It may cause food snobs to turn up their noses in dismay, but the two culinary creations the rest of the world most often associate with our city are Chicago-style hot dogs (loaded with everything except ketchup) and deep-dish pizza (stuffed with everything including, perhaps, bits of the kitchen sink). Read on for the best spots to find a slice of these hearty pies in the city.
2207 N. Clybourn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
Fortunately, fame hasn’t spoiled Pequod’s. In 2011, the Food Network proclaimed that Pequod’s produced the best pizza in Illinois, praising the pizzeria for using cast-iron pans lined with a sprinkle of mozzarella that gives the pizza a “crust of crispy, salty, caramelized cheese.” The crust is not heavy or doughy and it contains a pie that is neither too soupy or too cheesy. The Food Network recommends ordering a plain cheese pizza here, saying toppings are “an unnecessary distraction” to the pizza’s perfection, but how could any Chicagoan resist the massive chunks of sweet Italian sausage Pequod’s uses? A final reason to love Pequod’s is the ridiculously reasonable prices. For example, the eatery offers a $4.95 weekday special that includes a seven-inch personal one-topping pizza and your choice of a glass of soda or Leinenkugel’s.
The Art Of Pizza
3033 N. Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
There really is an Art of pizza and his name is Art Shabez, proprietor of this pizzeria on North Ashland Avenue near Lincoln and Belmont. In naming Art of Pizza the No. 1 purveyor of deep-dish pizza in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune extolled the virtues of its “near-perfect, golden-brown crust” and the “nice, herby flavors” of the sauce. Diners can choose from 21 different toppings or try one of Art’s special pizzas like Art’s Meaty Delight, which comes topped with sausage, bacon, ground beef, pepperoni and sliced beef. Now that’s a pizza to satiate a healthy appetite!
My Pie Pizza
2010 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
Owner Rich Aronson started his Bucktown restaurant using a deep-dish pizza recipe handed down from his father, who operated a pizzeria on Sheridan Road across from Loyola University. The elder Aronson was a fourth-generation baker whose family came to this country from Belarus in 1905. That baking background is what’s behind the process that gives this pizza crust its fresh, crisp taste. “My father’s recipe is made fresh every day and timed so the third ‘proofing’ of the dough is in the oven like all bread products should be developed,” Aronson explains. That attention to detail extends to the cheese Aronson uses (up to four different types on each pizza, all artisan-made in Wisconsin) and the tomatoes for the sauce (San Marzano, from the Modesto, Calif. area).
2204 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
Making a consistently great deep-dish pizza requires a bit more attention than producing a McDonald’s cheeseburger, which is why we excluded restaurants with dozens of locations, like Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s. Dan Bacin opened the first Bacino’s 30 years ago, and while there are now four locations, so far he has been able to maintain a high standard of quality at all of them. “Easily, Bacino’s is the best pizza I know of,” says famous Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, “All quality ingredients, everything fresh and made from scratch.”
864 N. State St.
Rudy Malnati, Jr. opened the first Pizano’s in 1991, using knowledge handed down from his father, Rudy Sr., who founded Pizzeria Uno way back in 1943. The younger Malnati continues to get deep-dish right at all four of his local locations and reviewers also praise the other menu items, including traditional Italian pasta and chicken dishes. And here’s the good news for those still not sold on deep-dish pizza: Pizano’s thin-crust pizza might just be the best in the city.
Dennis D. Jacobs is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in scores of newspapers and magazines and on multiple websites. For the past four years, he has been the Chicago International Travel Examiner for Examiner.com. He lives in west suburban Chicago.