My kind of town, Chicago is…Wrigley Field, The Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier and of course, the deep-dish pizza – a spin on a classic dish that is as original and authentic as the Windy City itself. As a major metropolitan area, you can get pizza all over the city. But when it comes to the deep-dish specialty pizza, we’ve found a handful of places where you can get the best deep-dish pizza in Chicago.
As we all know, pizza’s humble origins begin in the gardens of Italy, where the freshest, sun-ripened tomatoes are puréed and accompanied by olive oil, garlic, oregano, and fresh basil. These authentic ingredients blend perfectly with an underlying thin, light crust for a delightfully herbal masterpiece.
In the US (some say perfected in New York), the tomato sauce is slow-cooked, and the crust is thicker, supporting more cheese, more sauce, and an endless variety of toppings.
Now on to Chicago pizza. As legend would have it, some artful and inventive pizza chefs took the original pizza concept in an entirely new direction.
Dating as far back as 1926, culinary artists including Severio Rosati at Chicago Authentic Pizza, Ike Sewell at the original Pizzeria UNO, and Rudy Malnati, UNO’s original pizza chef, redefined a classic, resulting in Chicago-style pizza.
Taking a thick pan, they literally turned the traditional pizza upside down, resulting in pie-like layers. The sauce became the top layer, covering the cheese and toppings. The thickness of the new creation takes a mandatory forty-minute baking process to produce a glorious tower of pizza perfection – the Chicago deep-dish pizza.
So, where does one begin a tour to experience the best deep dish pizza delicacies in Chicago? Read on to find out!
5 Best Deep Dish Pizza Restaurants in Chicago
The Original Pizzeria UNO on Ohio and Wabash
29 E Ohio St. // +1 312-321-1000
This is the starting point on your journey, the very genesis of deep-dish history. The ambiance is as authentic as the food, with signature checkerboard tiles, an ornate tin roof and cozy tables and booths packing in the happy patrons.
What to try – The individual 7” Numero UNO: Sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms, chunky tomato sauce, mozzarella, romano, and a local draft beer.
You’ll quickly see why this Chicago institution has now become a national chain of over one hundred restaurants, including locations as far away as Honduras, India and Saudi Arabia!
Fortunately for you, you can also stay right at home to try one of Chicago’s best deep-dish pizzas.
Lou Malnati’s on North Wells Street
439 N Wells St. // +1 312-828-9800
Malnati’s is a small, intimate space decorated with iconic jerseys from legendary Chicago sports teams. The bar is a friendly gathering place, where you’re likely to strike up a conversation with a fellow pizza lover.
What to try: The ‘Lou’ – a deep dish with mushrooms and onions, featuring a layer of Roma tomatoes and three kinds of cheese cradled with Malnati’s signature garlic butter crust. All I can say is “wow” – it’s like a party in a pan!
If you want one of the best Chicago style deep-dish pizzas, Malnati’s is the place.
Giordano’s on Rush Street
730 N Rush St. // +1 312-951-0747
Spacious, modern, bright and bustling, this is a totally different experience than the smaller pizzerias described above. Bright, theater-like signage outside makes it feel like this is the place to be.
You can pull up at some of the huge flat screens in the expansive bar area to watch a game and the mandatory forty-minute bake time just flies by.
What to try: The Famous Stuffed Individual Deep-Dish, with your favorite toppings. Power through the piled high layers loaded with cheese for a meal to remember. Sounds simple, but the complexity of the layers and the combination of only the best ingredients make this a “best of” Chicago deep-dish pizza for the ages.
Pizano’s on State Street
864 N State St. // +1 312-751-1766
This came highly recommended (actually from the bartender at Pizza Uno) as one of the originals.
The story here is that Rudy Malnati (Lou’s brother) and his son Rudy Jr. launched the chain while Rudy’s wife, Donna “Momma” Malnati made the dough balls in her basement from a secret family recipe. The resulting specialty pizza, with a thin crust, rivals the deep dish competition.
What to try: The Thin Cheese, which comes in medium or large only, so be sure to bring a friend or two. If you’re going to go to one of Chicago’s best pizzerias, to get one of Chicago’s best pizzas, what better than to share?
Pequod’s on Fernald Avenue in Morton Grove
2207 N Clybourn Ave. // +1 773-327-1512
Pizza chef Burt Katz launched his restaurant in the 60s and created the “Pan Pizza” and became known as the “Father of the Caramelized Crust”, a unique variation where the ingredients lay on a puffy crust.
In the baking process, a crispy edge of cheese caramelizes, turning lacy and dark.
Many natives of Chicago tout this as best of all Chicago pizzas, even though not as well known as the more popular places listed above.
A bit of trivia – Burt was a fan of great literature, naming his restaurant after the whaling ship in Moby Dick.
What to try: The 7” Personal Pan Pizza loaded with your favorite toppings. This is a must-try spin on the theme if you want to say you’ve done it all!
Ok, so now you have the history of Chicago pizza, the five best places for pizza in Chicago, and the menu for these pizzas. Whether you consider the deep-dish pizza a rival to more traditional pizzas is ultimately up to you. But you have all the best pizzas represented here – pan pizza, thin-crust pizza, and Chicago’s best – deep dish pizza.
What I can tell you is that Chicago natives are proud of their culinary heritage and invite you to give it a try; you won’t go wrong with a Chicago pizza. Now go out and enjoy…mangia!
Which of these Chicago deep dish pizzas do you most want to try? Let me know in the comments section below!
Carla and Ed Little have traveled the world to destinations near and far, taking their three children along for the adventure. Carla is a travel agent ([email protected]) by trade, while Ed is a writer and photographer.
Favorite destinations include Italy, Singapore and and New Orleans. They enjoy taking in the local culture and cuisine (including great wines and local breweries), listening to live music and exploring nature when hiking or kayaking.