Food & Drink

Chicago's 8 best under-the-radar pizza places

Sean Cooley Published On 07/11/2014 Published On 07/11/2014

We're not here to stoke the flames of the deep dish/thin crust debate (we believe in a world where they can coexist), but rather to highlight the unheralded pizzerias around Chicago that're pounding out quality pies. 

Oh, and when we say they're under-the-radar, we mean they're legitimately under-the-radar: none of these slice-houses appear on any of the most recent "Best Chicago Pizza Places" lists from Chicago magazine, Time Out Chicago, or Zagat.

Pizza by Alex

Pizza By Alex

Portage Park
Having grown from a carry-out/delivery spot into a full-service restaurant (with BYOB), super-thin, brick-oven pizzas are the norm for this place. Look for simple staples like the bruschetta pizza or Mexican variants like the pizza la ranchera (w/ chipotle sauce, beans, mushrooms, onions, and chorizo).

My Pie

My Pie Pizzeria

Bucktown
Swimming in the wake of giants like Giordano’s and Malnati’s, My Pie can be an afterthought for deep dish pizza, as evidenced by the fact that its multiple locations are now down to one. It's not for lack of effort, though -- with fillings like sausage, pepperoni, and pesto chicken, the deep dish pizza runs on the thinner side, so you can have multiple slices without going catatonic.

Pizza Art Cafe

Pizza Art Cafe

Lincoln Square
Owned by Bosnian natives who worked their way through Milan’s pizzerias, their art of pie-making involves a quick-cooking, wood-burning oven and 12in pizzas topped with the likes of four cheeses, seafood, house-cured smoked beef, or prosciutto di Parma topped with olives. It's also BYOB with no corkage fee, so we call that a win-win... -win-win-win-win-win-win.

Facebook.com/IMonelliTrattoriaPizzeria

I Monelli Trattoria Pizzeria

Lincoln Square
On the other end of Lincoln Square, I Monelli offers Southern Italian fare with crispy, thin crust pizzas, like a house special with sausage, chopped pepperoni, sautĂ©ed onions, and green peppers. The pizza lineup is backed up by appetizers like suppli (rice, mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce rolled in breadcrumbs and fried), and desserts like tiramisu or cannoli.

La Gondola

La Gondola

Lakeview
Italian for "The Gondola" (I know, we were totally shocked too), this restaurant outdoes its strip mall surroundings with generous slices of oily, thin crust pizza. Fill up on toppings like BBQ chicken, bolognese, and puttanesca.

Flickr/get directly down

Marie's Pizza & Liquors

Albany Park
File through the liquor store door and hang a right to find Marie's retro dining room. Sit down for some of the greasiest, quality pizza around -- blot with a napkin and you better hang your head in shame -- including Marie's special (sausage, green peppers, onions, and mushrooms). And be sure to pit stop at the liquor store on the way out for some road sodas.

Flickr/Kimberly Vardeman

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

Lincoln Park
Just when you thought you'd conquered the entire pizza landscape (deep, thin, Sicilian, pan, frozen), here comes Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. with a pot pie pizza. Resembling a giant door knob, the pies are made up of light Sicilian bread dough that encapsulates gooey cheese and sausage made from prime Boston butts (aside from Big Papi's), and the piping-hot heap is actually spooned out of a bowl tableside.

Pizza Rustica

Pizza Rustica

Lakeview
Having grown out of its original storefront across the street, this Italian eatery's pie menu is split between traditional (margherita, marinara, bianca) and non-traditional (ham with pineapple and jalapeños, rosemary potato slices). Be on the lookout for patio seating and daily blackboard specials.

This list -- and all the rest -- look even sexier in our iPhone app. Get it now

Sean Cooley is Thrillist's Chicago Editor, and he hopes to one day sing backup vocals for The Pizza Underground. Follow him @SeanCooley.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Pizza By Alex 5040 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60641 (Jefferson Park)

Having grown from a carry-out/delivery spot into a full service restaurant (with BYOB), super-thin brick oven pizzas are the norm for this place. Look for simple staples like the bruschetta pizza and Mexican variants, as well.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. My Pie Pizza 2010 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Bucktown)

My Pie opened their first pizza shop in 1971 and the haven't quit crafting quality pies since, and they still use same delicious ingredients and old-school recipes today at their Bucktown location.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Pizza Art Café 4658 N Rockwell St, Chicago, IL 60686 (Ravenswood)

Owned by Bosnian natives who worked their way through Milan’s pizzerias, their art of pie-making involves a quick-cooking wood-burning oven and 12in pizzas topped with the likes of four cheeses, seafood, house-cured smoked beef, and more.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Pizza Rustica 3908 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60613 (Wrigleyville)

If you're looking for something that is exactly what it sounds like, then this is your spot. Rustica is a true option for good Chicago pizza, wine, and ambiance.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. I Monelli Trattoria Pizzeria 5019 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (Lincoln Square)

Right off Lincoln Square, you'll find Southern Italian cuisine including appetizers like suppli (rice, mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce rolled in breadcrumbs and fried) and crispy, thin-crust pizzas.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. La Gondola 2914 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

La Gondola has high quality pies that bely its strip mall surroundings: fill up on generous slices of oily, thin crust pizza topped with BBQ chicken and bolognese.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Marie's Pizza & Liquors 4127 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60630 (Albany Park)

Marie's is an old school Chicago Italian in Albany Park known for its tavern-style thin crust pizza. To enter, walk through the liquor store entrance and turn right to find the retro dining room that's hasn't changed much since the 1970s. The menu is filled with Italian-American staples like chicken parm, lasagna, and Italian beef sandwiches, but the wonderfully greasy pizza is the star. The namesake Marie's Special pie, topped with sausages, green peppers, onions, and mushrooms, is a classic.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. 2121 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Located in an old brick townhouse in Lincoln Park, Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder is a cash-only Italian eatery famous for its pizza pot pies. Available in half-pound or one-pound portions, each pie is made of triple-raised Sicilian dough and filled with house-made tomato sauce, a blended mix of cheeses, whole mushrooms, and sausage. The menu also features oven grinder sandwiches stuffed with Italian meats, and if you're scared of carbs, don't worry, there's a whole category of salad dinners as well. You should definitely get the pot pie though -- you can't say you've conquered the Chicago pizza landscape without it.

Clickbait