Slideshow: Staff Picks: What's the Best Pizza in Chicago?

Pizzeria da Nella
Pizzeria da Nella

"The unexpected closing of Great Lake suddenly left an empty throne at the center of my Chicago-pizza pantheon. Several charming suitors had proven themselves over the years—thanks to impeccable consistency, fresh ingredients, and doggedly honed crust recipes—as worthy of assuming the top spot in the event of such an emergency. I'd never turn down a slice from the likes of La Madia, Coalfire, or Piece, but it's Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletan—a relative newcomer in name but operated by one of Chicago's most venerated pizza makers in Nella Grassano—that I now hold up as the city's best. I've fallen hard for Grassano's Neapolitan pies, which are, for one thing, beautiful. The painterly halo of char; the play of intense, almost luminescent reds against ivory whites and deep greens; the curls of steam rising off the just-baked crust—I'm getting hungry just writing this. Speaking of the crust, it's soft, fluffy, yeasty, smoky, and crispy, all at once. You'd think a team of experts had constructed it in a lab if Nella weren't there, in plain sight, before her wood-fired oven, artfully molding and dressing each pie herself." Roger Kamholz

Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana, 1443 West Fullerton Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614 (map); 773-281-6600; pizzeriadanella.com‎

Piece Brewery and Pizzeria
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria

"The very first pizza I had in Chicago was at Piece, and it remains my favorite in the city. I love the light char on the edges and the chewy crust, the garlicky white pie, and the mozzarella-less plain pizza. I also like Piece's beer. Plus, there's clam pizza, though I'm partial to banana peppers, chicken, and ricotta. The only downside is the wait, and I am perpetually jealous of anyone who lives within Piece's delivery zone." Amy Cavanaugh

"I grew up near St. Louis, so I was just never able to stomach Chicago-style pizza—the thinner the crust, the better. But my favorite pie in the city actually hails from neither Midwestern city: it's Piece's piece of New Haven. Sure, you have to shout over the sports-bar din as you eat, but the pie is worth it: the size of a small, irregularly-shaped island, with a thin crust crisped on the outside, perfectly chewy on the inside. I love the spinach, artichoke, and basil on top of the white pizza, but if you want the real New Haven experience, ask for a plain pizza topped with mashed potatoes. Doubling down on your carbs is never a mistake: it's really good." Lindsey Howald Patton

Piece Brewery and Pizzeria, 1927 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622 (map); 773-772-4422; Piece Brewery and Pizzeria

Piece Brewery and Pizzeria
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria
"My favorite pizza isn't a Chicago-style one, and it's not even one that's been around a long time. It's Piece, and there are so many reasons why. The crust is just the right proportion to handle the toppings. They've got a good assortment of toppings, and they all usually seem pretty fresh, but it's the fact that you can get a mashed potato and giardinera at the same time on top of your pizza that makes my life complete." Molly Durham

Piece Brewery and Pizzeria, 1927 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622 (map); 773-772-4422; Piece Brewery and Pizzeria

Bar Toma
Bar Toma

[Photograph: Huge Galdones]

"Bar Toma is still my fave." Huge Galdones

Here's what Huge had to say about the pizza from the Put an Egg on It feature:

Egg and pizza fans rejoice! The Uova e Funghi pizza at Bar Toma, which comes topped with a variety of mushrooms, is also elevated by the addition of one flavorful and runny cage-free egg. Broken table-side, the flavor and texture of the yolk plays perfectly well against the earthiness of the mushrooms and the crisp and chewy complexity of the crust. As avid egg-lovers, we tend to order an extra egg to ensure higher yolk-to-pizza ratio.

Bar Toma, 110 E Pearson St, Chicago, IL 60611 (map); 312-266-3110; bartomachicago.com

Reno
Reno
"This question is hard because, now that Great Lake is closed, I don't have one place I love above all others. Instead, I have picks for specific cravings. When it's the middle of February and freezing, nothing hits quite like Pequod's caramelized cheese crust; when I want extra-thin and crispy pizza served in a fantastic, old-school atmosphere, I go to John's; and when I want dainty and delicate crusts with exquisite fresh toppings best eaten with a knife and fork, I visit Nellcôte. Still, if there is one place that I've continually returned to over the past year, it's Reno in Logan Square. "But this is no safe consensus pick. Reno's pizzas are thin, blistered beauties, with crusts that hover between delicately crisp and airy. Though they at first appear to be a slightly larger version of Neapolitan-style, they are far more playful and engaging. Much like Great Lake, they are creatively topped, but never overbearing. The hog is covered in carnitas, salsa verde, rajas, and mozzarella, yet they are applied so evenly that the thin crust doesn't buckle. Plus, they all come with a smoky char from the restaurant's wood-fired oven." Nick Kindelsperger

Reno, 2607 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-697-4234; renochicago.com‎

Floriole Cafe & Bakery
Floriole Cafe & Bakery
"I still have not forgiven the universe for allowing Great Lake to close, but Floriole Cafe & Bakery has mended my wounds a little bit by instating weekend pizza nights. Considering their prowess for all things doughy and baked, pizza is a natural segue for them. True to form, they're doing wonderful things with pizza dough, producing a thin crust that is at once bready and light, crisp and tender. It's the perfect platform for Floriole's seasonal toppings, which change weekly. I like the ones that make ample use of their rooftop garden. How poetic that my favorite bakery has become my favorite place for pizza." Matt Kirouac

Floriole Cafe & Bakery, 1220 West Webster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614 (map); 773-883-1313; floriole.com‎

Coalfire
Coalfire
"I have to go with Coalfire. My first pizza love will always be thick-crusted, doughy NY pizza (preferably Two Bros. eaten standing up outside their shop on St. Mark's) but I haven't found anything like it in Chicago yet (anyone know a place?). So when I'm craving pizza but can't find anything even close to that, I go to the opposite end of the spectrum with the super thin-crusted pies at Coalfire. The classic Margherita blows me away every time, but if I'm feeling a little spicy I love the 'Nduja too." Lindsey Becker

Coalfire, 1321 West Grand Avenue, Chicago IL 60622 (map); 312-226-2625; coalfirechicago.com

Fasano's
Fasano's
"Let's go with Fasano's, which I like for its perfect equation: zingy sauce, excellent, fennel-laced sausage and a sturdy but wafer-thin, cornmeal-dusted crust that's up to the task." Jennifer Olvera

Fasano's Pizza, 8351 Roberts Rd., Justice, IL 60458 (map); 708-598-6971; www.fasanospizza.com

Giordano's
Giordano's
"I have never been a huge fan of Chicago deep dish pizza. Eating it is kind of like when I read Jane Eyre in high school: It's not like it causes me pain or is explicitly that bad, it just doesn't do anything for me. As a native New Yorker, this kind of thinking is printed into my genetic code. However, every once and a while I crave a thick, doughy, slice—one that has tomato sauce spilling out the sides and the "toppings" somehow stuffed inside. It's not often that this craving hits, but when it does, it hits hard. A good veggie slice (or three or four or five), with charred onions and peppers and cheese stretching three feet across the table, leaves me feeling like I have a brick in my stomach in the best way possible. I'll probably check out what the rest of the staff has to say to find a slice in Chicago that speaks to the New Yorker in me, but, for now at least, I'm happy with this." Eric Singerman

Giordano's, Various Locations; 5311 South Blackstone Avenue Chicago, IL 60615 (map); 773-947-0200; giordanos.com