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.

Deep Dish Pizza

Capo’s Chicago Pizza & Fine Italian Dinners
One of the best deep dish pies around isn’t in Chicago – it’s in North Beach, California. World Pizza Cup Champion Tony Gemignani turns out an epic version of deep dish that is stuffed from bottom to top. The Dillinger took home the title at the 2014 International Pizza Challenge and it’s not hard to understand why. It features a trio of cheeses (cheddar, mozz, and provolone), smoked vodka sauce, chicken, bacon, broccolini, artichoke hearts, red onions, red bell peppers, garlic, crushed red pepper ,and lemon juice. Want something a little more restrained but just as flavorful? The über-cheesy Frank Nitti (mozz, provolone, ricotta, and Pecorino Romano) is an excellent choice. Make a reservation at Capo’s Chicago Pizza & Fine Italian Dinners.

Deep Dish Pizza

D’Agostino’s
The corner pizzeria is located just a few blocks away from Wrigley Field. This makes it a longtime favorite of Cubs fans, who might need some comfort food after their team didn’t win the World Series (again and again – and again). The housemade sauce is on the sweet side (in a good way), serving as a nice balance to the handmade spicy sausage, which is paired with mushrooms, onions, and green peppers to create the Dags Special. The Margherita is another strong choice, featuring fresh garlic, basil, tomatoes, mozzarella, and just a touch of parm. Make a reservation at D’Agostino’s.

Deep Dish Pizza

Where are you celebrating National Deep Dish Pizza Day? Tell us here or  on FacebookG+InstagramPinterest, or Twitter.

Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell

D’Agostino’s photos by Instagrammers @PostCardsinaBottle and ChicagoRojas1 (and his dog Mia).