5 Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza Pies To Try Before You Die

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.

Pizzeria Ora
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.

Deep Dish Pizza

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.

Deep Dish Pizza

Gino’s East
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.

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Verace Pizza Napoletana: Neapolitan Pizza Organization Starts New U.S. Culinary Traditions

Verace Pizza Napoletana

If Peppe Miele has his way, the pizza of his childhood may just be the next big food trend to make its way eastward from the West Coast in 2016.

As president of Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN), he runs the North America association that certifies pizzerias make pies upholding Neapolitan traditions: using San Marzano tomatoes, high-quality flours, and dome-shaped wood-burning ovens 850-900 degrees. (Written into law by Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture in 2004, think of it as the pizza equivalent of the official certification for Champagne, prosciutto di Parma, or Chianti Classico.)

“There are a lot more passionate young chefs now, and the job is considered more an artistic profession,” says Miele. “Something I really value over the last 10 years is (chefs) don’t do it because they think it’s good for promotion; they do it because they have the commitment, the passion to make the best using the best ingredients.”

Count culinary director Kevin DeLibero of Papa Razzi Metro in the Boston suburb of Burlington, Massachusetts, among those toques. The restaurant recently completed renovations of both its dining room and kitchen and he and his staff flew to VPN’s pizza training camp in California to get their hands “dirty”— learning about fork mixers, slow dough fermentation, and centuries of Neapolitan culinary traditions. But the real payoff was in the dining room, he said.

Verace Pizza Napoletana

“We had one guy whose son lived in Naples who said he’ll never order a pizza in the U.S. again. I dropped a Margherita pizza on his table and he tells us we ‘nailed it,’” says DeLibero.“It’s so great when people appreciate the ‘wow’ factor to the simplicity of just a few ingredients.”

It’s the same wow factor he used to get at big Italian family dinners cooked by his mom when growing up in New England. “This food is really a labor of love and a science. You’ve got to think with the dough, you’re dealing with something that’s alive — that’s my baby,” DeLibero said.

Verace Pizza Napoletana

While VPN training was helpful, there were challenges for him in dealing with temperature and humidity fluctuations in a region that, unlike California, has four seasons — and, says Miele, a sense of deeply rooted tastes. “American culinary culture is very attached to its own versions of pizza; there are so many different ones attached to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, more connection the further away from the West Coast.”

But despite the Windy City’s reputation for thick, buttery-crusted pies, Parkers’ Restaurant & Bar (the only Chicago-area VPN-certified restaurant) gets rave reviews for its chewy rounds topped with everything from pistachios to roasted cauliflower with mortadella and fontina. “It sounds odd, but it’s an unbelievably good combination. Guests are getting more adventurous — they love Chicago-style, but it has everything that’s bad for you,” says manager Heather Johnson. “You would never think of putting a salad on top of a Chicago-style pizza, but here you can taste the freshness of the arugula, the basil. It’s really a quality statement.”

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Pizza for Dessert: 7 Sweet Slices That Will Blow Your Mind

Usually, pizzas are a savory affair. Pepperoni and mushrooms, sausage and peppers, and prosciutto and arugula are all classic topping combinations – not to mention cheese, and lots of it, please. But now chefs are putting sweet spins on them to create desserts that give new meaning to the phrase pizza pie. Goodbye, meats and veggies. Hello, marshmallows, Nutella, and fruit! Live the dream of eating pizza for dessert (which is almost as good pizza for breakfast) with these seven sweet slices that will blow your mind.

Bar Toma, Chicago. Illinois
Made with Nutella (because Nutella), cinnamon-y graham cracker crumble, and freshly toasted marshmallows, this pizza evokes the s’mores of your summertime memories, campfire not included. This, of course, means your clothes won’t smell like smoke and ashes at the end of the evening. Now that’s sweet!

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Pizzeria Libretto, Toronto, Canada
Chef Rocco Agostino loves blueberries. So he dapples this limited-edition dessert pizza with the tart ‘n’ sweet blue beauties along with mascarpone, lemon sugar, honey, and fresh mint. Call it a slice of summer anytime.

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Filini Restaurant and Bar, Chicago, Illinois
Nutella has the power to make everything taste better – even pizza. Chef Carolina Diaz slathers the chocolaty-hazelnut-y spread on the crust then adds toasted almonds, marshmallows, and strawberries. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar finishes it off. Truly delizioso.

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Nebo, Boston, Massachusetts
Oh. Yeah. The Christoforo is crisscrossed with Nutella, topped with crushed hazelnuts, and finished off with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Sounds like our kind of threesome. #menageachomp

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Root Vegetables Rock: 15 Rave Reviews for Turnips

turnip blogIt warms my heart — and my stomach — that the unassuming turnip is turning up on more menus these days. The only longtime advocates I can personally recall of this root veggie are my mother, who served a giant bowl of mashed turnips each Thanksgiving (a practice started by her frugal father), and my instructors at the French Culinary Institute — we did a lot of tournage on turnips. A lot! A once-unsung ingredient in contemporary American cuisine, turnips are easy to grow and terrific for storage over the lean winter months. They’re also very low in carbohydrates, thus making them a great substitute for potatoes and other root produce with a high glycemic index. Read on for raves for turnips — in pizza, polenta, tacos, and more — from recent OpenTable reviews. 

Dressler’s, Charlotte, North Carolina: “Food, service, and overall dining experience was excellent. I had the steak with turnips and greens. Gave me a different outlook on turnips.”

The Gage, Chicago, Illinois: “Hubby had the prosciutto-wrapped trout stuffed with turnips and kale; he did not stop raving about his meal for two days after!”

Junto, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania: “We split the ribeye (with potatoes, turnip, and arugula). The vegetables and bread were uncommonly excellent.”

The Helmand Restaurant, Baltimore, Maryland: “My favorite entree is the vegetarian platter, but lamb dishes are also excellent. We almost always get the bindi (okra) as a side dish for the table, and these folks can make even turnips tasted like a gourmet find.”

Indaco, Charleston, South Carolina: “Turnip pizza was a revelation, and so was pasta with braised brisket and a perfectly roasted chicken.”

Kanella, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “The appetizers are wonderful. We had lamb dumplings in a wonderful sauce, a refreshing sliced turnip salad, and great fresh hummus that is light years from the supermarket kind.”

The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Somerville, Massachusetts: “Side dish of turnip was a heartwarming tribute to the fall.”

Legume, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: “Perfect portion sizes saturated with flavor — we had swordfish with braised turnips, amazing grilled peach salad, jerk squid, and bluefish pâté. So good that we went back the next night.”

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