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Chicago pizza

  • c
  • chimera Jul 13, 1999 11:10 AM

"But Chicago has certain kinds of meals
no city does better: the breakfasts at Lou
Mitchell's, dripping Italian beef sandwiches
at Mr. Beef, pizza at the obvious places...."

Jonathan Gold posted this about a year ago, and
I'm hoping that he (or anyone else) might
elaborate on what those "obvious places" are for
the best Chicago pizza. I'll be in Chicago soon
for the first time, for just about 24 hours, and
am hoping to enjoy an exemplary pie. Many thanks.

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  1. I was in Chicago for the 4th of July weekend. Man, it
    was HOT. After wading through crowds in Grant Park's
    Taste of Chicago we decided to get a "real" Chicago
    pizza. My friend, a Chicagoan, took us to a joint
    right downtown called Gino's. It has graffiti on every
    square inch. I thought it sounded suspiciously like a
    chain pizza place but the line outside portended
    something better. Admittedly, since I joined Weight
    Watchers last Jan., this was to be my first piece of
    pizza since that time, so my opinon may be tainted by
    my pizza lust, BUT I found it to have the attributes of
    very good pizza, though deep dish. The sauce was spicy
    and very tomato-y, very good cheese, and the crust was
    the yellow of cornmeal, which I suspect it contained.
    In fact the crust would have been wonderful simply as
    bread. One other thing: A very worthwhile thing to do
    while you are there is to take the Architectural Boat
    Tour on the Chicago River. It costs $18 and is 90
    minutes long. Have fun. pat

    8 Replies
    1. re: pat hammond

      The whole deep-dish pizza thing turns me off
      completely since I had Pizzeria Uno many years ago.
      It's just a personal thing, I guess, so I would not be
      able to refer you to a "usual" Chicago pizza. BUT, I
      will tell you I had great, albeit in the designer
      mode, pizza and apps at Cafe Spiaggia - impeccable
      ingredients, thin crust (the way I like). Don't
      confuse Cafe Spiaggia with its' more pricey and
      upscale sister, Spiaggia, ( where you will have an
      outstanding meal but pay lotsa more lira!).

      1. re: Heidi
        j
        jonathan gold

        The ``usual places'' for Chicago pizza include Uno, which is the grimy, airless original, and Due, the slightly more pleasant sister restaurant down the street; Giordano's, home of the double-crust pizza; Lou Malnatti's, advertised as an alternative to, but basically a duplicate of, Uno; Edwardo's, which specializes in a spinach souffle pizze; and Gino's East, which is basically Uno's with graffiti and loud music.


        In all of them, the crusts are too hard (I assume they were made with buckets of oil in the good old days, but have succumbed to a nutritional regime), the tomato sauce is undercooked and watery, and the lakes of molten, poor-quality mozzarella overwhelm the pie. My advice: Due, at an off hour, and with nothing more complicated than sausage.

        1. re: jonathan gold

          Jonathan, I'm confused. It doesn't sound like
          you highly recommend ANY Chicago pizza. But
          in your long-ago post, you included pizza (at
          "the obvious places") among the "certain kinds
          of meals no city does better" than Chicago.
          What's up? I'll admit, having been born and
          raised in Manhattan, and never having been to
          the windy city, I've never been a fan of any
          "Chicago-style" deep-dish pizza I've had
          elsewhere in the country. But from your original
          post, I thought maybe it'd be worth trying the
          real thing on it's home turf. But now I'm
          thinking maybe not.

          1. re: chimera
            j
            jonathan gold

            I'm backtracking a little, I know. But I guess I've eaten an awful lot of pizza in Chicago this year looking for the archetypical pie, and I've sort of bummed a little on the genre. Which is not unlike, come to think of it, the world-view of a lot of posters here on the subject of NY pizza: I think Lombardi's, Patsy's, Totonno's and John's are just great, but as a newcomer to the city, I apparently lack a halcyon ideal with which to compare them too.


            So if you go to Chicago, eat a pizza! I recommend Due, but any of the famous places will do just fine.

            1. re: jonathan gold
              k
              Kathryn Callaghan

              Chicago pizza is something you either like or you
              don't. It should not be judged by anyone who can't
              stomach the idea of eating a half pound or more of
              melted mozerella in one sitting. Expect it to be
              heavy, rich and too messy to eat with your fingers.

              I love it, in all its cheesy, salty, red-sauced
              heaviness. My favorite was from Pizza Capri, a little
              neighborhood place on 53rd St. in Hyde Park on the
              South Side. But that was a while ago. I'd recommend
              calling first to make sure that I remember correctly
              and their pizza is the sauce-on-top real thing.
              Otherwise, I've had fine pizza at Gino's and Uno (in
              the pre-chain days), but I'd avoid Giordano's.

              1. re: Kathryn Callaghan

                Speaking of Hyde Park, what about the Medici on 57th.
                It was my first taste of Chicago pizza, and for me
                remains the best. I know that aficianados of pan pizza
                like to dis' it, but as you say, Chicago pizza (or any
                pizza) may be beyond reason.

                Re: Pizza Capri -- I never heard of it. I wonder if
                that was before my time, or after.

                1. re: Alan Divack
                  k
                  Kathryn Callaghan

                  The Med on Chowhound! What is the world coming to? I
                  avoided the place, whether because of the dinginess or
                  the atmosphere of collegiate culinary capitulation I'm
                  not sure. But I can believe that they make a decent
                  pizza. My boyfriend, who ate there often, reports that
                  it was greasy but enjoyable, though not exactly of the
                  classic Chicago style.

                  Pizza Capri is a younger competitor. I graduated in
                  97', an it opened during my second year, I think. I
                  ate there often because they served the only edible
                  food in Hyde Park. What a chowhound nightmare that
                  place was! Not even a decent grocery store...

                  1. re: Kathryn Callaghan

                    Thin Crust: Hamilton's in Rogers Park.

                    Deep Dish: Gino's on Ohio or wherever the hell they moved it to.

    2. Stay away from Gino's East for pizza; I got dragged
      there 4 or 5 years in a row in the 90s (not to mention
      20+ years ago, before the proliferation beyond the
      original Unos, Due and maybe one other place on the
      North Side) Gino's pizza was in my experience always
      been greasy, almost rancidly so, with mediocre
      ingredients. Fact is, I was never much impressed by
      any of the Chicago deep dish pies. Maybe others have
      had better specimens.

      3 Replies
      1. re: jen kalb

        Thanks for your response. Are the original Uno
        and Due very different from the Uno's chain
        restaurants elsewhere in the country?

        1. re: chimera

          can't say, since its been too long since I visited the
          originals, and I have never been tempted by the Uno
          chain stores. For additional Chicago dining info, you
          might want to take a look at Chicago Magazine, which
          publishes a decent scope of restaurant reviews and
          info. Their website has some recent reviews, but no
          active archive, unfortunately.

          1. re: jen kalb
            j
            jonathan gold

            Chicago has its faults, but a lack of online dining guides isn't one of them. http://www.searchchicago.com takes you to a site including the Sun-Times archive, whose Pat Bruno is perhaps the most chowhoundy critic for a major daily anywhere, and http://metromix.com/dining/ gets you--or at least once got you--to a site with review archives from both the Chicago Trib and Chicago magazine.


            Don't miss Tufano's, whose pork chop with peppers and fried potatoes if sure proof of the existence of God.

      2. You didn't ask, but can I add that if you are a hot
        dog fan, you owe it to yourself to try some in
        Chicago. There have been many posts here about
        Chicago food, which it sounds like you've already
        seen: many good ideas have been posted.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dave Feldman

          Thanks. From what everyone has to say about the
          pizza, it sounds like hot dogs may be the way to
          go.

        2. Lived in Chicago for 12 years, just returned to NY last
          fall.

          I agree with Joanthan Gold that Uno and Due need to be
          visited on slow-nights. The quality often suffers
          during peak operation.

          Lou Malnati's butter-crust pan pizza has consistently
          impressed me with its fine balance of flavors and
          overall freshness. The regular pan pizza and their flat
          pizza are better than average. The sausage there is
          home-made and a real Malnati family owns the place to
          this day.

          Giordano's is a crap shoot. They allegedly created the
          stuffed-crust pizza. The original location in Hyde Park
          continues to be decent--flaky crust, rich sauce, good
          cheese.

          Edwardo's. The owner worked for Giordano's before
          hitting the road to start his own place. Has been up
          and down in quality. Claim to have invented the stuffed
          spinach pizza--their trademark pie.

          Gino's East--wildly erratic. Known for its cornmeal
          crust pan pizzas. A crap shoot.

          Geppetto's--was in Rogers Park, now in suburban Oak
          Park. Serves pan, flat and stuffed pizzas. Fresh,
          premium ingredients. The flat is frequently excellent
          as is the stuffed. The pan is average. Worht several
          visits to try all three.

          My Pi--on N. Clark. Pan pizza. Not as well-known, but
          should be.

          Ranalli's--I can't understand the appeal. A favorite
          yuppie watering hole Really just a bar that serves
          mediocre pizza, IMHO.Cardboardy crust, bland cheese and
          a by-the-numbers sauce.

          Pizza at all of the above should be eaten on-site. The
          stuffed and pan varities don't work as well cool nor
          re-heated.

          1. Damenzo's, at Taylor and Oakley, sells slices of pizza that are big enough for 2 meals if you're a chick. Great people watching, too...reminds me of the pizza place in "Do the Right Thing". For great pizza in an out-of-the-way location, try Roselli's on Higgins (about 5200 N and 6000 W). Super crisp crust and tons of toppings.

            1. I am inclined to select My Pi as Chicago's best pizza. I love the tomatoes and sauce. When I went to school at Loyola on Sheridan Rd., My Pi was just across the street and that pan pizza was the best ever. People like Gino's (I don't!) and a slew of other well-known places, but my heart belong to the Pi. I have never tried the pizza at its Clark St. location. Still great?

              1. 50 years ago I used to get pizza at a large pizza resturant which I believe was on State Street north of the Chicago Ave. It was thin crust without heavy sauce and a special sausage they had and had a very distinctive taste. I can still taste it in my mind but have not found anything like it since I left Chicago in the late 50s. Anybody know what I'm talking about?? Several years ago I was there and tried to find the resturant but apparently its not there now. I'll be in Chicago in October 2006 and would greatly appreciate it if anyone knows if that type pizza still exists. Thanks.

                1. As a native Chicagoan and Southsider, in my mind, "CHicago-style pizza" is not stuffed, but really excellent thin crust sausage pizza. I like Aurelio's in Homewood (with outlets in Palos Hts, inter alia) the best, but Papa Joe's in Orland Park is good as well. I had a hard time finding really excellent "southside" pizza when I lived on the northside. Anyway, there's my two cents: Chicago style pizza isn't stuffed, but thin (with almost a cracker like crust), always has sausage on it (with a good taste of fennel), and sort of sweet sauce. Cut into small squares. YUM!

                  1. Wow,a 1999 post! That's gotta be some sort of record here.

                    I will agree with what GBV said...while a deep dish or stuffed crust pizza gets more notoriety as being "Chicago-style", the majority of pizza sold in chains to mom and pop pizza places throughout the area are thin crust...I'd take a guess and say between 80 and 90 percent. Places like Aurelio's, Home Run Inn, Father & Son, Pat's, Vito & Nick's, Candlelite...and countless others. The thin crust may vary in thickness and is often a "short dough" crust...fortified with cornmeal, butter, oil to make it less bready. The characteristics that I view as part of "Chicago-style" are a somewhat sweet sauce, toppings underneath the cheese, sausage as the prevalent topping, and of course, it being cut into squares instead of pie-shaped wedges.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: RSMBob

                      On the money. Mind you I'm a Connecticut boy and was weaned on its pie and I've lived in Phx for 24 years now -- other than pilgrimages to Due and Gino's East 15 years ago, I've never sampled the native Chicago variety. Here in AZ, however, I've become acquainted with the OTHER Chicago pie -- thin crust, sweet sauce, almost no rind, cut into squares, etc. -- and it's good, when it's good. Locally, we have Rosati's (chain, not too good), Oregano's (locally-grown chain, not bad) and Spinato's (3-4 stores, very good!) offering thin Chicago pie. One home-grown chain, Nello's -- here since the 80s but just a few stores, family-owned -- does the pan style, and it's good, but it feels lighter and airier than the originals -- even so, solid pie with the toppings buried under a thick blanket of cheese ...

                      Getting past all that, southern CT has the best pizza on the planet, at many locations. No others come very close.

                    2. I know I'm 'bumping' an old post, but it's always an on-topic post, so here's my two cents (focusing on pan pizza).

                      Personal favorite: Pequod's, 8520 Fernald Ave., Morton Grove, IL

                      Decor is warm wood paneling with loads of old radios.

                      In a pinch: 2207 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago

                      It's a bar and the pie is almost as good as the Morton Grove version.

                      At each, a good burn on the crust and rockin' sausage. A crust lover's pizza.

                      http://www.pequodspizza.com

                      Of the "majors"

                      1a) Due's ... better than Uno's
                      1b) Malnati's ... a tad sweet, but I like it
                      3) Gino's ... what are they like since they moved?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: NYChristopher

                        I just ate at Pizano's where the thin crust pizza was much more enjoyable for my wife and me than Lou Malnati's deep dish version which, though tasty, has much too much cheese for my taste.

                      2. Many of the posts in this topic are 7-8 years old. For more recent discussions of Chicago-area pizza, including mentions of some places that have opened in the intervening period, see these topics:
                        www.chowhound.com/topics/327474
                        www.chowhound.com/topics/319254

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          I like both Chicago thin (hint of crunch to the crust and square slices make a difference...) and deep dish, but I prefer deep dish. Something about the thick, rich sauce being on top makes it all the more gooey, which I love.

                          I ordered one tonight here in Nashville (from the one place that makes them; sad) and this one was pretty good -- they didn't overcook the crust, the cheese/sauce blend was just about perfect, and the sausage was excellent.

                          The GF and I ate five of the eight slices of this large deep dish. (well I ate four. hehe)

                          We've ordered the chi-style thin crust (16") from this place and ate the whole thing. I look forward to putting a smidge of olive oil on it and sticking it in the oven to bring it back to life for lunch tomorrow.

                          I love chi-style deep dish... so much more flavor than NY-style...

                          1. re: prezbucky

                            Just getting Started on this site but would like to chime in with a place a bit out of the ways called the Village Inn Pizzeria in Skokie. I just found them about a year ago and they have apperntly been there for 20 years. I met The Owner Randy who is a nice guy but passionate about Pizza that he has fought with customers who request the pizza square cut. ( I agree I hate square cut it's a Pizza Pie) They have a great thin crust and Stuffed pizza. The Sauce is nice and rich plus the rest of the menu is very good.

                            If you can't make it out to skokie the only other Pizza I dig these day's is Coal Fire on Ogden but since they consider themselves boston style pizza I won't hype them up to much here.

                            -----
                            Pizza Pie
                            578 E Devon Ave, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007