Local Cuisine: Chicago-Style Pizza

Food, What's New — By adamgauzza on January 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm

“Chicago-style” deep-dish pizza is the Windy City’s version of local cuisine.  Try to picture/smell/taste it: flaky, golden brown crust packed with about an inch of gooey cheese covered in a rich tomato sauce, and, depending on your taste, stuffed with anything from ham and pineapple to spinach and mushrooms.  What’s not to love?

The controversy sets in when Chicagoans ask, who makes the best deep-dish?  These Midwesterners get heated when it comes to a good pie; this argument rages all over food blogs week after week.  Here are some of the big names and the lesser-knowns for those you looking to join in the fray.

Giordano’s was founded in 1974 and now has locations all over the city and suburbs.  Their pizza is satisfyingly heavy and belly-warming.  A thick layer of melted ricotta cheese sits between crisp, lightly buttery crust and a sweet, tangy covering of tomato sauce sprinkled lightly with Parmesan.  Try the Special (with sausage, mushroom, green peppers, and onions) or the Super Veggie.

Pizzeria Uno lays claim to the origins of Chicago-style pizza.  At their River North locations, Pizzeria Uno, founded in 1943, and nearby cousin Pizzeria Due serve up some of the deepest deep-dish you’ll ever encounter.  The Farmer’s Market pizza nearly overflows with eggplant, caramelized onions, spinach, sun-dried and plum tomatoes, pesto, feta, mozzarella and Romano cheeses.  Each pie is covered in Uno’s signature chunky tomato sauce.  If you find yourself taken with Pizzeria Uno, they’re frozen products are available for shipping all over the country.

The other big name in deep-dish is Lou Malnati’s.  With folksy beginnings and roots in the suburbs, this pizzeria has spread like wildfire all over the city since 1971.  Chicagoans who align their “pizzallegiance” with Malnati’s will proclaim its excellence to the grave.  It’s understandable–they have a trademark on something they call ButtercrustTM.  Try the “Malnati Chicago Classic” with their signature sausage, extra cheese, and plenty of vine-ripened tomato sauce.

For those of you looking to do some investigative research on the smaller pizzerias, head to the Art of Pizza in West Lakeview.  It may not much for atmosphere, but the Art of Pizza makes a deep-dish pie that’s consistently top-tier, rivaling even the “originators” of the form.  You’ll also want to try Pequod’s in Lincoln Park with their signature caramelized crust.

No matter where you decide to get your deep-dish fix, here are some general pointers to keep in mind:

  • Leave yourself plenty of time.  Deep-dish normally takes approximately 35-45 minutes to bake from the time you order it.  Make sure you’re in good company because you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy each other before the food even arrives..
  • A serving of deep-dish pizza usually amounts to one to two pieces per person.  You should expect a few left over slices, so be prepared to bring a (heavy) to-go container home.
  • You will be full!  The full feeling after eating deep-dish rivals the likes of post-Thanksgiving dinner full.  Take a brisk walk after dinner to help digest.  It will seem impossible and daunting at first, but you’ll be thankful you did it.

If you can’t make up your mind about where to get your pizza, schedule yourself for a Slice of Chicago Pizza Tour.  You’ll get a chance to compare and contrast the best pies from several of the city’s finest pizzerias.