Serious Eats: Chicago
Louisa's Pizza & Pasta: Former Due's Student Is Now the Master
Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. —The Mgmt.
Louisa's Pizza & Pasta
14025 Cicero Ave Crestwood, IL 60445 (map); 708-371-0950; no website
Getting There: Orange Line to Midway, Pace Bus Route 383–South Cicero; or bring bike on Metra to Midlothian and ride the rest
Pizza Style: Deep dish
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Former longtime Due's waitress and cook outshines former employer with some of the best deep dish pizza in Chicagoland
Price: 12-inch pizza, one topping, $15.50
Crestwood, Illinois, is a small far southwestern suburb of Chicago that I suspect remains unseen by an overwhelming majority of Chicagoans. To the extent most people know anything about the town, it's not positive: A couple of years ago it came to light that, starting in 1986, the then-mayor, his son (the current mayor), and a key water department official covered up the fact that 20% of town's water supply came from a contaminated well.
But I didn't make the 36-mile drive to Crestwood because a few morons have been added to the depressingly long list of corrupt public officials in my beloved state. I went to return to Louisa's Pizza & Pasta, home of some of the best deep dish pizza on the planet. Louisa DeGenero, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Italy in 1918, spent a couple of decades working as a cook at Pizzeria Due (review of Uno's here) before opening her own place in 1981 with the help of her adult daughter. Today, Louisa's is serving pies that are better than anything her former employer puts out.
Every component of this pizza was delicious and the whole was even better than the parts. The chunky sauce was neither tangy nor sweet, but was simply chunks of juicy tomatoes seasoned with herbs that are grown in back of the restaurant. In fact, Louisa's uses its own herbs year-round, freezing enough each summer to keep customers happy all winter. The cheese is not fresh mozzarella, but it's good quality and has a nice tug to it without being close to overly chewy.
My only complaint about the cheese and sauce was that there is not enough of either. The pie is not unbalanced at all, but the crust could have handled a little more of each and extra cheese and extra sauce are both listed on the menu as possible toppings. The sausage on the other hand was plentiful and appreciated. While lacking in my beloved fennel, these large chunks of fresh porky deliciousness were irresistible.
The crust is where Louisa's really stands out in a metropolitan area filled with delicious deep dish pizzas. The crisp, buttery crust manages to seem light while holding up a healthy amount of meat along with cheese and sauce without showing the slightest bit of strain - there is no crumbling and certainly no tip sag here. More important than the structure is that this crust is one delicious piece of bread. Simply put, if Louisa's were to run out of cheese, sauce and toppings, I'd still order a pizza just to eat more of this crust.
For those who do not live on the far southwest side, Crestwood is a bit of a hike and/or not the easiest place in the world to get to without a car. But if you like deep dish pizza at all, you owe it to yourself to make the trek to Louisa's Pizza & Pasta at least once.
More Chicagoland Pizza for You to Try
Uno's, Chicago's Original Deep Dish Pizza »
Lou Malnati's: Home of Flawless Deep Dish »
Gino's East: One of the Best Deep-Dish Pizzas in Chicago »
Caffe Florian: A Tourist-Free Gem in Hyde Park, Chicago »