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Real Chicago pizza isn't deep dish? [moved from Los Angeles board]

[The Chowhound Team moved this non-local question from its original location on the Los Angeles board, here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...


The funny thing is, I have two very good friends from Chicago who swear to God On High that deep dish pizza isn't what most Chicagoans eat. These two guys (both from the South Side, if that makes any difference?) say real Chicago pizza is best exemplified by the normal-thickness crust pies at places like the Home Run Inn.

Any Chicagoans care to comment? Are my friends telling me the truth?

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  1. There's plenty of thin-crust pizza in Chicago, but when people anywhere else say Chicago-style pizza, they mean deep dish (of which there are actually two styles, deep-dish and stuffed-crust).

    1. Lived in Chi-town for two years and fell in love with the double-crusted stuffed pizza, best best Giordanos. When we used to go out for pizza, 95% of the time was a Chicago stuffed variety. Chicago is definitely a thick pie town.

      There is also another item that i noticed in Chicago that I have not seen ANYWHERE else. The pizza place, made a great thin crusted beauty, near my apartment (51st and Dorcester, South Side) used to cut the pie into squares, yup squares. About five cuts one way and five cuts perpendicular to the first five and lots of squares, each about 2", and the otside pieces with a rounded side.

      3 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        They do this at DeLorenzo's in New Jersey, usually using a butter knife (which I think is a feat unto itself!)

        1. re: jfood

          this sounds like st. louis style if it's really thin and you add "provel" cheese.

          1. re: jfood

            This style of cutting has been pretty common in my (non-Chicago) IL and SC experiences.

          2. Your friends are absolutely right, deep dish ISN'T what MOST Chicagoans eat! Thin crust, or normal crust, outsells deep dish by a large margin and there are a far greater number of places serving this style than deep dish.

            The deep dish style was started in the early 1940's and was mostly served by places in and around the "Loop", or downtown area. This style was exemplified by Uno's first and followed by the likes of Gino's, Giordano's, and Lou Malnati's. Although others have come and gone, these four are still the main purveyors of the deep dish style in Chicago.

            I believe most people associate deep dish with Chicago because of the success of Uno's and the others mentioned above. Once the press picked up on this new style and tourists coming to downtown Chicago sampled this and went back home praising this as "Chicago Style" the ball began to pick up speed. I think you also have to factor in the "Second City" syndrome ---- Chicagoans wanted to show the New Yorkers that we had something unique they didn't have. Somehow or the other, the traditional "south-side" thin crust got lost in all of the hype and never became famous outside of Chicago.

            And yes, the traditional "south-side" places always cut their pies in squares. Makes sense to me ---- easier to pick up, easier to eat, easier for the "crust-eaters" to have their favorite part, etc., etc. Never did understand that fold-over thing!

            3 Replies
            1. re: cucuzza

              Hi Cucuzza, I'm writing a paper on pizza from the anthropological point of view and I need to find some data on the history of pizzas in the various cities of the US and why certain pizzas are defined as NY or Chicago or wherever... There are million of references to pizza from all sorts of points of view, but I cannot find anything local to explain the reason why deep dish is a Chicago tradition etc.
              You seem to have found some info, was this from the various pizza companies web sites? Or is it some source you found? Thanks, I appreciate your help.

              1. re: lombardo

                Go to pizzamaking.com and ping SliceofSlomon (Evelyn Slomon), who is the authority on the history of various New World styles of pizza, with your questions.

            2. Having grown up in the Chicago area and lived here all of my 60 years, thin crust pizza is the pizza of norm. In the 1960's I worked at a pizza place and never heard of deep dish, didn't have it until a trip to Uno's in the late '60's. I don't have pizza very often anymore but when I do, it's always cracker thin crust cut in to squares from my local place that does not make deep dish.

              1. I only have experience with Giordano's "normal" crust pizza so I don't know how other places make it but its like frozen pizza when compared to NY/NJ style. Crust is more cracker like and not as chewy as NY style. And I think they put the "toppings" under the cheese. So what DO you call them if they are not on top? And what's with the squares with a round pizza, why not just make a square pizza? I don't need my pizza cut into little squares, I'm a big boy now, I can handle a slice all by myself.

                3 Replies
                1. re: LStaff

                  a square is an akward shape to roll dough into

                  1. re: amkirkland

                    The PIZZA is ROUND. The SLICES are SQUARE.

                    And I grew up in Hammond, Ind, pure south sider (Hammond is adjacent to Hegewisch and the East Side, it's pure working class south side) and I never saw or ate "deep dish" until high school and that was at Gino's East. All the pizza of my childhood was square-sliced thin crust with the best lean sausage- from places like Aurelio's (Hammond of Homewood), State Line (Calumet City), Barton's in Hammond and Lansing, and House of Pizza in Hammond.

                    1. re: John Manzo

                      Lstaff asked why not make a square pizza... I answered them.

                2. From these posts, it looks like there is somewhat of a debate. Just to add my 2 cents, I think that most people consider "Chicago-style" pizza to be the deep dish/pan pizza served at places such as Lou Malnati's, Pizzerias Uno and Due, and Gino's East.

                  Many Chicago pizzerias do serve thin crust pizza, often in addition to pan or deep dish (you also can get thin pizza from places like Pizza Hut and Dominos). I haven't taken a survey, so I can't confirm what most Chicagoans eat, but I've lived in the Chicago area my whole life and I typically order deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati's -- it's the best around, IMO.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: RMA

                    There is a parallel thread (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...) on the Chicago Area Board where Bostonbob3 asks Chicagoan to solve a riddle for a Bostonian. Within that thread abf005 has the most succinct summary of the three basic styles of Chicago pizza. Thin-crust variations were on the South Side well before deep-dish and stuffed were invented and still dominate there as well as along the Grand Avenue corridor a long way into the suburbs.

                    Deep dish seems concentrated in the tourist district downtown, which has a lot to do with why so many non-Chicagoans associate it with Chicago. The North Side is very eclectic in its pizza types while the South Side is still home to various thin-crust versions. In my experience more locals eat some thin-crust form than eat deep dish. But then, I don't think many locals even talk about "Chicago-style" pizza because the term is meaningless. I suspect marketing by the franchised versions of deep dish is behind most of the dubious perceptions elsewhere in the country.

                  2. Agreed, that when most people talk "Chicago-style" pizza they mean deep dish or stuffed. Chicago also has a long tradition of (cracker) thin crust. There's the cut-into-squares bit which isn't relegated to the colloquial---that's all over the Midwest...imo: it makes sense for a thin-crust pizza, but I prefer triangles for everything else. Thankfully, Chicago also offers a burgeoning array of quasi-NY-style and traditional Roman pizzas.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: aelph

                      In Columbus OH in the 70s, a lot of pizzas were square cut. Some also had a very crackery crust (which I did not much like). I suspect that fewer and fewer pies are squarecut these days as the chains and advertising affect folks' perception of how a pizza should be presented.


                    2. Thanks for the kudos Eldon, glad you found the post helpful.

                      Just to clarify: when we "locals" as you call us, order a Chicago style pizza, the order taker will generally ask if your ordering either “thin crust” or "deep dish".

                      I think the whole "Chicago style" thing is reserved for explaining what we eat here to the tourists and media for added distinction. Much like a "NY Style pizza" which has a thicker chewier bottom dough, is oilier, and needs to be folded in half like a calzone to be eaten since they can’t cut it into squares...

                      Just teasing, I go to Gigio's in Evanston on Davis St. for my NY 'za fixes regularly, and they do it as good as any NY place I ever ate.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: abf005

                        In the Italian tradition pizza has different names and form and it is very much a matter of which region it comes from: sfinciuni from Sicily (stuffed pizza like the Chicago style?), focaccia (from Liguria, sometimes thick and bready or crispy like a cracker), Napoletana (what is commonly seen as pizza whether thick or thin), I have no idea what a Roman pizza should look like or taste like. I am confused, is there a pizza dictionary? Thanks for clarify.

                        1. re: lombardo

                          The answer to all your questions can be found at www.pizzamaking.com

                      2. I've had an otherwise clear-thinking Chicago native tell me that square cut pizza tastes better than triangle slices (cut from the same pizza)!!! Eh, what?