A Local's Guide to the Best Deep-Dish Pizza in Chicago

Want to find the best deep-dish pizza in the USA? One thing is for sure, you’ll find the best deep-dish pizza in Chicago!

According to Readers’ Digest, pizza is America’s favorite food. And Chicago is one of the top cities for pizza in the U.S. largely due to the uniqueness of Chicago’s deep-dish style pizza. In this post we will provide a brief history of Chicago pizza, explain the different types of Chicago-style pizza, discuss the difference between Chicago pizza vs New York pizza, and tell you where to find the best Chicago pizza—from the best deep dish pizza in Chicago to the best stuffed pizza in Chicago!

A Brief History of Chicago Pizza

Although Chicago is one of the most famous locations for pizza in the United States, it wasn’t always so. Pizza first came to the United States in the early 20th century – according to History.com, the first American documented pizzeria was G. Lombardi’s in Manhattan, New York. There’s lots of debate over which is better, New York vs Chicago pizza, but there is no question that pizza arrived later in Chicago as the first pizzerias in Chicago opened in the early 1920s, and the first Chicago-style pizzas were served in the 1940s.

Comparing thin New York vs Chicago pizza.

Comparing thin New York vs Chicago pizza.

Deep-dish Chicago pizza vs New York pizza.

Deep-dish Chicago pizza vs New York pizza.

What is Chicago-Style Pizza?

The classic Chicago-style pizza is deep-dish pizza, sometimes called deep-pan pizza. And the question of who invented Chicago’s iconic deep-dish style pizza is also open to debate. Some sources claim that Ike Sewell, owner of Pizzeria Uno, first invented deep-dish pizza. Other sources claim that Rudy Malnati – the head chef at Pizzeria Uno – developed the tasty dish.

While the question of who thought it up first may never be settled it is absolutely without question that deep-dish pizza is among the most popular foods in Chicago. And if you want to know where to find the best Chicago deep-dish pizza, read on!

What Is Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza?

You may be asking yourself “What is Chicago deep-dish pizza, anyway?” This is key in deciding between Chicago pizza vs New York pizza. As the name suggests, Chicago Deep-Dish pizza is thick like a pie and less like traditional New York thin-crust pizza.

Chicago deep-dish pizzas are typically cooked in an iron skillet or in a round steel pan. The pan is coated with oil to prevent sticking. Semolina is usually mixed in with the flour for the dough to provide it with a distinctive yellowish hue. The dough is then pressed into the bottom of the pan and up onto the sides. The crust is usually medium thickness – too thin and it won’t hold the ingredients; too thick, and it will not cook properly.

Chicago deep-dish pizza is also usually assembled in an upside-down fashion – cheese on the bottom, then meat and vegetables, finished with a tomato sauce on the top. Deep-dish pizzas are assembled this way because they require longer baking time than flat, thin pizzas – and if the cheese were placed on top, it would burn, producing an unpleasant flavor.

Other Types of Chicago-Style Pizzas

Chicagoans are passionate about their deep-dish pizzas. Ask the local residents and most will say it’s the best in Chicago. However, it is by no means the only style that is original to Chicago.

The city is also known for stuffed pizza. A Chicago stuffed pizza is like deep-dish but has an extra layer of dough on the top of the pie. Stuffed pizzas are usually thicker than deep-dish because they are “stuffed” with more ingredients and because of the extra dough layer. Stuffed pizzas first made their appearance in Chicago in the 1970s at Nancy’s Pizzeria and Giordano’s.

Thin crust pizza is also popular in Chicago. Unlike New York Style pizza, Chicago-style thin crust pizza has a crust that is firm and slightly crunchy. Most Chicago pizzerias also cut their thin-crust pizzas into squares rather than wedges. This style of cut is known as “tavern-style” or “party cut”. One thing is for sure, if you want the best pizza in Chicago of any style, it’s going to have Marinara Sauce from scratch!

Thin crust Chicago-style pizza

Thin crust Chicago-style pizza

Chicago-style stuffed pizza

Chicago-style stuffed pizza

Best Deep-Dish Pizza in Chicago

Since you are probably experiencing a severe craving for Chicago-style pizza right now let me share with you some of the best places in town to get it.

Pizzeria Uno—The Original Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

Although there is disagreement about who actually invented Chicago’s iconic deep-dish style, most historians and city experts will tell you that this style was first served at Pizzeria Uno’s flagship location at 29 East Ohio Street in Chicago. Does this mean that it has the best deep-dish in Chicago?

The restaurant rating service Zagat has this to say about Pizzeria Uno:

Fans “forsake all other Unos” for these “world-famous” River North “originals” thanks to “classic deep-dish” pizzas “laden with cheese and tomatoes” and balanced by “crispy”, “pastrylike” crusts; sure, they're “not much for decor”, but “out-of-town guests” appreciate the “old-time feel”, and despite “long waits”… most agree “you have to go at least once.”

Their most popular pizza is the deep-dish “Chicago Classic” – a pie they advertise as “extra cheese, extra sausage, extra good in your mouth.” Try it and see if you think it’s the best pizza Chicago has to offer!

Uno’s crust is hearty but not too thick – just enough to encase and support the ingredients packed into it. One or two slices of this famous deep-dish pizza is about all I can take in a single sitting. As you would expect the pizza is a heavier food, but you can eat well and enjoy it without feeling overly stuffed after your meal.

If you are in the mood for something less filling, Uno also serves thin crust pizza with a wide variety of toppings. You can pair your thin crust – or your deep-dish pizza – with a nice salad or soup and end your meal with one of their sumptuous desserts.

If your travel plans don’t include Chicago anytime soon, never fear: Pizzeria Uno is available across the entire US. The restaurant has evolved into a chain, with locations in multiple states in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast areas of the country. If there isn’t a location near you, Uno also ships frozen deep-dish pizzas right to your home.

Pizzeria Uno, the Original Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

Pizzeria Uno, the Original Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

Pizzeria Due— Popular Chicago-Style Pizza

Pizzeria Due is a sister restaurant to Pizzeria Uno (due is Italian for “two”). It’s literally just around the corner from the original Pizzeria Uno. If you want to try Uno and it’s too busy or booked up, Due is a good alternative.

Due also gets a 4.5/5-star rating on Google, and 3.5/5 on Yelp. Due’s menu is nearly identical to the original Uno with a few minor tweaks. Some reviewers have expressed a preference for Due over Uno, others have expressed the opposite opinion.

Regardless, if you’re on the hunt for restaurants that are historically significant in the development of Chicago-style pizza, you should put Pizzeria Due on your list of places to visit.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria—Best Deep-Dish Pizza in Chicago

If the name sounds familiar, you’re right. Lou Malnati was the oldest son of Rudy Malnati, who was the head chef of Pizzeria Uno. Some sources claim that Rudy Malnati was the original inventor of deep-dish pizza.

Lou opened his first restaurant in Lincolnwood, Illinois. The restaurant opened on March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day in the US. According to The History of Lou’s, “Lou always thought it was funny that an Italian should open a pizzeria in a Jewish neighborhood on an Irish holiday, but that was just Lou’s style.”

Malnati’s menu varies slightly from location to location but is generally very similar. The restaurant also serves a “Chicago Classic” style – a deep-dish with extra sausage and extra cheese. They also are well-known for “The Lou” – a deep-dish pizza with spinach, mushrooms, and sliced Roma tomatoes. The restaurant also serves thin crust pizza with the pieces cut into squares – the “tavern style” cut as described earlier in this post.

Lou Malnati’s has a limited but adequate number of salad/appetizer options if you are so inclined. The choice of after-dinner desserts is somewhat limited – so if you are counting on a rich dessert to finish off your meal, just be aware that your choices may be few.

The restaurant has expanded into a chain with locations in Illinois, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Indiana. If you are outside these states, you can also order frozen deep-dish pizzas for shipment right to your doorstep.

Out of all the options for Chicago-style pizza, Lou Malnati’s is hands down my absolute favorite.

Searching for the best deep-dish pizza in Chicago.

Searching for the best deep-dish pizza in Chicago.

Gino’s East—Famous for “Chicago Fire” Deep-Dish Pizza

Gino’s East is one of the few Chicago-style pizza restaurants that did not evolve from Pizzeria Uno. The original Gino’s East opened in 1966. It was founded by two taxi drivers, Fred Bartoli and Sam Levine. They asked their friend George Loverde to join them in getting the restaurant started. Their initial location was on Wells Street, near Chicago’s famous Rush Street – one of the major spots in Chicago for nightlife and great restaurants. In the early 1980s their flagship restaurant moved from its original location to Superior Street in Chicago’s River North area.

Gino’s East is well known for their creative pizzas like their “Chicago Fire” deep-dish pizza – featuring spicy patty-style sausage, fire roasted red peppers, and red onions. They also feature an “Italian Beef” pizza. This pizza is covered with Italian beef (another Chicago classic food), sweet peppers and giardinera. All these pizzas are also available in thin crust versions.

My personal favorite Gino’s pizza is the “burger and fries” pizza. As the name implies, it’s topped with ground beef, chopped onions, dill pickle chips, shredded lettuce, French fries, and thousand island dressing. Trust me, it tastes even better than it sounds.

I’m a really big fan of desserts, and this is one area where Gino’s comes up a bit short. Their dessert menu is limited, but the choices are adequate, and the portions are reasonable.

Gino’s East has locations primarily in Chicago and the nearby suburbs, along with a few locations in limited cities across the country. Like the other restaurants mentioned in this post, Gino’s East also ships frozen pizzas nationwide.

Final Thoughts on the Best Deep-Dish Pizza in Chicago

Some people may argue as to which Chicago-style pizza restaurant is the best, but it all comes down to a matter of personal preference. If you’re ever visiting Chicago, you should try all the pizzerias on our short list of best Chicago deep-dish pizzas. There’s never a bad time to have a yummy deep-dish pizza. Just be aware that you may need to wear pants with an expandable waistline after doing a tour of Chicago-style pizza restaurants!

If your plans don’t bring you to Chicago anytime soon, nearly all of the major pizza restaurants in Chicago ship frozen deep-dish pizzas across the country – so you can enjoy a literal slice of Chicago from the comfort of your own home.

Author of best-deep-dish-pizza-in-Chicago..

Author of best-deep-dish-pizza-in-Chicago..

About the Author

Jim Jones is a Chicago-area resident with a passion for travel, photography and Chicago-style pizza. Jim’s mission is to help travelers and tourists write their own stories about America’s National Parks. You can find his blog at https://www.nationalparksdiary.com.”

Save it for later! Pin A Local’s Guide to Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza!

 
Pin for the best Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

Pin for the best Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

Pin for the Best deep dish pizza in Chicago

Pin for the Best deep dish pizza in Chicago

Pin to Guide to Chicago: Best Deep-Dish Pizza

Pin to Guide to Chicago: Best Deep-Dish Pizza

Pin for a Local’s Guide to Chicago Pizza

Pin for a Local’s Guide to Chicago Pizza