'll still get a sense of that incredibly flaky crust. Try a robust Malnati salad: Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms, salami bits and Gorgonzola cheese with a sweet vinaigrette.
Recommended for Pizza because: Born in Chicago, 50-year-old Lou Malnati's remains the model to which all other deep-dish pies must compare.
Jacky's expert tip: Their "Tastes of Chicago" mail-order business will let you ship frozen deep dish pizzas to anywhere in the U.S.
It's not burnt! That crust at Pequod's Pizza is perfectly caramelized and even though the Lincoln Park outpost is also wildly popular, pie aficionados drive to the original in Morton Grove (1971) for a truly sensational pizza in an unpretentious, rustic setting. Inside and out, Pequod's looks and feels like an old Wisconsin bar but the scent is pure Chicago. This is pan pizza made heavenly by a sprinkling of cheese between the dough and the pan which exits the oven looking burnt but tasting like a perfect marriage of crusty bread and caramelized cheese. Pequod's is generous with toppings (the sausage is a propriety recipe made especially for the two restaurants) and the weekday lunch special at both outposts is phenomenal:$5.95 for a 7-inch cheese and an extra buck gets you a fountain drink. There's also thin crust (same dough and toppings, just flat) but why?
Recommended for Pizza because: There are some Chicagoans who may actually fight you if you don't count Pequod's Pizza as one of the best in the city.
Jacky's expert tip: Call ahead and your pizza will be on your table in no time flat - otherwise, you'll suffer for around 35 minutes watching others indulge.