Ask someone who lives outside of Chicago to name a food they associate with the city and I guarantee you they will say deep dish pizza. Chicago has built up a reputation for serving extremely filling and tasty thick crust pizza. While the city has plenty of delicious thin crust and other innovative pizza options, deep dish is king in the Windy City. This brings up an age old debate on whether New York style thin crust pizza or Chicago style deep dish pizza is best. Personally I prefer thin crust most of the time, but when I’m craving deep dish, man does it hit the spot! With so many restaurants claiming they have the best deep dish pizza in Chicago, where should one go for the cream of the crop? Fear not, here is a list of my picks for best deep dish pizza in the Windy City!
#5: Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
Lou Malnati’s is one of the staples in Chicago. It has been around since the 1940’s and has become a favorite among tourists and locals alike with several locations in the city and around the suburbs. Their deep dish pizza is most known for its trademark buttery crust (Buttercrust™). It is crispy and buttery as the name suggests. I find this crust to be the best part of this establishment’s deep dish, as the rest of the pizza has too much chunky sauce for my liking. Perhaps if the ratio of sauce to cheese was more equal, Lou Malnati’s would be higher on my list.
#4: Gino’s East
Gino’s East opened its doors in Chicago in 1966 and has built up a reputation for world-famous deep dish pizza. The restaurant has expanded into a fairly large chain with locations across the Chicagoland area and even in in Wisconsin, Texas, and Mexico City. Frozen options are even available in many grocery stores around the US. The secret to Gino’s is its tangy sauce which combines excellently with savory and spicy toppings like Italian beef, sausage, sweet peppers, and giardiniera. The cornmeal crust that Gino’s East uses gives its pizza a unique texture and makes the pizza less greasy than its competitors, which some may enjoy. For me, the cornmeal crust is actually its main downfall which puts it at #4 on my list.
Giordano’s, which has been serving up deep dish pizzas since 1974, is widely regarded as the best in the city. Tourists seem to know this place best, and perhaps it is because of the wide array of locations throughout the city and suburbs. The draw for tourists to visit Giordano’s when in Chicago may fade over time though as it expands to other states like Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, Nevada, and Minnesota. Giordano’s is a bit more sauce heavy than other competitors. However, its sauce is smoother and zestier than most, with stringy and delicious mozzarella cheese to compliment the tasty marinara. The softer, but still a bit crispy, crust makes for a wonderful texture that compliments the mounds of mouth watering toppings that sit on this beautiful pizza pie.
#2: The Art of Pizza
Immediately as you walk in to this quaint pizza shop, located in Lakeview close to Roscoe Village, the amazing smell lets you know you have chosen the right place for pizza. Although the name is a bit cheesy, The Art of Pizza really does know a thing or two about the art of pizza. This establishment serves up excellent deep dish and thin crust pizza. Their thin crust is solid, but some may be put off by the extreme pool of grease that comes with it. The thick crust pizza they serve though is a different story. Normally a thick crust pizza takes around 45 minutes to prepare and bake, so it can be a big time investment. The Art of Pizza sells individual slices of deep dish pizza in addition to their massive 12 inch pies, which makes choosing different toppings and eating quickly here more doable than any other deep dish spot in Chicago. Their pizza has an incredible crispy, cracker-like crust that is topped with about two-thirds gooey, delicious cheese and a nice layer of extremely fresh marinara sauce, sprinkled with Parmesan. Cheese lovers and lovers of pizza with a crunch will surely have a foodgasm at The Art of Pizza.
#1: Pequod’s Pizza
More and more tourists are finding out about this pizza establishment, which has been regarded by many locals as the best deep dish in Chicago. I would go a step further and say Pequod’s, with locations on the west side of Lincoln Park and in the suburb of Morton Grove, is the best deep dish pizza in the world. Perhaps there is some random chef named Vlad in the middle of nowhere Siberia who has studied the art of deep dish pizza, baking up the most amazing thick crust pizza you’ll ever have. However, since Chicago is the inventor and king of the deep dish pizza, I’d venture to say there is a slim chance anyone else is beating Peqoud’s deep dish, made with its signature caramelized crust. That’s right, Peqoud’s loads the perfect ratio of cheese and incredibly fresh sauce onto crust that has a perfect crispy texture. Once you get to the final edge crust of the pizza you’ll find a slightly burnt and crunchy caramelized crust that gives this pizza a tasty and differentiating factor from all other deep dish pizzas in the city. Make sure to get to Peqoud’s early or in their off hours, or expect a long queue that can be waited out with a cold brew in the bar next door.
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire