Recently, I got to spend three months with my parents in my hometown near Chicago. What started as a two-week trip home for a visit turned into three months, due to COVID-19 and the mess that became traveling shortly after. While my parents and I were quarantining together, one of the small highlights of the week became ordering in on Saturday nights.
As I’m usually in Barcelona, one of my top requests was deep-dish pizza. While I’m away it’s one of the local comfort foods that I crave the most. So of course, I had to take advantage of being in the Chicago area and get my hands on a cheesy pie.
It’s a dish that reigns supreme here will always be sacred to Chicagoans. This hefty pie is unlike any other pizza in the world and puts Chicago on the map when it comes to food destinations. While you can find deep dish all over the city, here is a checklist of the best of the best that will have you drooling in no time.
A Bit About Deep Dish Pizza
A Chicago tradition, this pizza is unlike any you’ve ever had before. It’s unclear who created it or when, but it’s believed to have been around since the 1940s, or perhaps even earlier. Just like the name suggests, this pizza is more like a stuffed pie than a flat pizza. The crust has a medium thickness at the bottom and is filled in with tangy tomato sauce, loads of melty mozzarella, and toppings like pepperoni, sausage, and veggies. Newer, modern versions may play upon this recipe, especially when it comes to the selection of toppings.
Pizzeria Uno claims to be the creator of Chicago’s deep dish, even though that fact remains contested among its competitors. Even so, this pizzeria, which has been serving up deep dish since 1943, has one of the most classic versions in town. Pizzeria Uno’s pie is stuffed with cheese and topped with crushed tomatoes and toppings, according to tasty tradition. This pizzeria is worth the visit not only for the delicious food but for the bite of nostalgia as well.
Technically, Pequod’s serves pan pizza and not deep dish due to its lighter, puffier crust, but the flavors and toppings are quite similar. What sets Pequod’s apart and makes it a favorite of locals in Lincoln Park is the signature “halo,” or caramelized crust. This is the result of cheese being sprinkled all the way to the edge, making the crust sharp and crunchy. And with a lunch deal consisting of a personal pan pizza for only $4.95 during the week, Pequod’s is hard to beat.
If you’re looking for a monster pie that’s stuffed to the max, you’re looking for Giordano’s. This co-owners, Italian immigrants Efren and Joseph Boglio, brought this tradition from their hometown in northern Italy to Chicago in the 1970s when they immigrated. Their deep dish is a play on their mother’s stuffed “Italian Easter Pie” and is now a favorite in the Chicagoland area. Giordano’s fills their pie to the brim with loads of cheese and toppings, making it one of the bulkiest pizzas in Chicago.
The owner of Bartoli’s is the grandson of the founder of Gino’s East, another powerhouse in Chicago-style pizza. However, this eatery offers a deep dish that’s a bit different from the rest, most namely when it comes to signature toppings. A classic deep dish usually has sausage, peppers, and onions, but Bartoli’s signature pie is stuffed with spinach and cheese on a bed of flaky crust. The sweet, chunky sauce offers a nice counter to the rich mozzarella, creating a perfectly balanced pie.
There’s no way I could make a list of the best deep dish in Chicago and not include Lou Malnati’s. It’s known throughout Chicagoland as one of the oldest family-name pizza chains in the city and suburbs and has stood the test of time due to the popularity of its signature pie. The famous “Buttercrust” brings in customers to its more than 50 locations, and many agree that sausage is the way to go here. A thin disc of meat is spread over the entire pie, ensuring that every bite has meat, cheese, and tomato. You can’t miss this Chicago legend!
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.
A Lincoln Park tradition, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. is the home of the famous pizza pot pie, a deep dish all of its own. It’s prepared with cheese, Italian sausage, peppers, onions, and homemade tomato sauce with the crust built around it. When its time to serve tableside, the server flips the pot pie over to reveal the hot, steaming goodness inside. There aren’t many tables in this cozy place, so prepare for crowds.
Connie’s Pizza is a classic in Chicago, a family-owned pizzeria and restaurant chain that’s been around since the 1960s. While they serve thin crust and pan pizza, deep dish is the star of the show here. The secret is in the crust, as the owners believe that no good deep dish deserves anything less than a perfect crust. Once you step into this old-fashioned Italian eatery, you’ll feel like you’re in for a real treat.
Did your favorite deep dish pizza make the list? Let me know your recommendations in the comments!