PHOTO: Feast your eyes on a pie from Macello’s. Hungry yet? (Photo by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates)
Pizza is a sacred thing in Chicago. Neighborhoods are defined by their pizza spots, reputations are made and lost by the quality of pizza that you choose to consume. Frankly, I don’t have anything to do with people who eat New York-style pizza although you’ll find plenty of the ill-advised stuff in Chicago.
With Buzzfeed, Homer Simpson and various other sensible experts declaring Chicago-style the best, the question is not what city has the best pizza but rather what Chicago spot delivers the best pizza.
Deep dish is the ultimate, although it is not the only option in Chicago. Pizza style is always evolving and there are lots of new innovations to consider. With that being said, I don’t jump on trendy bandwagons and recommend hipster eateries unless they are truly deserving. Tradition and authenticity do matter here. That means that you won’t see many of the latest pizza darlings here but you will find tried and tested standouts.
Here’s my list of the top 5 best pizzas in Chicago.
Photo via Flickr/Kurman Communications
It’s all about the crust when it comes to Chicago pizza and Pizano’s produces crusty perfection with every pie, deep dish or thin. Although Pizano’s isn’t technically one of the old school Chicago classics since it opened in 1991, it was opened by the son of Rudy Malnati Sr, who founded Pizzeria Uno in 1943, and is credited with creating deep dish pizza.
Besides the sublime crust, Pizano’s offers wonderful deep dish as well as stunning thin crust, which is unusual. Typically, a restaurant wins with one or the other but not both. You can’t go wrong with any type of pizza here.
2. PIZZERIA DUE
Photo via Flickr/Beatrice Murch
The second location of the famous Pizzeria Uno empire is a Chicago hallmark that never disappoints. Pizzeria Due is always crammed with tourists but don’t be fooled; locals love it as well. This is my go to when I crave real deal Chicago style pizza, without newfangled toppings or additions.
A tangy crust with gobs of cheese oozing out of a crust as thick as your wrist defines deep dish pizza and Pizzeria does it well. You can find franchises from Dubai to South Korea, but nothing replaces sinking your teeth into a slice at the original River North spot.
3. CHICAGO PIZZA AND OVENGRINDER CO.
Photo courtesy of Chicago Pizza and Ovengrinder Co.
A local underground fave, Chicago Pizza and Ovengrinder offers pizza that you’ll never find anywhere else. A Lincoln Park institution, the pizza at Ovengrinder can’t really be classified as deep dish or thin crust. It’s a strange combo of bread bowl filled with sauce and cheese and a pizza puff. The menu calls them pizza pot pies but whatever you call it, the taste is unforgettable.
This is a new entry into the Chicago pizza landscape and Macello’s elegant creations are a welcome addition. Macello’s is the only Pugliese restaurant in the city and its owners are serious about serving traditional, family recipes from the region. That includes wafer-thin pizzas from wood burning ovens, slathered with burrata and rich flavor. Don’t miss the pure and fresh Pizza Bianco with cherry tomatoes and arugula.
5. HOME RUN INN
Photo courtesy of Home Run Pizza
Because I’m a South Sider, it’s not permissible for me to create a pizza list without including the pizza that generations of South Siders (including me) have grown up on since 1947. Home Run Inn is rarely featured on fancy lists, even though there are locations from Beverly to Lakeview, packed with locals. That’s not because it’s not good but because it’s such an old-school landmark that it’s just overlooked.
But this is where you’ll taste Chicago style deep dish with a buttery crust that’s tasty enough to eat on its own/ The rest of the pizza, made from scratch daily, is good too. So much so that Home Run Inn frozen pizzas are a Chicago staple as well.