When you first think of Chicago pizza, you think about the hearty, soul-warming, eat-with-a-fork, sauce-topped pies that come served in a deep-dish pan. And the city does have that, and it does it well, but Chicago also serves up some pretty fabulous tavern style, Detroit style, and Neapolitan pizzas too, among a lot of other options.
The next time you’re in Chicago, add some of these local favorites to your pizza bucket list.
Baked in a deep pan with the dough pressed along the sides for a tall crust, topped with cheese and then sauce – really, there’s no explanation needed.
Lou Malnati’s: now with 50+ locations, including serving deep dish fanatics in Arizona, Lou’s opened in 1971 in Lincolnwood and has been serving deep dish pizza on its flaky butter crust ever since. Try “The Lou” for a veggie-friendly option or the “Malnati Chicago Classic” topped with Lou’s lean sausage patty. Lou’s is one of my personal favorites and the place I always think of first when I think “deep dish”.
Pequod’s: established in Morton Grove, you can now get Pequod’s caramelized crust at their original location or at their Chicago location in Lincoln Park. Pequod’s is most well-known for its crust, which boasts mozzarella cheese cooked along the edge of a cast iron pan to create a delicious, savory crust with some crunch.
Burt’s Place: Burt was the original founder of Pequod’s but went on to open his namesake restaurant in 1989. The Morton Grove restaurant is not far from the original Pequod’s and serves up a similarly delicious pan pizza with a caramelized crust. Check out the patio on summer nights. You can’t go wrong with Burt’s or Pequod’s so you’ll just have to try them both and pick your favorite.
Giordano’s: a slightly different take on deep dish pizza, Giordano’s uses a family recipe for stuffed pizza. The original location was opened in 1974 by brothers, Efren and Joseph. While still tall and topped with toppings, cheese, then sauce, Giordano’s pizza crusts come stuffed with cheese.
Art of Pizza: not ready to commit to a full pizza? Art of Pizza offers pizza by the slice – everything from thin crust to the legendary pan-stuffed. Art of Pizza can be found on State Street or on the Northside near Ashland and Belmont.
TAVERN STYLE THIN CRUST
Tavern style is a local Chicago favorite. It’s a thin crust, circular pizza, but cut into squares. The first pieces I go for are the corner triangles – heavy on crust but still with a good amount of toppings to balance it all out.
Palermo’s on 95th: this is a Southside favorite that has been serving up Italian food and delicious tavern style pizzas since 1961. The restaurant is still family run and offers great Italian pastas, entrees, and salads if you’re looking for more than just pizza.
Vito & Nick’s: often featured in “best of” round-ups and even making an appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, Vito & Nick’s is a pizza institution. This family owned pizza joint has been making pizzas for over 90 years, specializing in thin crust. Try the house-made fennel sausage pizza.
Pat’s Pizza: with a Lincoln Park location and a downtown location, Pat’s has been baking thin crust pizzas since the 1950’s. Try the Pat’s Special for a delicious mix of sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.
A thick pizza with caramelized crust, usually baked in a rectangle so every single piece comes with that delicious, crunchy, cheesy crust – the corner pieces are to-die-for.
Fat Chris’s Pizza and Such: located in the Ravenswood/Lincoln Square area, Fat Chris’s is a casual joint owned by brothers, Michael, Chris, and Nick. They also serve traditional hand-tossed pizzas, but the Detroit-style options are a must-try.
Union Squared: brought to Evanston by the same group that introduced Union Pizzeria (a wood-fired pizza place with a concert venue in the back, also delicious), Union Squared is just down the block and offers a more laid-back vibe alongside delicious Detroit-style pizzas. Try the pepperoni and ask for the Clincher for a spicy/sweet addition of hot honey & picked jalapenos on top.
NEAPOLITAN (AND OFFSHOOTS)
Naples-style pizza with tomatoes and mozzarella, baked in a wood fire oven. Chicago even offers some pizza joints that are VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) certified. Neapolitan pizza gave rise to New York-style pizza and even New Haven-style pizzas.
Spacca Napoli: located in Ravenswood, Spacca Napoli is a neighborhood favorite. The restaurant serves up delicious burrata and grilled octopus alongside pizzas baked in an oven built by third and fourth-generation pizza lovers from Napoli. Visit in the summer to dine al fresco on the patio.
Forno Rosso: Nick Nitti spent years of his childhood in Italy and then returned as an adult to train in the art of Pizza Napoletana. He completed all the certifications with VPN and then opened a VPN-certified pizza parlor in Chicago. The original location is on Harlem but also has a location in the West Loop on Randolph – it’s always a delicious option in an area where it can sometimes be tough to get a table.
Coalfire: instead of wood fired, Coalfire draws inspiration from Neapolitan style pizza and coal fires its pizzas. The pizza is thin and comes out of a 1,500 degree oven fueled by clean burning coal. Try the Pepperoni & Whipped Ricotta or Pistachio Pesto.
Piece: Piece, located in Wicker Park, serves up thin crust, New Haven style pizzas. They recommend keeping the toppings simple on their pies and pairing them with a round of beers brewed in-house. Visit Friday nights, when the restaurant often has live band karaoke.
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.: is it a pizza? A pot pie? A casserole? Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder is famous for its pizza pot pie combo that’s baked in a bowl and then turned upside down at your table. Try the version with whole, fresh mushrooms. Local tip – this place is cash only and a popular destination, so expect a wait.