Dishing on Chicago-Style Pizza

in Eat & Drink, Chicago
January 24, 2017

Photo, Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux.

A waiter dishes up a traditional Chicago deep dish pizza.

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In case you can't get into Alinea

Did You Know? Soldiers returning from Italy in WWII made pizza popular in America.

If you ask Chicagoans about the best deep-dish pizza in town, you can probably count on an argument. Here’s what’s generally agreed upon: Chicago-style pie was born in 1943, when The Pizzeria downtown placed a thick crust in a pie-like pan with sides and “inverted” the toppings. Cheese, vegetables and meat come first, followed by sauce on top. There’s a practical reason behind the structure: The pie’s thickness requires nearly an hour of baking, so saucing the top keeps the cheese from burning. As for who makes the best version of this classic, we’ll leave it to you to try some favorites and make the decision.

Pizzeria Uno

When Ike Sewell first served his deep dish on the corner of Ohio and Wabash, lines stretched out the door. After merging with nearby Pizzeria Riccardo in 1955, Sewell changed his restaurant name to Pizzeria Uno, and Ric Riccardo’s place became Pizzeria Due. Their pies have an ultra thick, crunchy crust and sauce made from plum tomatoes. Uno Pizzeria and Grill now has locations nationwide, but tourists still flock to the original locale for a taste of pie history.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria

Lou Malnati and his father, Rudy, got their starts working at Pizzeria Uno. (There is still a debate about whether Rudy had a hand in inventing the deep-dish dough recipe.) Lou took his expertise to the northern suburb of Lincolnwood in 1971. At more than 46 locations throughout the area, Malnati’s serves a flaky, buttery crust covered with toppings, such as its exclusive sausage blend, fresh mozzarella supplied from a small dairy and vine-ripened tomatoes. A gluten-free version uses lean sausage as a crust.


Although brothers Efren and Joseph Boglio opened the first Giordano’s on Chicago’s South Side in 1974, the family recipe dates back some 200 years, when Mama Giordano baked her beloved Italian Easter Pie. At 59 locations in Chicago and beyond, Giordano’s adds an extra layer of goodness by stuffing the toppings and cheese between two layers of crust.

Gino’s East

Cab drivers (and entrepreneurs) Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli opened Gino’s East in downtown Chicago near Michigan Avenue in 1966. Their golden-crust pizzas are served piping hot in cast-iron pans in more than 20 locations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona. For a little heat, try the Chicago Fire with extra-spicy Italian sausage, fire-roasted red peppers, red onions and a jalapeño on top.

Pequod’s Pizza 

Founded in 1970 in the northwest Chicago suburb of Morton Grove, Pequod’s deep dish features a caramelized crust. It’s made by spreading a thin layer of cheese along the dough’s edge prior to baking, giving it a chewy texture. Patrons enjoy the difference at the original Morton Grove pizzeria or the outpost in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Taste Tour

Sample slices at four pizzerias with Chicago Pizza Tours. You’ll even score a behind-the-scenes look inside the kitchens to learn a trade secret or two.

More Deep Dish Beyond the City Limits

Quatro’s, Carbondale

Pizzeria with Chicago roots specializes in its “Famous Deep Pan Pizza.”

Cement’s Pizza, Joliet

This mom-and-pop Italian joint serves up four decades of deep-dish history.

Tobin’s Pizza, Bloomington

Whole cooked tomatoes top the thick, cheese-covered crust.

Chicago Grill, Peoria

Grandma’s recipe lives on in this deep dish, originally served in Chicago.

Greathouse of Pizza, Casey

Crowds gather three nights only—Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays—for Chicago-style pies.

Papa Del’s Pizza, Champaign

It’s so fresh, they make the dough every two hours.

Related Relishes

Take a Deep Dive Into Illinois Food

If deep-dish pizza (somehow) hasn't sated you, check out some other trip ideas to indulge your inner Illinois foodie:

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