Table Of Contents
- Deep Dish
- Thin Crust
- Stuffed Crust
- Other delicious Chicago Pizza Styles
Chicago is famous for its deep-dish style of pizza. Tourists flock to pizza joints like Uno’s, Giordano’s, and Lou Malnati’s for that brick-thick crust. However, if you ask most Chicagoans, deep-dish isn’t something we eat regularly here. Don’t get us wrong, we love deep-dish but day-to-day Chicagoans often prefer tavern-style or even New York’s thin-crust (gasp!) Here’s our guide to pizza in Chicago, broken down by style so you can eat ‘za like a true Chicagoan.
Let’s start with what Chicago is known for, even if it’s not what most Chicagoans eat day-to-day. While the lore behind who created this pizza is hotly debated, the recipe is about the same from joint to joint. Deep dish pizza reverse-engineers the design of traditional pizza with the sauce served on top of the cheese.
Making deep-dish starts by pressing the dough in and up the walls of a deep, well-oiled pan. Next, mozzarella cheese is layered over the crust typically followed by sausage or any other topping. Thick, flavorful marinara is spread on top, followed by a sprinkling of parmesan before popping the whole thing in the oven. Approximately 30-45 minutes later, you’ve got a beast of a pizza that’s piping hot and ready to eat.
These thick, gooey masterpieces make for a heavy meal. Typically, you’ll feel full on one or two slices, which is why this style of pizza is more of a special occasion meal than a regular night feast. If you’re looking for good deep dish in Chicago, here are a few go-to places we recommend.
Uno’s Pizzeria & Grill, Multiple Locations Nationwide
The legendary birthplace of Chicago deep dish, Uno’s is one of the more touristy pizzeria’s in town. You won’t find many Chicagoans here simply because of the hype, but it’s still an excellent place to get a really great pizza pie. The wait can be long, particularly so at the location downtown, but we think it’s worth it, especially since the bar is open seating. Deep dish here is carried to your table still in the piping hot pan it was baked in, your server holding onto it with a metal clamp, which shows just how fresh it is. While Uno’s is a classic, it’s not our favorite joint in town. We prefer thicker ‘za than Uno’s offers (yes, really) but it’s still a great pizza option, especially if you’re new to deep dish.
Lou Malnati’s, Multiple Locations
This place is extremely popular with Chicagoans and borders on being a tourist destination. With multiple locations in the city and suburbs, Lou Malnati’s is one of our favorite spots for deep dish. Lou Malnati’s uses butter to grease its pans rather than oil, which makes the crust flavorful and gives it pastry-like flakiness. You can’t just shove this pizza into your mouth, though. A knife and fork are required to dine, at least for the first few bites.
For those of you who have moved away from Chicago and miss this nostalgic pizza restaurant, don’t worry. Lou Malnati’s ships their pizza all over the country, meaning you can indulge in your favorite childhood pizza without lifting a finger.
Bartoli’s Pizzeria, 1955 W. Addison St
This is another place that uses butter instead of oil to grease its pans. Located in Roscoe Village, Bartoli’s serves hefty pies packed with cheese and toppings. The sauce is hearty with enormous chunks of sweet tomatoes. Bartoli’s also sells really good tavern-style thin crust pizza cut into squares for easy serving. If your family has a pizza feud of thin vs deep-dish, Bartoli’s is the perfect place for a peaceful meal.
My Pi Pizza, 2010 N. Damen Avenue
If your craving deep dish, but aren’t hungry enough to finish off multiple slices, My Pi Pizza is one popular pizza joint that sells both deep and thin pizza by the slice. My Pi Pizza serves slices that have an even thickness of crust, a good amount of cheese, and sauce that’s deliciously seasoned with garlic and oregano. My Pi Pizza also has a vegan menu, so anyone can enjoy its delicious pizza from zero-meat eaters to lactose-intolerant diners. This is one of our favorite spots for a quick lunch bite and also delivers nationwide so you can enjoy some delicious ‘za from anywhere in the country.
As Steve Dolinsky outlines in his book Pizza City, USA: 101 Reasons Why Chicago is America’s Greatest Pizza Town, there’s technically many thin-crust styles to choose from. Crunchy, cracker-esque Tavern-Style cut into squares is typically what Chicagoans think of when it comes to thin-crust. That or New York style that can be folded in half and munched on during your lunch break. There’s also chewier styles of thin pizza that tend to have more of a give due to the higher fermentation of the dough. We’re not going to go into the many thin-crust styles here (although if that interests you, we highly recommend Dolinksy’s book) but here are a few of our top picks for slim pizza places in Chicago.
Home Run Inn Pizza, Multiple Locations
If you root for the White Sox, you’ve probably had your fair share of tavern-style from Home Run Inn Pizza (the pizza restaurant sponsors the team.) It’s a popular stadium snack among fans of the south side baseball team. With cracker-thin crust and a symphony of crackle with every bite, Home Run is somewhat pricey but well worth it. There are also multiple locations across Chicago, so you can enjoy your favorite baseball snack wherever is closest to you.
Pudgy’s, 13460 S. Baltimore Ave
This joint really isn’t a place you can sit down and enjoy a meal (there’s only one table), but its take-out menu is fantastic. Slathered with a thick, well-seasoned tomato sauce, Pudgy’s thin crust pizza ticks every box for good ‘za. The cheese, a mix of whole and skim mozzerella, has a delicious pull worthy of Instagram. The toppings for this pizza are hidden under the cheese for a cohesively yummy bite. Cut into squares, this pizza makes an excellent crowd-pleaser.
Dante’s Pizzeria, Multiple locations
If you’re looking for New York-style pizza that you can fold in half, Dante’s Pizzeria is a good option for transient east-coast eaters. Dante’s slices are huge with garlic brushed crust and deliciously sweet and acidic tomato sauce. While Dante’s pizza is great any time a day, we recommend it as a post-drinking meal to curb any next-morning headaches. Dante’s is also BYOB, making it a perfect spot to start a night out with friends.
This is our editor’s personal favorite style of pizza. We’re not talking about freezer-aisle pizza where the outer crust overflows with cheese. This is much, much better than that. While on the surface, a stuffed crust pizza might look like any other deep dish, but the secret is hidden beneath the sauce.
The layers in this style go crust, cheese, more crust, sauce, parmesan. The entire pizza has heavenly, gooey mozzarella sandwiched between two layers of buttery, flakey crust. Yum!
Tedino’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, 5335 N Sheridan Rd
This Edgewater pizzeria is where our editor always orders when they’re hankering for some stuffed ‘za. The tomato sauce is the perfect balance between sweet and acidic and the cheese is absolutely incredible. If you want to see a truly magical cheese pull, look no further than Tedino’s. The restaurant’s delivery time is also fairly quick, especially considering their pizza takes at least 30 minutes to bake.
Giordano’s, Multiple Locations
Giordano’s is another popular choice for deep dish and the tourist scene isn’t usually as hectic here, meaning you can enjoy its famous stuffed crust pizza in peace. There’s tons of options to choose from on Giordano’s menu from it’s Chicago classic pie to a Super Veggie ‘za. You can also make your own with whatever toppings you like! There’s also gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options so everyone is welcome to enjoy Gidorando’s famously delicious stuffed crust.
Other delicious Chicago Pizza Styles
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the variety of amazing pizzas available in Chicago. We haven’t even scratched the surface, but here’s a quick run-down of some of the other popular pizza styles pizzerias in Chicago are known for.
These pizzas are lovingly labored over by pizza makers all over Chicago. The magic is all in the dough making process which can take multiple days. Artisan pizza makers let their dough rise and ferment for hours, sometimes days in order to get a beautifully soft crust. The result is a masterpiece of cheese, dough, sauce, and toppings worthy of a higher price tag.
This pizza style originates from Naples, Italy (duh) and has a strict number of rules pizza makers need to follow for their pie to be considered truly Neapolitan. The dough has to be made with the right kind of refined flour, the sauce from San Marzano tomatoes, and it must be baked in a brick oven.
Sicilian pizza totally deconstructs the typical pizza process. Instead of making the dough, then adding the ingredients, cheese and sauce are incorporated into raw dough before it’s baked. This makes for a crunchy bottom crust, soft upper layer, and blackened edges, making each bite truly remarkable. This type of pizza can appear round or square but is always scrumptious.
Pan pizza is very similar to deep-dish with a few key differences. While both are served in a deep, metal pan, pan pizzas usually don’t re-engineer pizza the way deep dish does; i.e. the cheese goes over the sauce rather than the other way around. Pan pizzas also often have a thicker crust than deep dish with a crispy edge all the way around. Dominos sells a pan pizza that’s not bad in a pinch, but we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for some high quality ‘za.
Phew! That was a lot of pizza. Excuse us as we slip into a cheesy coma.
What’s your favorite pizza place in Chitown? We’d love to hear from you. Tag us with your favorite by using the hashtag #mysecretchicago.
If you want to know more about Chicago pizza, we highly recommend checking out Pizza City, USA: 101 Reasons Why Chicago is America’s Greatest Pizza Town by Steve Dolinsky. It’s an exhaustive guide to Chicago pizza spots, culture, history, and theory that turned us onto some of our new favorite pizza joints in Chicago!
[Featured image from Instagram / @norfkorea]