The word pizza doesn’t always mean the same thing. Ask someone in Naples, New Haven, or New York City, and you’ll get three different answers. If you pose the question to a Chicagoan, they’ll invariably say deep dish. But what is deep dish? As the name implies, it’s a super thick pizza baked in a high-walled pan. Usually, the formidable crust is on the slightly crumbly side, but it’s still not okay to eat a slice with a fork and knife. This is pizza, people – use your hands [Ed. note: That means you, Mr. Kasich]! On top of the crust goes a gooey lagoon of mozzarella, followed by toppings, and a finishing layer of chunky style tomato sauce. Though there are plenty of pizza parlors around Chitown (and beyond), there aren’t many where you can make a reservation to ensure you get your dose of deep dish when you want it. In celebration of National Deep Dish Pizza Day, here are five Chicago-style deep dish pizza pies you need to try before you die.
A relative newcomer to the deep dish scene, this standout ‘za joint opened in 1996 in the River North neighborhood. Their monstrous pies are three-inches deep and packed to the brim with mozz, chunky sauce, and toppings. The aptly named Supreme is a standout, boasting pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. No matter where you order a deep dish pizza, it can take up to 45 minutes to bake, so bide your time by digging into appetite-suppressing apps, such as mozzarella sticks, aromatic garlic bread, and wings. Make a reservation at Pizzeria Ora.
Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta
Owner Rudy Malnati Jr. has deep dish in his blood. His father, Rudy Malnati Sr., is considered in some circles as the creator of the original deep dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno (others claim it was the restaurant’s founder, Ike Sewell, who devised the recipe). No matter what, his son has raised the deep-dish tradition to new heights with his version of the crust, which tastes like a buttery pastry with well-caramelized edging. Mark’s Special is a deceptively simple creation featuring sweet slices of tomato, vibrant basil, and lots and lots of garlic, but it’s a memorable taste of the Windy City that will linger long after you’ve blown out of town. Make a reservation at Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta.
Not much has changed since this iconic pizzeria opened its doors in 1966. You can still scrawl your name or some graffiti on the walls while their hefty deep dish ‘zas are still baked in well-seasoned cast iron pans. They don’t do half measures here, so check your low-carb, gluten-free, paleo diet at the door. Classics include the Chicago Fire (spicy sausage, fire roasted red peppers, and red onions), Meaty Legend (bacon, Canadian bacon, sausage, and pepperoni), and the Jalapeño Blue (bacon, blue cheese, and sausage, plus jalapeños stuffed with bacon and blue cheese). Make a reservation at Gino’s East.