Chicago is a city that doesn’t do anything halfway. They don’t just have winter, they have Polar Vortex. The river doesn’t just get dyed green for St Patrick’s Day, it’s neon green. They don’t just lose at baseball, they lose for 108 years.
So, it makes sense that when it comes to the iconic food of this hyperbolic city, anything that New York can do, Chicago does deeper. We’re talking about the gratuitous, delicious, proudly authentic deep dish pizza that should never be compared to its floppy distant relative.
We invite you to consider this roundup of Chicago deep dish contenders either as a beginner curriculum, or as a veteran course for those who need to do a side-by-side comparison. Others might claim invention, but we’re fans of the independent, local favorites.
Gino’s East is a local group of restaurants with classic deep dish which still feels quirky thanks to their original shop’s tradition of encouraging guests to scrawl all over the restaurant walls. Their golden crust and gooey melted cheese should be accompanied by a draft from Gino’s very own brewery. To keep up with the customer love, they’ve even introduced a loyalty program.
Lou Malnati’s is all about their Buttercrust–light, flakey, and buttery, yet somehow sturdy enough to support the creamy sauce and rich cheese. On the sausage pizza, enjoy the house-made sausage, covering every square inch in an uninterrupted blanket of lean pork.
Locals celebrate Pequod’s for the joyfully unbalanced cheese-to-crust ratio, where the cheese is burned onto the crust in blackened pans. The enhanced flavor and crunch give your slice some complexity and texture. With only two locations, that means that you may still have to put in some travel effort to arrive at the cheesy experience.
Giordano’s extravagant pizzas are not only deep, they’re stuffed–with dough on both the bottom and top to create a truly pie-like bite. There’s even more sauce and parmesan on the top crust in case you weren’t knocked out enough by the fillings. Try the Juicy Lucy deep dish–the seasoned hamburger meat and blend of American and mozzarella cheese is a match made in heaven.
At the end of this deep dive, if you find yourself needing a lighter bite, treat yourself to Forno Rosso. If deep dish is as American as you can get, Forno Rosso’s is the most Italian that you’ll find in Chicago. It’s only one of five pizzerias here that have received a rare nod from the Verace Pizza Napoletana organization, which upholds the strict standards of traditional Neapolitan pizza. That means that this wood-fired pizza is fired for 60-90 seconds in a stone oven, producing beautifully bubbling mozzarella on an exquisitely airy and charred crust.