Love it or hate it: you can’t deny that Chicago-style pizza is one talked-about dish. While legions of East Coast naysayers will scoff at anything deep dish in favour of their wafer-thin crusts, Chicagoans are justifiably proud of their famous pies.
The best Chicago style pizza in Chicago is a symphony of excess. The crust is thick and hearty, with an exterior crunch that gives in to a softened centre. Sauce isn’t drizzled, oh no – sauce is ladled on until the pizza is swimming in a small, tomatoey lake. And given that a typical pie is roughly two inches high, there’s plenty of room for fillings and a molten heart of cheese (typically baked under the sauce, revealing itself as each slice pulls away a lattice of mozzarella strings).
So, no. Chicago-style pizza wouldn’t exactly qualify as subtle, and it won’t win you points with your nutritionist. But if you’re ready to indulge and want to dine like a real Chicagoan, you’d do well to stop at one of these pizzerias for a truly authentic pizza communion.
One little-known fact among non-natives: there are a couple different varieties of Chicago-style pizza, including stuffed and deep dish. The difference is relatively subtle – stuffed pizza has an extra layer of dough between the sauce and the filling, making it even higher and more packed with cheese and other add-ons – and they’re both equally satisfying. Nancy’s is a Chicago classic, with several branches across town that are the perfect place to sample true stuffed pizza. Founded in 1970 by Nancy and Rocco Palese, Nancy’s has regularly been singled out as one of the best pizza joints in Chicago.
Another citywide favourite that serves up seriously decadent stuffed pizza is Giordano’s. A rival of Nancy’s (the two both claim to have invented stuffed pizza), Giordano’s traces the origins of its pie to Italy, where it was modelled on an old-timey recipe for ‘Italian Easter Pie.’
For those after an authentic slice of deep dish pizza, Lou Malnati's is one recommended stop. Despite its popularity among out-of-towners, Pizzeria Uno this is not: instead, the pizza that you’ll find here is a study of expertise, with a perfectly flaky, buttery crust, homemade sauce, and locally sourced ingredients. And we mean local: rumour has it that the dough is made with water sourced from Lake Michigan.
There are also a number of independent eateries putting a creative spin on the classic formula. Pequod’s in Lincoln Park specialises in a terrifically bready creation, with a crust characterised by a halo of char around the edges. Burt’s Place is also a must-visit: its kitschy, antique-filled interior, caramelised crust, and famous pizza chef (Burt Katz, who also opened Pequod’s before moving on to his eponymous restaurant) make it a bona fide Chicago legend.
It’s worth noting that Chicago even does a thin-crust pizza. Nicknamed the ‘party-cut’, the pizza is cracker-crisp and cut into square pieces. But if you’re visiting the city, odds are you’re after the sloppy, artery-clogging, totally indulgent Chicago-style. Set aside a few days to do your sampling: you’ll definitely need some time to digest.
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Where do your pizza allegiances fall -- are you pro-Chicago style or pro-New York? tell us who you think serves up the best Chicago style Pizza in Chicago? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Written by Claire Bullen
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About the author: ClaireBullenClaire Bullen
Claire is a born globetrotter: before relocating to London, she spent time in New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. When she's not in pursuit of the next exciting meal, she can be found haunting indie bookstores and sketching outdoors. Follow Claire @ClaireMBullen