They sure as hell don’t make ‘em like this anymore, especially in the suburbs, but this ripped-straight-from-the-streets-of-Italy grocery store/restaurant is a local gem offering everything from lunch meat and Italian beef to gelato and Italian ice -- and, of course, pizza. The thin crust is the move here, with options including a standout margherita and house-made sausage pizza, while the rectangular pan pizza is no slouch either. Enjoy yours on the outdoor patio or mingle with locals in the funky interior stocked with sweet finds from your Italian grandma’s house.
Mundelein & Third Lake
With peanut shells on the floor and animal taxidermy on the walls helping to cultivate a Northwoods Wisconsin-style lodge vibe, it’s impossible not to fall in love with this place immediately. And that’s before you see the squirrels wearing little hats. Or smell the pizza. Famous for their double-decker pizzas and puffy yet cracker crunchy crust, they do include some out-there offerings like the Mexican with taco-seasoned ground beef, but stick to the basics here with Bill’s Special (sausage, mushrooms, onion, green peppers) and you’ll do just fine. Bonus points: beer in frosty mugs.
Longtime Lincoln Park residents (and Thrillist readers) know one of the best pizzerias in America primarily thanks to its Chicago location which opened in 1992, but these cast-iron pan pizza experts have been reinventing locally made pizza in their friendly, unassuming Morton Grove digs since 1970. Known for its dense, crunchy crust and blackened edges which help form a ring of deep dish happiness, head up to the ‘burbs to stuff the void left by Burt’s with a glorious amalgamation of cheese, sauce, and dough.
Not to be confused with Nino’s Pizzeria in Buffalo Grove, this far South Side mainstay offers everything you need... and nothing more. Like checkered tablecloths and some of the most eye-popping, dramatic deep-dish pizza you’re likely to see placed before you, served piping hot and cooked to perfection. Whether you’re going thin crust, stuffed, or pan, you’ll immediately be won over with the help of this pizza’s thick lake of oozing cheese and tomato.
Northbrook & Des Plaines
Known as “The Family Inn” and famous for its thin, crispy cornmeal crust, this delightfully old-school joint has been making its pizza sauce and dough fresh daily for more than 40 years. And some things never change, like ordering your pizza from the counter and then saddling up with locally made kegged root beer from Filbert’s in a frosty mug as you wait for your pie to hit the wood booth table. Childhood relived.
While we tend to stay away from larger chains on lists such as these, no roundup of the best pizza in Chicago is complete without inclusion of this iconic pizza maker, who may or may not have invented deep dish. Either way, Lou’s flaky, buttery, pie-like crust, plum tomato sauce, exclusive sausage blend, and mozzarella sourced from the same Wisconsin farm for decades is reason enough to visit one of its 30+ suburban Chicago locations.
With the Sicilian Bambini family opening the original Elmwood Park location in 1963, Old World has since gone on to expand to five suburban locations thanks to its out-of-this-world deep dish with a stellar, somewhat tart sauce and some of the best cheese you’ll ever taste on a pizza (which is saying something). They also have huge takeout slices if you’re on the move and, if you feeling like really getting crazy, take a stab at one of their fried calzones for a next-level food coma.
With one Chicago location and three in the ‘burbs (Oak Park, Bolingbrook, River Grove), Salerno’s remains one of the most underrated pizza makers in the city. And that’s just the way they like it. Despite their latest gimmick that is the “Pokémon pizza,” Salerno’s has been counted on for more than 50 years to deliver that perfect unassuming kind of pizza that doesn’t overpower you with sauce, instead letting the cheese and toppings do the work.
One of the best-kept secrets on the South Side, it’s little wonder that locals love the old-school vibe of this dark, relaxed family restaurant and excellent thin-crust pies famous for their addictive buttery crust and fresh-tasting tomatoes. While they do deep dish, the thin crust packed with green peppers and mushrooms is the belle of the ball, and the servers are so friendly it’s almost kind of scary.
While the white table-clothed interior is a bit fancy for our liking, we have no qualms with the pizza: you can tell it’s good simply by looking at it. Par-baked in a 420-degree oven and served on a bed of sweet sauce with sausage made fresh daily, the Palermo’s Special (sausage, mushroom, green peppers, onion) is mighty tempting, but you can’t go wrong with the classic deep-dish sausage either.
The nondescript entrance and no-frills interior featuring a grand total of two tables isn’t meant to impress you. The pizza is. That’s why residents within the delivery zones of Arlington Heights, Palatine, and Rolling Meadows swear by the delivery drivers or drive for miles to pick up their pies in Wayne’s back carryout section. With house-made dough, flavorful sauce, and mozzarella ground from bricks daily, you can go either thin, pan, or double crust with options including shrimp and hamburger. But, as usual, simpler is better.
A North Shore institution since 1968, you can’t miss this good-times locals eatery housed in a wood barn with model trains running through it and an actual farm silo bearing the restaurant’s name out front. For the adventurous, they are famous for their seafood deep dish featuring snow crab, pollack, shrimp, and white clam sauce, which is actually way better than it sounds. But no one ever went wrong with a standard pepperoni either.
Sometimes you need to go back to the basics with the kind of pizza people actually eat in Italy. This authentic Neapolitan pizzeria hearkens back to the Old Country with house-made dough and expertly crafted pies cooked on the brick floor of 800-degree oak-fired ovens after being stretched on marble slabs. Like the gods (or Italians) intended.
With artisan ciabatta crust pizzas baked in coal-fired ovens and slathered in sauce dressed up with organic tomatoes, this more upscale Oak Brook eatery (formerly Pizza Barra) keeps it classy with a mouthwatering array of pies from meatball pan pizza to Italian beef thin crust. But we say go big or go home -- which, in this case, means tangling with the massively belly-expanding creation that is the lasagna pizza: made with ricotta, Russo sausage, and, of course, lasagna.
This no-frills suburban favorite keeps it simple with traditional thin-crust pizza served in classic tavern style, yours to enjoy with your own BYOB hooch until midnight. Most of its southwest suburban acolytes who swear by its spicy, smoky pepperoni and life-affirming crust, however, have never set foot inside the joint, as delivery remains the main move here.
1. Freddy's Pizza1600 South 61st Avenue, Cicero
2. Bill's Pizza & Pub624 S Lake St, Mundelein
3. Pequod's Pizza2207 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago
4. Nino's Pizza4835 W 111th St, Alsip
5. Barnaby's636 E Touhy Ave, Des Plaines
6. Lou Malnati's Pizzeria439 N Wells St, Chicago
7. Old World Pizza660 N Independence Blvd, Romeoville
8. Salerno's1201 W Grand Ave, Chicago
9. Louisa's Pizza & Pasta13840 S Cicero Ave, Crestwood
10. Palermo's 95th4849 W 95th St, Oak Lawn
11. Wayne's Pizza1618 W Northwest Hwy, Arlington Heights
12. The Silo625 Rockland Rd, Lake Bluff
13. Fiamme Pizzeria Napoletana19 N Washington St, Naperville
14. La Barra3011 Butterfield Rd, Oak Brook
15. Villa Nova Pizza6821 Pershing Rd, Stickney
Freddy's is the epitome of a dying breed -- family-owned corner shops serving up pizza made entire in-house and from scratch, using their own collections of house-cured meats, aged cheeses, and doughs. Aside from their square-shaped, deep-dish slices of heaven, Freddy's always has a lineup of saucy, cheesy pasta dishes waiting at the counter alongside its gelato counter, sporting flavors classic flavors like chocolate and lemon.
Peanut shells scattered over the floor and taxidermy-lined walls give this Mundelein eatery its unbeatable neighborhood tavern feeling, accompanied of course by both crunchy thin-crust pizzas and double-decker, deep-dish behemoths with the fluffiest bread bases in the city, which they've been perfecting since they opened for business in 1957. For the extra-gluttonous, chocolate chip cookie sundaes come drizzled in chocolate for a belly-busting end to an almost-perfect meal.
Pequod's should be on everyone's bucket list for deep-dish pizza in Chicago. The Lincoln Park mainstay specializes in cast-iron pan pizza with a caramelized cheese-topped crust. The lacy and blackened edges are a Pequod's signature, and the crust is crunchy and dense, while the cheese is sharp and tangy. The Clybourn Ave restaurant is open until 2am, so it's got your late-night pizza needs covered.
Few pizzas on Chicago's far South Side are more dramatic than the deep-dish served at Nino's, which has been honing its reputation since 1948. Deep-dish pies, featuring a tall, flaky crust, thick and gooey cheese, and sweet tomato sauce, are certainly Nino's specialty, but the thin-crust, stuffed, and pan pies aren't bad at all.
This medieval-looking Des Plaines hangout, known as "The Family Inn" is a true old-school pizza spot specializing in three things: (occasionally heart-shaped) crispy cornmeal crusts, homemade sauce, and kegged root beer. The mass of seats and north suburban Des Plaines location welcome big family, friend, and team gatherings that come for everything from basic cheese pizza to zesty green peppers and jalapeno toppings.
With more than 40 locations across the greater Chicago area, Lou Malnati's is synonymous with deep-dish pizza, not least because of its signature buttery and pie-like crust, exclusive sausage blend, and mozzarella that's been sourced from the same Wisconsin dairy farm for more than 40 years. According to pizza lore, Lou's dad probably invented deep-dish pizza and even if he didn't, the chain's reliable pan pies are pretty close to what the original deep-dish tasted like.
Opened by Sicily's Bamini family in the early 1960s, Old World Pizza is a real as Chicago pizza gets. Tart sauces and the gooiest cheese you've ever seen sit atop award-winning think crust pizzas and, of course, dishes deep enough to hold all your hopes and dreams. Slices come to-go if you're hungry in a hurry, or of you're (for some reason) looking to go a different route, hefty Italian sandwiches and salads should do it.
One of Chicago’s most unsung pizza makers deals, surprisingly, not in the way of the deep dish, and while it does offer thin crust as an option, Salerno's really shines when it comes to traditional, thick-crust pizza (a bold move, for Chicago). This predominately take-out operation offers surprisingly upscale appetizers like calamari, fried clams, and stuffed artichoke as a warm up for the Hawaiian, Sicilian, or Veggie pizza you pick up.
Among the hoards of pizza places mastering the art of the deep dish, Louisa's Pizza & Pasta is a hidden thin-crust gem located in Crestwood on the South Side. Sure, there's still some phenomenal deep dish at this dark, diner-style bar and restaurant, but it's the crunch of the thin crust and the slew of toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, sweet tomatoes and gooey mozzarella that really take the cake -- or, in this case, pie.
A true Italian spot sporting painted grape vines and white table cloths, Palermo's on 95th has Chicago authenticity in spades -- just look at itss beefy deep dish pizzas overflowing with sweet, chunky sauce; They're topped to your heart's desire and baked to order at 420 degrees. Multiple dinner menus feature house-made pastas and chicken dishes that go par beyond parmigiana if, for some reason, you aren't coming here for the pizza.
Way up in the north suburb of Arlington Heights, Wayne's Pizza doesn't use its setting to dazzle. Here, the pizza does all the talking. There's no low lighting or reclaimed brick walls -- hell, they've got two tables for the few who don't take theirs to go -- just a couple really good deep dish and thin crust pies, all made in-house from its buttery crust base, all the way through the flavor-packed sauce to the gooey mozzarella top.
When you spot the towering, white, literal silo at this Lake Bluff pizzeria, you'll know you've arrived. Since '68, this barn's been stuffing two floors and a patio's worth of hungry stomachs with their infamous deep dish pan pizzas, thick and gooey creations even a Chicagoan can't argue with. The toy trains whirring on the track above that hang from the ceiling lead wandering eyes to the full-service bar, serving up basic cocktails and domestic drafts.
Naperville's Fiamme takes things back (like, way back) to basics with its Neapolitan-style pizza. In the kitchen behind the dilapidated brick wall and rustic, wooden full-service bar, homemade dough gets stretched out on cold marble slabs while you warm up with a slab of cheese and bread. Then, its thinly coated with rich sauce, sprinkled with mozzarella or crumbly feta, then fired to a crisp at 800 degrees before landing at your table.
Located in the Oak Brook Promenade, La Barra is the dressy answer to the Chicago neighborhood slice. On top of thin and deep dish pizzas flaunting organic tomato sauce, La Barra ups the ante with a full dinner menu of pastas, fish, and meat dishes alongside a few sharable plates of olives, cheeses, breads, and dips. You won't find any takeout boxes behind the sleek, white-tiled counter -- but you will find an expansive number of imported wines.
This undecorated suburban spot sticks to the simple pleasures in life: square-cut, ultra-thin pizza, and the ability to bring your own beer. Most have their pies delivered or pick them up on the go despite their high demand and low number of deliverers, but Stickney's in-the-know crowd know the best way to eat these pies os to bring friends to ease the blow your stomach will take from all the toppings their thin crust manages to uphold.