It's a time of transition for Chicago pizza. With the critically beloved Great Lake either temporarily closed or gone for good, the city's pizza moorings feel just slightly off. The result is that is what I like to think of as a fractured pizza city, which, now more than ever, is divided between old school and new, thick and thin, excessive and stripped down. This isn't necessarily a terrible thing: there isn't one consensus pick, which means it's easier to recognize just how many different kinds of pizza you can find in Chicago. Honestly, I can't think of a better time to take stock and ask our writers about their favorite pizza.
In hindsight, Great Lake was the one pizzeria that everyone—thick and thin crust partisans—could agree on. It might not have been everyone's favorite, but no one could deny the artistry in the crust. Can you tell that I miss it dearly? So does our staff. Most mentioned that it would have been their pick last year. Still, that hasn't stopped any of us from eating just as much pizza this year as any other. Without a doubt, there is still great pizza to be found.
Where's the Deep Dish?
Let's get this out of the way quickly, because this is the question most people will want to talk about: there's no deep dish on this list. How could we avoid Chicago's most recognizable style of pizza? Sure, thick crusts make an appearance, but as this fantastic style guide by Daniel Zemans explains, deep dish is a very specific thing. Instead, you'll find stuffed crust and pan pizza, which differ in very important ways from deep dish. The former has an extra layer of dough between the cheese and the sauce, while the latter features a bubbly, focaccia-like crust (not to mention caramelized cheese around the exterior).
While no deep dish made the list, I would like to point out that we all don't necessarily hate the style. In fact, I included Lou Malnati's on my list of Touristy Spots in Chicago That Are Actually Good. But none of us apparently love it enough, either. I'm looking forward to your angry comments below.
Since this is a Staff Picks post, this isn't supposed to be an exhaustive list of the best pizzerias you can find in Chicago. Instead, it's a quick sampling of places that our writers actually visit, which I think differentiates it from other "best pizza" lists. None of these places were included because we thought they needed to be. I'll be the first to acknowledge that some very worthy places aren't here, but that's just the nature of picking a favorite. For example, both Burt's and Pat's are in my top five, but neither were my, or anyone else's, favorite. Excuses, I know.
If you are looking for a list that best gives a sense of Chicago's pizza scene, you might want to start with this list. But if you're looking for pizza that we genuinely eat all the time, this list is for you.
Check out all the picks by clicking on the slideshow.
- Pizzeria da Nella
- Floriole Cafe & Bakery
- Bar Toma
- Fasano's Pizza
- Piece Brewery and Pizzeria