There are a lot of terrific places to sample Chicago deep dish pizza. To get to any of them, be careful not to ask for recommendations on the best Chicago-style pizza — the answer could point you toward the legendary cracker crust, square-cut tavern-style pie at Vito & Nick’s on the far South Side, or the delicious pizza pot pie at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. in Lincoln Park.
Both are great, but neither is an example of Chicago deep dish. That particularly big-shouldered pie will come at you in a pan blackened over years of use, with an inch or so of buttery crust, chunky sauce and elastic strands of mozzarella that never quite seem to snap when transitioning to the plate.
Famous Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago
Exactly who has the best deep dish pizza in Chicago is a question to be answered over years of research — contented, glassy-eyed research. The search will take you to funky, ancient restaurants and chains alike. Here, in no particular order, are some great places to start:
- Pequod’s: Virtually any list of Chicago’s best deep dish will include Pequod’s. What separates this Lincoln Park original — it’s basically a pub in a two-flat — from the competition is the caramelized ring of cheese at the outer edge, where most pan pies will buttress their structure with a bread stick’s worth of crust. Large cheese pie price: $21.
- Lou Malnati’s: Lou’s is a chain with 62 locations — including Bucktown/Wicker Park, the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, River North, the Loop, West Loop and South Loop — but its origins stem from the earliest days of deep dish. Lou’s father, Rudy, is generally considered one of the two likeliest candidates to have come up with the first recipe used at Chicago’s deep dish originator, Pizzeria Uno, and Lou opened his joint in 1971. Malnati’s has two differentiators: a buttery and nearly crunchy crust, and sausage that is not placed in chunks strewn about the pie, but as a disc covering the whole crust. Large cheese pie price: $25.
- Pizzeria Uno: Founded in 1943, this is the original Chicago deep dish. Now part of an international chain, the original restaurant occupies a bustling River North location in a brownstone at the corner of Ohio and Wabash. The second restaurant in the chain, Pizzeria Due, is a block away. Large cheese pie price: $25.
- The Art of Pizza: Ensconced in a Lakeview storefront, this place has been selling flawlessly structured pies for more than 30 years. Its balance of perfectly browned crust, substantial-but-not-ridiculous amounts of tasty cheese and dazzling sauce helped lift it to No. 1 in a 2001 Chicago Tribune ranking. Large cheese pie price: $20.
- Gino’s East: A cornmeal crust distinguishes Gino’s East from most of its fellow deep dish purveyors. That makes the pie a bit more stable and a bit less greasy — which is a plus or a minus, depending on your point of view — than most. The original location, opened in 1966, is no more, but there are Chicago locations on the Mag Mile and in Lakeview, River North and the South Loop. Large cheese pie price: $26.
- Giordano’s: Dating to the ’70s, this chain is now in 10 states, but this isn’t some imitator. Giordano’s has a hefty stuffed pie — crust on the bottom, then sliced cheese, then toppings and another crust all topped with sauce — with a recipe the restaurant’s founders trace to Northern Italy in the 1800s. This weighty masterpiece can be found in the Loop, Lakeview, West Loop and South Loop — among many other locations. Large cheese pie price: $25.
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