April showers in theory bring about warmer temperatures. This being Chicago, that means that naturally temps will be in the 50’s all week. Warm up by having your spring parties and ordering in some pizza. This month, the Recorder has done a run-down of where we like to go to fill our ‘za cravings in a city famous for its pizza.
I’m writing my pick for those readers who only rarely come to Chicago and may be hankering for the “authentic Chicago pizza experience,” which means deep-dish. Let me be clear that deep-dish is not all it’s cracked up to be. The worst of it feels like ingesting a brick covered in slabs of artery-clogging mozzarella, and so few places rise above mediocre. However, Lou Malnati‘s provides an exceptional experience by not overloading the cheese, doling out the toppings well, and providing a rich, solid crust that stays intact. There are plenty of wonderful thin-crust places one should try, but Malnati’s is a great pick for late night orderings and out-of-town visitors.
I do not like deep-dish pizza, and before you decide that makes me a “bad Chicagoan”, let’s all be honest and admit that deep-dish pizza owes most of it’s notoriety thanks to tourists and suburbanites. If that’s your thing, great, but I prefer pizza that I can eat without breaking into a sweat.
I know I risk scorn by admitting this, but I prefer what is known as “New York style” pizza: thin and floppy. This exact kind of pizza is harder to find in Chicago, but an even better option is Neapolitan style pizza: typically made in brick ovens with lots of great, fresh ingredients. The absolute best Neapolitan pizza in the city is Spacca Napoli in Ravenswood. If you haven’t been there yet, go now. You’ll eat it, you’ll love it and, unlike with other pizzas, when you’re done, you won’t feel like you’ve just ingested a cheese-covered tire.
I do love Chicago-style deep dish when done well, but Andrew’s suggestion of Lou Malnati’s is the best of that type in the city. So I don’t need to double-down there. Instead, I’ll highlight a new style of pizza in the Chicago landscape: Detroit-style Sicilian pizza brought to the North Side by Jet’s. They were a staple of my childhood back in the Motor City and have been slowly opening franchises across the rest of the country in the past few years, and have a pretty sizable footprint in Chicagoland these days. Detroit-style pizza is a deep-dish style with thin cripsy crusts and a trademark square shape. Perfect for parties and worrying just how much grease one can consume at once. Delicious all the same.
I’m one of those crazy people who actually likes deep-dish pizza. (Guess what? I’m not from here. I can eat what I want!) It’s delicious, it’s bad for you, after eating it you feel like you have to keel over and nap for five days or you might die, and a heady amount serves a bunch of people. I refuse to jump on the bandwagon hating deep-dish! With that said, I won’t cite Giordano‘s as my favorite, because that’s akin to citing Starbucks as your favorite coffee shop – though that’s my favorite deep-dish after Malnati’s. My personal favorite might have to be Pizza Rustica – it’s more of a sit-down Italian restaurant just off the Sheridan Red line stop, but their chow is absolutely delicious. The wine is pretty good, too.
When visitors come to town and want deep dish pizza, I take them to Pequod’s. They burn that cheese to a golden crisp and their toppings are amazing. Get the sausage with cheese if you’re into it, and report back. It’s not in the loop, so it’s not crowded — it’s on Clybourn, technically in Lincoln Park. Plus, they love the Blackhawks so catch a game there if you want to be among your own people.
Chicago’s most unique and delicious pizza experience lives on the corner of Ashland and Fullerton. The Squared Circle, founded by former WWE Women’s Champion Lisa Marie Varon, serves gourmet specialty pizzas, renowned milkshakes, and thematically appropriate cocktails. You can create your own pizza, or choose from a selected menu of traditional, thin crust, or duck fat deep dish pizzas. My favorite is the Hangover Helper (bacon, pepperoni, and fried eggs), but you can’t go wrong with the KY Bourbon or the Slobberknocker. If you’re a wrestling or MMA fan, catch live pay-per-views or constantly streaming WWE Network shows for a fun dine-in experience. If you’re not, find the Squared Circle on Grubhub and enjoy a Chicago gem.
There should be three different terms for pizza (in the way that other languages allegedly have many variable words for “snow”).
1. THINZA: Thin crust, a la Spacca Napoli above, best with a hint of woody char. (In which case, I’d also suggest you try La Madia or Bar Toma. DELICIOUS at both places.)
2. DRUNKZA: “New York-style” pizza, which is best eaten while drunk. Quality is irrelevant, but people like to argue about it. Quantity is more important than quality. Foldability is also important.
3. DEEPZA: Deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza, which is best eaten as a tourist.
There’s room for good pan pizzas, as well. The fast food form is not terribly good, but it’s probably more a staple than any of the above.
Also, Drunkza is gross and I won’t stand it. #Chicago
Ummmmmmmmm….. Meryl knows what she is talking about! Oh and I was surprised to see that Coalfire and Piece were not mentioned. What’s up with that?