Chicago's famous deep-dish pizza has been one of the city's most popular culinary attractions for more than 80 years. Invented in the 1940s, Chicago's deep dish pizza is known for its tall, crumbly crust, chunky tomato sauce, and thick layers of mozzarella cheese. No matter which toppings you choose, you need a knife and fork to tackle this delicious dish.
Both locals and tourists love this delicacy, and there are a lot of places to choose from when they have a deep dish craving. But not all deep dish pizza is created equal. In honor of Deep Dish Pizza Day, which falls on April 5th this year, here are Oola's picks for the best deep dish pizza in Chicago.
If you've never tried a deep-dish pizza, you're definitely missing out. It's a distinct style of pie that's baked in a tall, circular pan. The sturdy, buttery crust is molded into the pan and filled with cheese on the bottom, toppings in the middle, and thick, chunky tomato sauce ladled on top.
This isn't a dish for calorie counters. Chicago deep-dish pizza is meant to be an indulgence, with an overabundance of crust, cheese, toppings, and sauce. Ideally, it should be eaten straight out of the oven. You want it to be mouth-burning hot, and you have about a five- to 10-minute window to get the most out of your deep dish experience.
Technically, there are three different styles of deep-dish available in Chicago. There's the classic deep dish, which we've already described. There's also stuffed crust, which is even taller than deep-dish. The stuffed crust is flaky instead of crumbly, and there's an additional layer of dough above the cheese and below the sauce.
Finally, there's pan pizza, which has a very distinguishing feature. Chicago's pan-style pizza has a ring of caramelized parmesan cheese that crisps up in the pizza pan.
Lou Malnati is a Chicago legend who opened his pizza chain in 1971. He helped introduce deep-dish pizza to the windy city, as well as the rest of the country. With more than 50 locations across the city and suburbs, you can easily find Lou Malnati's unique, ultra-crisp, buttery, pie-like crust. We recommend the signature "Malnati Chicago Classic," which is the standard for an excellent sausage deep dish pizza. The layer of meat literally covers the entire pie.
Legendary pizza maker Burt Katz opened Burt's Place in Morton Grove. He passed away a few years ago. But under new ownership, Burt's legend lives on. He was famous for his pan pizza with the caramelized crust, which he actually introduced to other local pizzerias on our list. You can fill your pie from Burt's Place with a variety of ingredients, like mushrooms, onions, sausage, fresh spinach, or banana peppers.
One of Chicago's essential restaurants, Pequod's is known for its caramelized crust, thanks to Burt Katz. It was Burt who introduced this special pan pizza crust to Pequod's, which features airy dough baked with a thin layer of cheese. This yummy crust is available in large pies to enjoy with your friends. Or, you can order an individual-size pan pizza when dining solo.
Available toppings include Italian beef, meatballs, giardiniera, and sausage. We really love Pequod's gumball-sized sausage pieces because they are so tasty and juicy. In addition to the original Lincoln Park location on Clybourn Ave, there's a second Pequod's located in Morton Grove.
This is the place that started it all. Pizzeria Uno invented the Chicago deep-dish style pizza back in 1943, and they are still going strong today. Now, they are a national chain. But the original Pizzeria Uno at the corner of Ohio and Wabash in Chicago is still famous for their delicious pies.
Founders Ike Sewel and Ric Riccardo are credited with creating the deep dish pizza. Their crust has a dense and crumbly texture without the crunch found at other pizzerias. Their Numero Uno features sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.
Gino's East is a Chicago favorite that started making deep dish pizzas back in 1966. Their cornmeal crust is made from a secret recipe and is piled high with mozzarella cheese and tangy tomato sauce. One of the highlights of their menu is the Chicago Fire pizza, which features spicy sausage, roasted red peppers, and red onions. Their Diavola is a must-try, thanks to the spicy pepperoni, basil, and white truffle oil.
The owner of Bartoli's, Brian Tondryk, is the grandson of the Gino's East founder. Which means he comes from a family of pizza experts. The flaky crust at Bartoli's is rolled with a bit of cheese inside so you get an extra bite of mozzarella in each slice.
We recommend the special spinach and cheese pizza, which features a bright and flavorful garlicky spinach mix, a mountain of melted cheese, sweet, chunky sauce, and a crunchy deep dish crust. In addition to the Addison St. location, there is also a Bartoli's in West Town.
The Art of Pizza is a Lakeview institution that sells individual, stacked slices as well as 14-inch stuffed pies. Their pizza features a flaky, golden-brown crust, bright tomato sauce, and a mountain of Wisconsin cheese. You can get an authentic Chicago deep-dish experience at their original Lakeview location, or at their second location in the South Loop.
One of Chicago's best deep dish pizzas can be found in a Bucktown strip mall at My Pi Pizza. Their light, crispy crust is topped with Wisconsin cheese and a chunky, sweet sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. You can get pizza by the slice at this tiny location with limited seating.
The Malnati's are a huge part of Chicago deep-dish pizza history. Rudy Malnati Sr. was a longtime employee at Pizzeria Uno, and his sons went on to open Lou Malnati's. They also opened the smaller chain, Pizano's Pizza & Pasta.
The dough at Pizano's was developed by owner Rudy Malnati Jr.'s late mother, Donna Marie Malnati. Their Rudy's Special features their delicious golden crust, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. In addition to the State Street location, there are five other locations across the Chicagoland area.
The next time you're in Chicago, do yourself a favor and stop by one of these restaurants and treat yourself to authentic deep-dish pizza. You won't be disappointed.