I grew up in the Chicago area eating thin-crust, square-cut, Midwestern pizza, equipped to handle more toppings than seems physically possible. Personally, my favorite pieces are the corner slices, which sounds counterintuitive -- how can a circular pizza have a corner? They’re the lone four edge pieces shaped like miniature wedges, the crunchier the better.
Now I'm a pizzamaker at Paulie Gee’s Logan Square, a Chicago pizza joint that originated in Brooklyn. We specialize in two styles: playful, Neapolitan-style woodfired pizza with non-traditional toppings, and Detroit-style pan pizza. Note that neither of those is related to my hometown. Outsiders still seem to think that all Chicagoans eat is deep-dish; in response, natives insist that all we truly eat are tavern-cut thin square slices. But that's never been the whole story.
What actually defines pizza in Chicago? Topping-wise, we still stubbornly love meat. We’re mainly a pork-based Italian sausage town -- sure, there’s pepperoni on every menu, but Chicagoans veer toward sausage heavily dosed with fennel seed, garlic, and pepper. It’s always in large juicy misshapen chunks, not crumbled finely, or encased and sliced into coins, like you typically see in New York.
Of course, there's deep-dish. We don’t eat a ridiculous amount of it. If anything, if you’re in from out of town, we want to show you that one thing you can’t get at home. (That's called being a good host.) I still love it, though I don’t eat it often. When I do, it’s a reminder that damn, that much melted cheese is inherently delicious.
So let’s talk. Chicago will always have the classics, but with an armada of pizzerias obsessing over the quality of their dough, and new styles constantly being introduced, there's way more to Chicago than the deep-dish/tavern style binary.
In recognition of that too-often-ignored fact, we offer you the best pizza places in Chicago -- of every style.
COVID-19 has changed the way all of the way these restaurants exist, and we’ve updated this list to include new restaurants since the pandemic started. Pizza is the perfect takeout food anyway.
Tavern style, along with deep dish, is Chicago's hometown classic. Most people just call it thin crust, and it's exactly what it sounds like: a thin-crust (like, cracker-thin), often circular pizza cut into squares, not wedges.
Yes, that deep-dish. A round, high-walled fortress of cheese and dough with sauce on top, this pie is both eternally revered and endlessly teased. It's a Chicago culinary legend, rivaled only by Italian beef and Chicago-style hot dogs.
You're familiar with this one. There aren’t many slice shops here, but the ones we have are well-loved and worth your time.
Detroit style is quietly spreading across America. It’s a thick, focaccia-esque pizza baked in a steel pan lined with cheese along the edges. Once baked, those edges crisp up and caramelize, resulting in a square pie of widely varying textures.
The one category that’s seriously picking up steam in Chicago is artisanal pizza, pizza nouveau that defies tradition and creates its own amorphous category. What sets these pies apart is a hyperfixation on dough and baking techniques.
Certain pizza styles can only be had at a few spots around town. Some are strange; others are just gaining national momentum; all are worth trying.
Sicilian-style pizza comes in thick, square slices. It’s like a focaccia bread topped with tomato sauce, and it’s surprisingly hard to find in Chicago.
The granddaddy of all pizza, Neapolitan -- in all its soft, blistered, wood-fired glory -- has a fair representation in Chicago. We’ve got a handful of VPN certified pizzerias that follow the tradition of Naples and have the paperwork to prove it.
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