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Pick your best 5 "Chicago Style" deep dish pizza's

After thinking about it, I had posted this to a different thread called "Chicago Trip Report". In retrospect, it might have made more sense to have this go out on it's own.

So here is the criteria: Post your top 5 favorites, feel free to explain why and if you have a few good runners up for 5th, go ahead and list them too. _______________________________________________________________

It's hard to beat the original classics for deep dish and of those there are truly only a few: Uno/Duo, Gulliver's & Gino's East. All the others are pretty much refinements, derivatives or "twists" on the same theme.

In visiting these places web sites and reading their history I thought it was interesting that it seems like Chicago deep dish pizza went through a "pizza boom", of new places starting in with Gulliver's in 1965 and went on until Bacino's in 1980, which means it's been about 25 years since any other significant new competition has come to the market.

I would rank the following as my 5 favorite deep dish places:

1. Gino's East (Downtown!) 1966
2. Uno/Duo 1940
3. Gulliver's 1965
4. Giordano's 1974
5. Bacino's 1980

Honorable mentions:
6. Edwardo's 1978
7. Nancy's 1974

Just mentioned:
8. Lou Malnati's 1971

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  1. Well, that pretty much covers the landscape of deep dish style pizzas. I do not know much (ok, anything) about Gulliver's, but I might replace that with Connie's and add a /Pizano's after Lou's. Also on the list would be Joey Buona's and Pizza Capri if they are still around in any form.

    Lots of small mom and pop places you can add, but it goes to show you that outside of a small number of places, the Chicago-area pizza scene really is dominated by thin crust places.

    1. I guess I'll go beyond five, but I would rank Malnati's and Pizano's well above all of the others:

      1 & 2) A tie -- Lou Malnati's and Pizano's (ordered with buttercrust)- the pizzas are nearly identical (not surprising since one of the Malnati brothers owns Pizano's)
      3) Pequod's - the caramelized crust is fantastic
      4) Uno's/Due's - if you can get by the crowds, there's excellent pizza waiting
      5) Carmen's - haven't had it in a while, but always one of my favorites

      I love O'Fame, but I wouldn't call their deep dish pizza to be Chicago-style (more Sicilian, if I understand the difference well enough). I generally like Bacino's, Edwardo's, Gino's and Giordano's too (although it somewhat depends on location for these), and would rank them 6, 7, 8 and 9 among the Chicago style pizzas. I don't recall having had Art of Pizza's deep dish, although I've heard that it's excellent.

      1. I think Lou Malnati's is the best but a close second is Delisi's on N. Western. They have the best crust! kind of like a pastry crust but it really works with the toppings. And Gulliver's is up there too.

        1. I'm not a big fan of deep-dish pizza, but one of my favorite pan pizzas is that served by (surprise!) the Medici on 57th. They come in individual sizes, there are several good "white" versions on the menu (spinach and goat cheese, in particular), and it's no accident that they've opened an excellent (for breads, in particular) bakery next door. This recommendation, by the way, does not pertain to any take-out pan pizzas, which, in my experience, need to be eaten right out of the oven.

          1. Ok, nothing like adding a 2nd reply...

            FYI, the Chicago Tribune did a pretty extensive deep-dish pizza taste-off probably 3-4 years ago testing about 100 places. The top 3 were:

            1. Art of Pizza (near N Side I think)
            2. Pizza Capri (they had several locations but are down to just 2 now I think)
            3. Old World Pizza (North Ave., Elmwood Pk)

            Amazing how the big names are nowhere to be found on the top 3 list.

            1 Reply
            1. re: RSMBob

              I found the article from the Tribune...it looks like it is from late 2001. Here's the rest of the finalists that made the cut out of the 100+ they started with. Again, interesting that only one big name made the list.

              Calo, Chicago's Pizza, Cipriani's Pizza, Elio's Restaurant (Streamwood), Exchequer Pub, Louisa's, Pete's Pizzeria #2, Pizzeria Uno, R.J.'s Eatery, Roberto's

            2. I second the motion for a second reply!

              On childhood memories alone I probably should have picked Gulliver's, but alas, I went with one of the big boys.

              Interesting on the Tribune picks though, anything more recent from them? Allot can cahnge in 3 years.

              Also add one more honorable mention to my list, I recently had a very respectable deep dish slice for lunch from Ricobene's in downtown. It's not too often you can get just individual slices of deep dish, other than here & Bacino's.

              1. Being a californian, chicago deep dish pizza is a major treat whenever I am in the windy city. I always make a point to visit Gino's East and have never been disappointed - so basically have only been there --should I make a point to hit the others on the list or stay put?

                1. Cindy,

                  Most of the places have a slightly different twist on the same basic concept...I've been in SoCal 20 years now and go back to Chicago twice a year. We usually try to do one big family pizza night downtown or thereabouts and hit a different one each time. Can't say that I've hit a bad one yet. Gino's East seems to get knocked more than most here but I like it...our recent hits have also included Giordano's, Due and Joey Buona's. I like JB's, but the deep dish was a little disappointing...just didn't have the overall depth that I associate with the style. However, when I am back there, thin crust pizza and italian beef sandwiches compete for my attention, too (and JB's is grat with both of those).

                  Of course, back "home" you can hit Zachary's in Oakland/Berkeley.

                  1. RSMBob;
                    On that 2001 Trib article, did they pick RJs in Lindenhurst?? If so, now I'd be in doubt of the credibility, I mean don't get me wrong it's OK, but not great, and that's even by my bumped down Lake County standards but even so, they certainly are not anything to rank on a citywide basis that's for sure!

                    Also, RJ's is known for thin crust so it would have no place on this particular list, do you happen to have the link to the article?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: abf005

                      Not sure about the location, although you can probably look up R.J.'s Eatery on the Metromix website and see what it comes up with. No link, but it's probably available for purchase in the Tribune archives. If you include your E-Mail in your profile I can probably share more info.

                    2. RSMBob - I posted the address, appreciate the your follow up!!

                      BTW: I drove by RJ's today and was very tempted to eat there for lunch and give it another go, but due to time constraints we opted for Chinese instead, maybe next time...

                      1. I'm glad to see Pizza Capri on Belmont and Sheffield (near Belmont El) get a mention on this thread. I've never had a bad pie there.

                        Of the "big names" I still prefer Uno/Due, but Giordano's is fun too. Honestly I don't see enough difference to really care. Although, if you're going to Malnati's you should order extra sauce and perhaps extra cheese because their basic pie struck me as a bit on the "dry" side.

                        1. The goal I was hoping for with this thread was to establish two things.

                          First, establish that chowhounds that have such strong opinions could come up with an easy list of at least five places and not just pound the table about how great one or two specific places are.

                          Secondly, that the top 10 places in the city that we all argue about are probably the same 5 or so places but just in different numerical orders, with the hope that maybe a few new surprises or exciting sounding additions would surface for some us to expand our culinary pizza tasting out to.

                          So come on and put throw them out there! I'm sure you "experts" have had to have hit more than just Uno's, Gino's & Lou's!!

                          RSMBob that list of yours is really provoking some conversations with my friends and a few new excursions for me. I might just go hit RJ's since it's the closest to me tonight.

                          1. RJ's Eatery in Lindenhurst, IL

                            Well I did it tonight, and what a major disappointment! I went with a large enough group so we could have enough people to order different pizzas.

                            The group was comprised of two rabid Lou Malnati's fans, one of which is an ex-New Yorker, and then my wife & I who are agreeably split on her favorite of Giordano's, and mine which is either Gulliver's or Gino's East depending on my mood, but nonetheless we do both love all three interchangeably.

                            We tried both the thin & the pan pizzas; two thin pizzas were ordered, one as a cheese only and another as pepperoni (kids) but they were sampled by all at the table! The deep dish pan pizza was a "the RJ special" (sausage, green pepper, mushroom & onion).

                            The review:

                            Atmosphere: smoky, even in the non-smoking area, nice fish tanks and cute, inexperienced help. Loud music from the bar in back makes for a loud dinning room, but hey, it’s a pizza joint, so that’s the expected atmosphere! Nothing noticeably bad or unclean.

                            Pan Pizza: 2 stars
                            Crust: thick and bread-like and doughy, bottom crust was about a 1/2" thick goo like dough, reminded me of Pizza Hut's deep dish, yes, it was that bad.
                            Sauce: Nothing to write home about, it was red.
                            Toppings; typical no standouts
                            Consensus: The Lou's fans were very unimpressed, my wife was really disappointed and didn’t even finish the slice she had, and me? I scored it a 2 out of 5 right down there with the chains like Papa Johns and the hut.

                            Thin Pizza: 2.5 stars
                            Crust: Very reminiscent of a Matzo cracker, it was thin, smooth and with no flavor,
                            Sauce: Same as above, nothing to write home about, it was red
                            Toppings; typical no standouts, the pepperoni appeared to be Hormel -greasy and hard, but not toasty and crisp the way I prefer.
                            Consensus: If you must eat here, go for the thin, it’s OK, not great- 2.5 stars.

                            Which brings me to my last thoughts; RJ’s was way out of it’s league to have even been considered for inclusion on the Chicago Tribune’s top 10 list (which they have prominently mentioned on all the menus, napkins & pizza boxes) that RSMBob shared with us. And as my wife and I drove home we agreed we would rather have had a Jimano’s, Rosatti’s or even Bill’s or Jake’s for that matter on this evening, luckily for us the good company we dined with tonight made it a fun eating experience anyway .

                            1. After a very recent 3 month revisit of almost all the places I had originally rated and ranked in fall 2006, I now have major revisions to make from the original list.

                              Obviously this is a deep dish/stuffed pizza list and does not specifically include any pan or thin pizza places.
                              Original Fall 2006 list:

                              1. Gino's East (Downtown!) 1966
                              2. Uno/Duo 1940
                              3. Gulliver's 1965
                              4. Giordano's 1974
                              5. Bacino's 1980

                              Honorable mentions:
                              6. Edwardo's 1978
                              7. Nancy's 1974

                              Just mentioned:
                              8. Lou Malnati's 1971


                              1. Gulliver's
                              2. Bacino's
                              3. Ricobene's (yes, the breaded steak place!)
                              4. Uno/Duo (Downtown ONLY!) Uno's Bar & Grill is frozen crap.
                              5. Giordano's

                              Honorable mentions:
                              6. Gino's East (excluding the Libertyville location!)
                              7. Lou Malnati's
                              8. Pizano's
                              9. Nancy's

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: abf005

                                I see you hit Ricobene's but did you try the original Connie's on Archer, only a few block away?

                                1. re: maurice

                                  Sadly, I've had Connie's pizzas on many occasions and have never been impressed on any of my visits to them. They specialize in a Pan style pizza and not a deep dish or stuffed (which I think are more closely related (nsxtasy, we can debate this one I'm sure!)).

                                  But I would agree that the Ricobenes Pan & Connie's Pan styles pizza's could be concidered somewhat comparable, but being as I am decidedly not a fan of Pan style pizzas therein lies my dislike of Connie's.

                                  Since Ricobenes offers three styles: Thin, Pan & Deep Dish. I would only recommend the Deep Dish, as it is very reminiscent to the way Gino's East USED to make theirs in 80's & 90's before the big move from Superior to Clark when they lost their "touch".

                                  1. re: abf005

                                    I'm not sure of the distinction you make between "pan pizza" and "deep dish pizza". (Perhaps you can elaborate?) In my experience, they are the same thing - a single-crust pizza baked in a deep pan with thick sides (on the pan and on the crust of the pizza's edge); the seasoning of the pan gives the crust its crisp crunch. The "stuffed" pizza is clearly a different type, identified by its double crust, which tends to be less crispy on the bottom than with the thicker single crust of the pan pizza.

                                    I've had so-called "pan pizza", sometimes called "Sicilian pizza", in other cities (including New York) and it's typically different from Chicago's, with a thick, breadlike crust, almost like what you sometimes see described as "tomato bread".

                                    Oh, and about Gino's East - "the big move from Superior to Clark"? They're still on Superior...

                                    1. re: nsxtasy

                                      Perhaps she's referring to Connie's "middleweight" pizza. It's described on their menu as being between thin and deep dish. (I've sometimes seen similar pizza referred to as "double dough" -- it clearly is different from deep dish/pan.)

                                      Separately, I've really tried to like Giordano's -- giving it another try, recently, since they opened a new restaurant near us in Naperville. However, the crust, which overwhelms all other ingredients, has the taste and consistency of bland bread. I guess maybe some people have a preference for stuffed pizza -- to each his own -- but it's nothing like Malnati's or Pizano's, in my opinion.

                                      1. re: nsxtasy

                                        I knew we would chat on this one!

                                        Although I could type about this up for over an hour, thankfully someone already has done it and quite well I may add: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago-...

                                        Deep/stuffed vs pan; The analogy of Chicago Pan to the Sicilian pan pizza is actually a pretty good one, although Sicilian pan pizzas are usually done in square pans, but the thicker resulting bread like dough is somewhat similar. The big difference is the way the ingredients are laid on top, then covered with cheese, while the sauce is on the bottom as opposed to deep dish & stuffed which are epitomized by the sauce being on top.

                                        As to Ginos East, read this excerpt from a Sun-times article:

                                        "The pizzeria, known for its deep-dish pizza and letting diners scribble on the restaurant's tables and walls, is re-opening Friday on Superior Street just east of Michigan Avenue, where it all began 40 years ago.

                                        In 2000, the eatery at 160 E. Superior moved to River North -- taking along ovens and graffiti-covered walls. The old site -- three townhomes cobbled together, according to Stan Brashears of Phillips Martin Real Estate, the site's developer -- was torn down. Berwyn- based Buona Beef moved in, opening Joey Buona's Pizzeria Grille.

                                        GRAFFITI NOT GOING TO SUPERIOR

                                        Joey Buona's closed earlier this year, but the companies now have partnered to bring the Chicago pizza icon back to Superior. The Gino's East at 633 N. Wells will stay open."

                                        BTW: I'm a he not a she.

                                    2. re: maurice

                                      Connie's menus list both "deep dish" and "stuffed." In my experience (and IIRC), the stuffed is basically their "deep dish" with an additional layer of crust on top.

                                      I'm not particular about how the ingredients are layered, since they all end up in the same place. ;^)

                                  2. I really like Giordano's best, not just because of the concept of stuffed pizza, but also because their crust is so darn tasty, as is the entire pizza. It's a big winner IMHO.

                                    However, I also frequently enjoy Lou Malnati's and Gino's East. I think both places have a unique and tasty crust (cornmeal for Gino's, buttercrust for LM). Uno's and Due's are good but I haven't been in quite a while (because they're not in my neighborhood - see more below).

                                    One other point - to me, stuffed pizza is a different style of pizza from deep dish pizza. I find the pizza from the stuffed pizza places - Giordano's, Edwardo's, Carmen's - to be very similar to each other. And I find the pizza from all the deep dish places - Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, Uno's/Due's - to be very similar to each other. But stuffed pizza from any place is just different from deep dish pizza. Not better, not worse, just a different dish.

                                    In all fairness, much of the reason the big names are mentioned so often is that they have so many locations. When a place has only one location, those in that neighborhood are likely to be the only ones familiar with it. I've never heard of, and never tried, many of the places that are sometimes mentioned here, and I suspect that in almost all cases, they are a sole location in someone's own neighborhood. Nothing wrong with that, of course - it's great when you can get great pizza close to home - but most of us don't need to drive 45 minutes cross town to find good pizza.

                                    It's funny, too, because pizza is so subjective. I am amused when I hear some people draw distinctions between places that IMHO are extremely similar (e.g. they love Giordano's, hate Edwardo's). I am also amused when I hear people laud pizza from places that I absolutely detest, like Pequod's (undistinguished), Aurelio's (cardboard), Home Run Inn (ditto) - which proves that it's all a matter of opinion. Chaque a son gout.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: nsxtasy

                                      In the spirit of maintaining accuracy, these are the variations:

                                      chacun à son goût / chacun ses goûts / à chacun son goût (altho, I suppose if you wanted to feminize it, you could substitute "Chacune"). "Chaque" is used as an adjective and requires a noun.

                                    2. Nancy's invented the stuffed pizza and is still the Queen to me.

                                      1. Everyone always mentions the "chain" pizza places in Chicago, or only the big downtown locations. But, if you really want to try what everyone in the south suburbs has found out is the BEST stuffed pizza in the area, check out Jimmy K's Pizzaria in south suburban Calumet City. My girlfriend and I will travel over 30miles when we have the craving for deep dish pizza, and it is worth it EVERY time. BTW, they have fantastic pepperoni...I don't know what is so very different about it, but wow, is it tasty!

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: bbrianb33

                                          I've lived in San Francisco for many years now, when I was growing up in Chicago near Nancy's they were a family run chain of one. I hear they are everywhere now (except SF :-( ). I hope the quality hasn't dropped off.

                                          1. re: NoeMan

                                            Nope it hasn't declined, my last visit was equal to any I've ever had before and it's pretty much the same great food.

                                            I was really bummed when my Gurnee store down closed last year, as I actually liked their thin crust better and would order it weekly.

                                            1. re: abf005

                                              What a bummer, maybe they've expanded too fast and had to shrink a bit.

                                          2. re: bbrianb33

                                            If the chains are local to Chicago only type establishments and haven't sold their off their souls like the way Uno's did, I see no issue with giving them the nod assuming it is best in class. Its not like we are endorsing Pizza Huts here! : )

                                            Fact is, I doubt I would ever travel 2-1/2 hrs to go down to Calumet City for anything (even a perfect 10 pizza), as I work Downtown and live in Gurnee, but if I ever find myself in that part of the city I'll try to keep Jimmy K's in mind and give 'em a shot.

                                          3. I have a question...
                                            People are referring to "buttercrust" at Lou's and cornmeal at Gino's East. While at Gino's East a couple of years ago (I live in Florida now)I asked the waiter what made the crust yellow and taste the way it did. He said "butter". Is butter something only Lou's uses--do they actually put butter in the crust? I just find it odd the Gino's guy told me they used butter too!

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: kellmo

                                              Regarding Lou Malnati's - their "butter crust" is an option (75 cents). Their pizzas don't have it unless you ask for it.

                                              I have a Gino's East pizza in my freezer (they sell them in the supermarkets here - no, it's not as good as freshly baked, but it's convenient) . There is no butter in the ingredients listed for the dough; the fat sources are corn oil and extra virgin olive oil. There is also no corn meal; the color appears to come from artificial colorings (yellow #5 and #6) in the dough conditioner that is one of the components of the dough. I suppose it's possible that the ingredients used in their frozen pizzas are not the same as those in their restaurants.

                                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                                I have never eaten at Lou's--so if you ask for buttercrust as an option, what is different? Do they actually add butter instead of say olive oil?? Has anyone tried doing these at home? My husband grew up in Chicago, and he always talked about Gino's--but it was on Rush Street (think it's still there--they have moved over a couple of buildings though since he left back in the 70's.)After doing some invetigating, that Gino's has nothing to do with Gino's East. Those are the only two I have eaten at--Gino's on Rush, and Gino's East on Wells (or something like that!)

                                              2. re: kellmo

                                                I am not a huge fan of Lou's, never have been, and I have posted as such here on many occasions. I think they are a touch over rated, and really don't have a great crust.

                                                That being said, this fall when I did my re-visit of almost every pizza place on my list (see above) I ordered a Lou's pizza with the optional buttercrust for the first time ever. It was fantastic! This was actually the first time that I had ever liked a Lou's pizza.

                                                To be frank, I really don't understand why Lou’s doesn't sell all the pizzas this way as their standard instead of the other crumbly tasteless crust they usually sell. So my advice is if you order a Lou’s pay the up-charge, it’s worth it!

                                                But also know this still does not make Lou's a top 5 in my book either. And here's why; I’m a serious sausage pizza fan, and unfortunately for Lou’s, I think they have just about the worst sausage of any of the main pizza places talked about here. It’s an unattractive and disgusting grey color, plus it’s bland and flavorless. It’s also layed on as a full pansize patty so there is no escaping it either!

                                                I found that I enjoy their cheese or pepperoni much more, but with the buttercrust of course!

                                                1. re: abf005

                                                  Do the other places break up their sausage? I just saw Lou's featured on Food TV last week, and that is exactly what they did. They covered the crust with the cheese, then patted the sausage on top and covered the whole bottom in one big patty. I actually wondered how is was possible even in the hottest oven to cook it thoroughly--I think he said it was 30 min. or so.


                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: dbrick59

                                                  I haven't, but I can see your the only one shouting about it! Please refrain typing in all caps.

                                                2. Gino's East and Giordano's are both terrific. The best I've had, though, is Papa Del's in Champaign.

                                                  I also am really fond of RJ's thin crust pizza, though it's an entirely different sort of food from deep dish pizza.

                                                  1. My one and only time eating "Chicago-style" pizza was at Gino's East. Perhaps I'm not a fan beacuse I'm one of the uninitiated, but I thought that it was a heavy, messy affair. What's up with the sauce on top?

                                                    Sorry; don't get it.

                                                    1. Hello, just because many people will read this....I love Chicago stuffed pizza, and have lived in Chicagoland for about 6 years. Not long enough to try everything.

                                                      Right now, Art of Pizza has my vote for #1, hands down....and I have had all the big guys plus some of the smaller places mentioned here.

                                                      Art of Pizza
                                                      3033 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: jvaught

                                                        You know I went in to Art of Pizza and picked up a slice because CHs had been praising it. I didn't think it was very big deal. Are the slices different than pizzas to order?

                                                        Art of Pizza
                                                        3033 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

                                                        1. re: chicgail

                                                          I tried Art of Pizza a couple months ago - delivery, small stuffed spinach - and it was easily the worse pizza I've ever had. Based on reviews here and on LTHForum, I was expecting to love it and I threw most of it away, Sauce was crazy sweet and just took away from the whole thing. I don't order stuffed pizza a lot so this was a major bummer to waste money on it. On the positive side, my waistline didn't suffer that night!

                                                          Art of Pizza
                                                          3033 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

                                                          1. re: lbs

                                                            Ok then. AoP is permanently off the list.