Chicago's 10 Best Pizzas

No matter your preference for crust and toppings, these pizzerias have the Windy City's best slices. 

Photo By: Dimo Raychev

Photo By: Jason Little ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Dimo Raychev

Photo By: Michael Litchfield

Photo By: Leigh Loftus ©ThinkLeigh Photography

Photo By: Jason Little ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason Little ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Take a Slice

Mention “Chicago pizza” and most people imagine gut-bomb, super-thick deep-dish slices as big as your head. And sure, there’s plenty of that in Chicago, even a few places where the deep-dish option is so good that locals eat more than a slice a year. But as a melting-pot city, Chicago is also home to an incredibly diverse range of pies, from New Haven to Neapolitan inspired. Take a slice of the Windy City’s unique pizza offerings with this guide.

Pizza Pot Pie: Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. serves up a pie that’s kind of a cross between a spaghetti Bolognese, French onion soup and a sausage pot pie. This distinctive pizza, which is baked in a ceramic crock, features a hot river of garlic-, onion- and red-wine-kissed tomato sauce studded with Boston butt pork sausage. People wait for hours on weekends, sometimes forming lines as long as half a block up Clark Street, to sample this gem

Photo courtesy of Jason Little Photography

Go to: Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

Dynamic Duo: Paula & Monica’s Pizza

Salad-topped hot dogs and deep-dish pizza claim top billing as Chicago’s most-iconic foods, but Italian beef is not far behind. If you’re in a hurry and you don’t have time to make a stop for pizza and Al’s Beef on Taylor Street, hop into Paula and Monica’s; kill two birds with one pizza stone by ordering up their crispy thin-crust combo pie topped with shaved juicy roast beef, fiery giardiniera, garlic and knobs of succulent sausage. It will satisfy your pizza and Italian beef craving in one fell bite. 

Deep Dish: Pizano’s Pizza and Pasta

Yes, deep-dish pizza is often considered a tourist thing by locals, but if you are local, and you’re craving a pizza so thick you have to eat it with a knife and fork, Pizano’s is the place to go. The tangy, thick crushed-tomato sauce and the crumbly butter crust combo is sensational. There’s also a little history going for this pie: Rudy Malnati Sr. is often credited as the co-inventor of deep-dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno. His son Rudy Jr. carries on the pie tradition here, where it’s rumored that the only people who know the secret dough recipe are him and his mother.

Neapolitan Style: Nellcôte

There are plenty of wood-fired Italian-oven pizzas in Chicago, all featuring bubbling and charred crusts that honor the original pizza style of Naples. None of them, however, are made with house-milled 00 flour like at Nellcôte. To experience the satisfying chew of the excellent crust that results from the freshly ground flour, check out the fried egg-, fontina- and mozzarella-topped pizza, which lets the texture and flavor of the dough shine.

Go to: Nellcôte

Quad City Pizza: Roots Handmade Pizza

Not many people know that the geographic intersection of northwestern Illinois and eastern Iowa has its own distinctive pizza. Here, puffy thick round pies are cut into rectangles using industrial shears that look like they were cribbed from Edward Scissorhands, and the pie style has plenty of fans in Chicago. While most topping combos at Roots are fairly standard, one original standout is the taco pie featuring zesty ground beef, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and taco-seasoned corn chips. The flavor combination tastes like the ultimate nacho-pizza mash-up. That may sound weird unless you’re stoned, but even sober, trust that it’s glorious.roots

Go to: Roots Handmade Pizza

Focaccia-Style-Crust Pizza: Pequod’s

Don’t let the cheesy logo of a whale in women’s underwear deter you: Pequod’s serves pizza with excellent focaccia-style crusts baked in cast-iron pans blackened with decades of seasoning. This pizza is serious, sprinkled with so much cheese that it oozes toward the edges during the bake and emerges as a caramelized nutty halo of crisped goodness. There are plenty of toppings to choose from, but the quintessential Chicago combo features thick knobs of fresh sausage and sweet white onion.

Coal-Fired Pizza: Coalfire

Anyone can throw a few logs in the back of a brick oven, but few fire pies with coal like the old New York pizza shops. That commitment pays off at Coalfire in super-crisp pizzas flecked with a touch of soot that taste like they were grilled over a campfire. The version you want here features slightly wilted escarole and creamy chile-flaked spreadable salami — called ‘nduja — all tempered by velveteen bechamel sauce.

Go to: Coalfire Pizza

“California” Pizza: Stella Barra

Though Stella Barra’s original location was launched in California by wunderkind doughnut (Do-Rite) and pizza whiz Jeff Mahin, Chicago has heartily welcomed the restaurant’s Midwestern location. The dough is made from fresh-ground California wheat, filtered water and sea salt, then double proofed, which means it rises for a day, then again for 12 hours or more. This results in a crackling center and a puffy, chewy edge that is one of the best crusts in town. Try it topped with thick slices of artisanal Hobb’s smoked pepperoni. 

Go to: Stella Barra Pizzeria

New Haven Style: Piece

If you’re stuck in Chicago, but hankering for a slice of New Haven pizza — the kind of stuff served at the legendary Frank Pepe’s — you can find a pretty good approximation in Piece’s clam- and garlic-larded white pie served on a butcher-paper-lined baking tray. As a bonus, score some incredible craft beers like The Weight, an American pale ale from brewmaster Jonathan Cutler, a dude who has won more gold medals than Michael Phelps for his suds-making prowess.

Chicago Cracker Crust: Marie’s Pizza and Liquors

Very few look past deep dish pizza when in Chicago. But the city is also known for a very distinctive cracker-crisp, thin-crust pizza cut into tiny little squares and usually topped with hunks of Italian sausage from old-school butcher Anichini Brothers, Inc. The two places to try it are Vito and Nick’s on the Southside, and Marie’s on the Northside. Marie’s gets the nod here because it also happens to have a convenient adjacent liquor store where you can pick out a nice bottle of Chianti — or something stronger — for a very reasonable $3 corkage. If you can choose only one pie, go with the classic Marie’s Special, topped with sausage, green pepper, onion and mushroom.

Go to: Marie's Pizza & Liquors

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