The Best Deep-Dish Pizzas Outside of Chicago

Slice into Chi-Town’s signature pie without winding your way to the Windy City.

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Photo By: Windy City Pie

Photo By: Kristen Loken

Photo By: Sara Remington, courtesy of Penguin Random House, Inc. Copyright © 2014

In Deep

America loves to get extra with just about everything, and few foods exemplify the country’s reputation for both excess and reinvention like deep-dish pizza. Decades before today’s over-the-top food trends, a Chicago restaurant took the classic cheese-sauce-dough combo to new heights... literally. In 1943, The Pizzeria (now known as Pizzeria Uno) debuted a behemoth of a pie bound by a towering crust, and boom — the Windy City’s fascination with deep-dish pizza began. Decades later, devotion to this Chicago staple has spread far beyond the confines of the city. These Food Network-approved restaurants across the country offer their own take on that tall, buttery crust encircling a molten mass of cheese, toppings and sauce. Just be sure to have a knife, fork and plenty of napkins on hand, because a foldable slice this sure isn’t.

Windy City Pie (Seattle)

Chicago native Dave Lichterman reps his home city hard with deep-dish pies inspired by the favorites he loved growing up. Take the addictively crisp, cheese-encrusted edges, for instance. "The cheese edge is a combination of Maillard browning and caramelization, a trick I learned from watching the late master Burt Katz," Lichterman says. His dough recipe nods to Papa Del’s pies in Champaign, Illinois, where Lichterman attended college. "The dough itself is spongier, sweeter, more brioche-like than most Chicago-style pan pies." Building upon the ideas of others may well be a practice he carried over from his background in software engineering, an industry known for fostering innovation through collaboration. The resulting pies have made Lichterman, who started the business as a delivery-only operation in 2015, a pizza heavyweight in his own right.

312 Pizza Company (Nashville)

Deep-dish lovers, 312 Pizza Company has your number. When a trio of Chi-Town transplants couldn’t find any Chicago-style pizza that passed muster in Music City, they decided to start cooking their own. "We make our dough and sauce every day from scratch and use a very high-quality flour that is never bleached and never bromated," says co-owner Staci Bockman. Their roll of the dough has paid off, with enough demand to open a second locale just four years after their first space (which was featured on Buy This Restaurant) opened in 2014. Though they also serve thin-crust pizza, Chicago-style dogs and sandwiches, the dish that dominates is the deep-dish pie. Carnivores can’t get enough of The Capone with its meaty medley of sausage, pepperoni, bacon and Italian beef.

Patxi’s Pizza (Palo Alto, California)

Co-founders Francisco "Patxi" Azpiroz and Bill Freeman really know how to "dough" for it. Before the first Patxi’s Pizza opened in 2004, Azpiroz spent nearly two years tinkering with pizza recipes that he and Freeman repeatedly taste-tested before deciding on their ideal version. That dedication has paid off for the pair, who have since opened more than a dozen locations in three states. They source naturally cured meats and hormone-free cheeses from artisanal purveyors that include Creminelli Fine Meats, Fra’ Mani and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. Mounds of stringy, melty mozzarella, nitrate-free meats and fresh veggies come encased in a crisp, flaky crust that’s slathered with homemade sauce.

Capo’s (San Francisco)

The legendary mafia boss Al Capone may be the inspiration behind Capo’s, but it could just as easily be named after owner Tony Gemignani, an O.G. in his own right after winning multiple world pizza championships. It seems there’s no style of pizza dough Gemignani can’t dominate, even setting Guinness World Records with his skills. Though he showcases a variety of different pizza traditions at his other restaurants, Gemignani pays homage to Chicago-style pies at Capo’s. Crowds pack in for his take on deep-dish classics like a ricotta-and-spinach combo named after gangster Frank Nitti. Gemignani makes his dough with the same Ceresota flour that’s widely used in Chicago pizzerias, and avoids a soggy crust by thoroughly draining the spinach after sauteeing it. One bite of this pie and you’ll see why he’s a true pizza boss.

Emmett’s (New York City)

Emmett Burke carved out a space for deep-dish lovers in the country’s thin-crust capital when he opened his namesake restaurant in 2013. Though sandwiches and salads also share space on the menu, the deep-dish pies are what draw patrons so devoted they’ve been known to endure hours-long waits for a table at Emmett’s. The pizza-making itself is no rushed affair, with the nine-ingredient dough prepared well in advance of the pie. "We ferment for three days, which helps give our crust so much flavor," Burke says. Once ready, the rolled-out dough gets pressed into a two-inch pan and festooned with cheese and optional toppings, then a scarlet crown of spice-laden sauce. Each pie is baked for 30 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, a process that "naturally sweetens the tomatoes and the sauce itself," Burke says.

Pi Pizzeria (St. Louis and Washington, D.C.)

The minds behind Pi have devised a winning formula for a deep-dish slice that can be devoured without a knife and fork. "You can hold up a slice of our deep dish by the outer crust, and it won't sag or fall apart," says owner Chris Sommers. To achieve this sturdy, almost-seared crust, they proof the cornmeal-and-flour dough for hours and bake it in a high-heat convection oven. Using this cooking method has another advantage, too. The pizza bakes for under seven minutes, shaving down the 30-plus-minute wait that’s standard at most deep-dish spots. "We shy away from using the descriptor of 'Chicago-style' because so many people have pre-conceived opinions on what that means," Sommers says. But his pies have won over plenty of fans, including one former Chicago resident whose praises helped put Pi on the map: former president Barack Obama.

Via Chicago (Portland, Oregon)

In true Portland fashion, Via Chicago’s owners like to keep it local when it comes to their pizza ingredients (after all, the business first began at a farmers' market). But they do source from afar when a regional substitute just won’t do. "We have to special order our giardiniera peppers, for instance," says co-owner Kevin Reynolds. "[They’re] just not the same here." The resulting pies showcase fresh ingredients without sacrificing authentic Chicago flavor. You can opt for one of the signature combinations or build your own with add-ons like meatballs, eggplant, provolone cheese and even pineapple(!). Meat and veggies are added first, then covered with a flurry of shredded cheese and a slick of tomato sauce, all held together by a thick wall of crust. Gluten-free and vegan options are also available.

Hollywood Pies (Los Angeles)

The 2011 debut of Hollywood Pies in Los Angeles whipped local deep-dish fans into a frenzy as forceful as a Chicago windstorm. Though it started as a tiny takeout operation without an actual storefront (customers had to pick up their orders in a parking lot), a cult-like following sprung up near-instantaneously. Within two years, Hollywood Pies had secured a permanent brick-and-mortar location, as well as shout-outs from celebs like Chicago native Shonda Rhimes. A high-quality, whole-milk mozzarella is the cheese of choice for most of the pies, which can be customized with meat or veggie toppings nestled under a layer of chunky sauce made with whole tomatoes. But it’s the dough that really sets these pies apart. "Our dough is made with quality, natural ingredients — with no additives whatsoever — resulting in a buttery crust," says owner Andre Saroughian. "Often, guests save some of the edge crust to enjoy separately with an additional side order of sauce."

Vin and Vic’s at Capitol Lounge (Washington, D.C.)

At this Hill hangout, political staffers crowd in for the hot dish — and no, we’re not talking about partisan gossip. It’s Vin and Vic’s deep-dish pizza that has won over fans on both sides of the political divide. What started as a pop-up in 2016 soon became a regular offering at Capitol Lounge, thanks to steady demand for this deep-dish pie with a distinctive crust. "Our deep-dish crust is definitely on the flakier end of the spectrum, taking cues from pie dough," says Vin and Vic’s founder Tom Madrecki. After months of testing, he decided to eliminate yeast from the recipe. "It streamlined our operations and actually resulted in a nearly identical crust," Madrecki says. That flaky crust comes together with mozzarella, ground Italian sausage and crushed tomatoes in one meaty, cheesy bite that’s most-definitely worthy of bipartisan support.

PizzaPapalis: Detroit and Other Locales

More than three decades have passed since the original PizzaPapalis opened its doors in Detroit in 1986, but founder Joe Sheena still makes his pies in the same seasoned, heavy-gauge pans that have been around from the start. And it’s not just those pans that have withstood the test of time; his deep-dish pies have inspired such demand that PizzaPapalis has expanded throughout southeast Michigan and into northern Ohio. Sheena believes one key Detroit ingredient is pivotal in setting these pies apart. "Detroit water [has] the right balance of acidity and hardness to compliment the block yeast we use, and helps give our crust a pastry-like quality," Sheena says. This flaky crust cradles a gooey, golden layer of Wisconsin-sourced cheese bedecked with all manner of optional toppings and a festive flourish of sauce made from Italy’s finest San Marzano tomatoes.