Pizza should be portable
When pizza was first popularized back in 16th-century Naples, it was considered a poor person's dish and sold in the streets on the cheap. This rep continued through the centuries, with food trucks and corner stores taking the place of outdoor stands. But with deep dish? Not so much. Aside from delivery orders, Chicago pizza is a restaurant-only experience, far divorced from the food's original intention.
Over a heaping pan full of Pequod's pie, New Yorker-turned-Chicagoan Eliza offered a one-foot-in-each-world perspective on this conundrum. "You can like deep dish, but it doesn't do any of the work of New York pizza," she said. "I can take an NY slice with me, get it at any hour, and it costs me $1. It's for when you need an in-between thing, before you go out, after you go out. It's always accessible. And good. That's not deep dish at all."
Across town at Lou Malnati's River North location, I brought the issue up with Matt. He agreed. "It's not something you want for a quick bite on the go. Although offices Downtown do get it brought in for lunch sometimes," he told me, cringing at the thought. "Even then, though, you can only eat one slice if you're planning on doing anything else with your day."
It was the original fast food
Before I trekked out to Chicago, I had no idea deep dish took a full 45 to 60 minutes to cook -- and that's not even counting the 20-30 minutes you need to get through those massive and endlessly chewy slices. Eating it is an enormous commitment, like sitting down for a full-length Hollywood feature.
"When I first moved here, I was so mad about the pizza situation," griped Eliza. "I thought, 'I don't want lasagna pizza and I don't want to wait an hour.' Seriously, who's got 45 minutes for some fuckin' pizza?"
And pizza should be quick and easy
Most modern pizza is, by nature, a communal food meant to feed a group of people in equal, easy-to-serve proportions. That's been at the very core of American pizza since rickety street carts sold the stuff for a nickel a pop, and lives on in the form of the almighty slice. And deep dish is not a slice-friendly food.
"Nobody wants to sell you a slice here," Eliza told me, boiling over with frustration. "You know how much struggle you have to go through to get a fuckin' slice here? There might be a couple of places, but they're few and far between."
That deep dish refuses to get into the slice game is baffling to me -- those pieces are so filling, a restaurant could make bank on them. The whole practice is very anti-pizza.
It should double as a snack
The fact of the matter is, deep dish is just too much -- too much cheese, too much crust, too much sauce, too much everything. Even the toppings are extreme, literal sheets of sausage and pepperoni stacked like scalloped shingles on a roof. Eating it feels like slogging through dense, cheesy quicksand -- tasty quicksand, but quicksand all the same. It's basically Ambien in food form.
The pie at Giordano's, for example, was loaded with more cheese than the Wisconsin State Fair. It seeped out from inside the pie, spreading onto the plate like The Blob. It tasted like regret. It was, without a doubt, the least pizza-like of the three.
"Honestly, if I was trying to sell someone from New York on Chicago pizza, this would not be where I'd take them," admitted Matt. "It's a bit much for some people from Chicago, even. This is hibernation food."