Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Feb 18, 2009 01:23 PM

What is Chicago style pizza?

I've been a Chicagoan all my life, and although I do enjoy both deep dish and stuffed pizza, it's a misnomer to identify Chicago to these types of pizza. On the contrary, in every Chicago neighborhood there is a pizza place on every corner which offers very, very good thin crust pizza, which came long before deep dish or stuffed specialties. Compared to other pizza across the country, the secret is the sausage (we are the hogbutcher to the world don't forget). Chicago thin crust pizza is also much different than New York style pizza, so if you have a chance, try both!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. I disagree strongly with Vinnie, although he is entitled to his opinion. The simple fact is that there's a pizza place offering thin crust pizza on every corner IN EVERY CITY IN THE COUNTRY. If you like thin crust pizza, you can enjoy it at home as well as when you visit Chicago. However, you CAN'T have our deep-dish pizza back home; you can only find it here - all of which is why deep-dish IS commonly known as "Chicago style" and thin crust pizza isn't. And while there are various varieties of thin crust pizza available in Chicago - Neopolitan, California-style, cardboard-style (Aurelio's, yuck) and YES you can find New York style ("gooey-cheese") pizza here too - all of those same varieties can be found in cities all across the country. Since you've never been here before, you've never tried our stuffed deep-dish pizza and deep-dish pizza in the pan. Try them and see for yourself why THOSE are the styles that made Chicago famous for delicious pizza. You can always have thin-crust pizza when you get back home again!

      1. re: nsxtasy

        >>The simple fact is that there's a pizza place offering thin crust pizza on every corner IN EVERY CITY IN THE COUNTRY. If you like thin crust pizza, you can enjoy it at home as well as when you visit Chicago.<<

        While it's true that there are pizza places in almost every city, this statement is somewhat disturbing. Yes, thin crust pizza is available everywhere. Go get one from somewhere in Mobile, Alabama, and compare it to a Candlelite, Marie's, Spacca Napoli, Coalfire, Vito&Nick's. They will all be labeled "thin crust pizza," yes, but come ON!! Maybe you meant to say that "you can enjoy Domino's, or pizza hut in every city," but you certainly not enjoy GOOD thin crust in every city. Simply NOT TRUE unless for thin crust, you think domino's and pizza hut are the best of their kind.

        This is not to put down other cities across the country. There are plenty of things that we can't get here in Chicago, or that other parts of the country do extremely well. Find me a joint that sells a respectable green chile sauce. Heck - we just started getting respectable Texas q a few years ago.

        1. re: gordeaux

          I don't like Candlelite. But then I do the traditional think, usually Malnati's

          1. re: gordeaux

            What do you consider to be respectable Texas bbq? I live in Texas, please tell me it is not covered in sauce. I spent some time it Chicago in the 90's and had some very good thin crust at Pat's on Sheffield, usually half cheese and sausage and sometimes mushrooms. They may have moved, but I thought it compared well to pizza I've had in New York.

          2. re: nsxtasy

            jfood is a huge fan of Giordanos (aqte every thursday night for his 2 years in b-school) so he will only have one comment.

            "you CAN'T have our deep-dish pizza back home" - yes you can. Jfood used to bring Giordano's Pop-A-Pizza home with him all the time. These half baked gems fit perfectly under the plane seat, arrived home in great shape and cooked up perfectly.

            Now they deliver:


            The crust on giordanos is still the best.

            1. re: jfood

              Malnati's Fedexed pizza even before it started home delivery. I have Fedexed pizza a number of times. You did it by phone before the internet.

          3. It's great that Vinnie and rubinow have met each other and can agree.

            Sure we have great thin-crust pizza in Chicago, but so what? There's nothing special about that. Like nsxtasy pointed out it's not distinctive to Chicago.

            Both deep dish and stuffed pizza were invented and perfect here in Chicago. You don't have to like them; you don't have to eat them, but they are special to this city; they are better in this city than they are anywhere else on the planet. They're called Chicago-style pizza for a reason.

            Enjoy thin crust if you'd like. Enjoy flatbread if you'd like. Enjoy cracker-crust if you['d like Enjoy New York style if you'd like. Nothing wrong with any of them and good examples of all of them are found here.

            But Chicago style is deep dish and stuffed pizza. Period.

            1. re: chicgail

              Oh, I wasn't agreeing with Vinnie. I don't think it's a misnomer to identify deep dish with Chicago considering that it's understood to be invented here. There are other styles, but that doesn't mean we don't associate deep dish with Chicago.

              When I said "See?!?!" I was just pointing out that in every deep dish conversation SOMEBODY (Vinnie, I'm looking in your direction) somebody has to drag out a thin crust argument as I predicted.

            2. I have to line up on the side with... NO ONE! Your all both right and wrong at the same time.

              While deep dish IS the signature pizza dish from Chicago, it does not define the entire Chicago style pizza scene and is but one variant.

              Chicago style thin crust is certainly NOT the same as everywhere else in the country by any means!! For example, you cant find a Barnaby's, Wells Brothers or Candlelight equivalent anywhere else.

              Let's not forget, that its a well known fact that thin crust outsells deep in Chicago by a huge factor too, so it is what the natives are eating in huge numbers.

              The real truth is that Chicago thin crust may have been one of out biggest culinary exports ever! If you read up on the history of pizza, sources like the American Heritage and others claim that the modern American pizza originated here and in the surrounding Midwest, where you'll find numerous variations of the Chicago style thin. IMO, Some are great like up in Wisconsin, and some are horrid, like down in St. Louis. By contrast, go along the most of the eastern seaboard, and you'll see that almost all pizza is really just a NY style variant.

              The key difference in our styles are the assembly order of ingredients, dough, and quality of sausage. And one one makes sausage as good as we do.

              Chicago is the pizza capital of the world, hosting each and every style of pizza known to mankind , from the ones we invented, the one we like for a change, and the ones we loath (read Little Caesars or Domino's here).

              BTW: Did you guys catch today's lame Trib article on who invented Chicago deep dish?

              1. re: abf005

                Can you provide links to statistics showing that thin crust outsells deep dish here? I've never seen any (although it wouldn't be a surprise, considering that the big chains like Pizza Hut and Domino's do a big business, and thin crust is usually cheaper). The polls I've seen have shown that Chicagoans actually *prefer* deep-dish over thin crust, such as the Tribune one at How often they are willing to pay the higher price for deep dish remains a separate issue. I'm sure you could do the same analysis for burgers; people may prefer big made-to-order hamburgers at a steakhouse to fast-food hamburgers, but the latter easily outsell the former, thanks to the lower price and convenience of the golden arches and its competitors.

                >> If you read up on the history of pizza, sources like the American Heritage and others claim that the modern American pizza originated here and in the surrounding Midwest, where you'll find numerous variations of the Chicago style thin.

                Absolutely not true (unless, by "modern American pizza", you are referring to our unique deep-dish variants). Most sources, including American Heritage, attribute the origin of American pizza to the Northeastern part of the country, particularly Lombardi's in New York, which was established as a grocery store in 1897 and officially became our first pizzeria in 1905. Other early pizzerias were Joe's and Papa's in Trenton in 1910 and 1912, respectively; New Haven also has an early claim to pizza, with its longstanding rivalry between Frank Pepe's and Sally's, on the same block. American Heritage, too, attributes the origins of pizza in America to Lombardi's in 1905; its mention of the Chicago roots of pizza is specifically in reference to the later (1943) DEEP-DISH pizza, and NOT to thin-crust pizza, as you can see in their article at

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  That is not what I meant at all.

                  There is no dispute that Italian immigrants introduced Italian pizza to the US, and that several years later Lombardi's opened, and is credited with being the first “licensed” NY pizzeria. Also note, that also means pizza could have been around for many years as a street food, or even on some restaurant menus in some form as well, and not just in NY or New Haven, but anywhere that Italian immigrants may have been settled. But, lets assume that the style of pizza Lombardi's served was the original and all other US pizza descends from those roots.

                  What is clear is that NY style pizza is NOT the predominant style of pizza found either here or across the Midwest, South and Western parts of the nation. What is dominant is a variant of NY’s that has morphed into something that's different in texture, construction and even in the prep.
                  The American Heritage link you provided (which BTW is the article I was referencing) clearly states at paragraph 11, that "The modern pizza industry was born in the Midwest". This transition paragraph explains the evolution from NY style to Midwestern thin to Chicago Deep. Followed by 4 or 5 paragraphs of great detail about Chicago deep dish.

                  I’ll dig around for the link/reference to Chicago pizza consumption and sales, I know I’ve read it, I just can’t recall exactly where. But I am not going to get into one of our famous war of quotes & links with you again. Since these things have a strange way ending up with complaints to the censors, followed by baiting, etc...

                  1. re: abf005

                    >> This transition paragraph explains the evolution from NY style to Midwestern thin to Chicago Deep. Followed by 4 or 5 paragraphs of great detail about Chicago deep dish.

                    There is NO reference to "Midwestern thin" anywhere in the article, either in that paragraph or elsewhere.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      So, I will assume that for the sake of continuing an argument just to argue. This time, you are contending that what the author really meant was that deep dish pizza is the style of pizza referred to in his statement; "The modern pizza industry was born in the Midwest". And not the more commonly found thin crust, which by even your own statement in the post above proclaims:

                      >The simple fact is that there's a pizza place offering thin crust pizza on every corner IN EVERY CITY IN THE COUNTRY<

                      Well then it would seem that if "The modern pizza industries” drive was indeed about deep dish that they have failed miserably, that is, if that was the author’s real intent since:

                      >CAN'T have our deep-dish pizza back home; you can only find it here< (again your words)

                      1. re: abf005

                        No, I was making a simple statement of fact. The article does not make any reference to Midwestern thin crust pizza, and your claims to the contrary in your posts are simply not true. The only pizza it mentions coming from the Midwest is the extensive discussion of Chicago's deep-dish pizza.

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          You contradicted yourself and never ended up making a point since in a very narrow way your statement was indeed literally true, and yet and in a broad sense you also know you’re very wrong for not making the obvious thin crust connection as well.

                          The American Heritage author wrote poorly, while profiling very specific pizza styles on one hand he also spoke about the phenomena of pizza in a very broad sense. For example, the narrow focus on the history of pizza up to the introduction of the tomato or the first US pizzeria which was NY style and the major variation of Chicago deep dish. But interlaced in between were also broad statements and stats about consumption and “the industry”.

                          This is a poor text to be quoting and debating, but its foolish to not realize that there is much interpretative text between those lines and missing detail from other newsworthy sources as well.

                          1. re: abf005

                            Since you think the article is poorly written, then you shouldn't have cited it as a reference to begin with, and you shouldn't have misquoted it either.

                2. re: abf005

                  All I got to say is that I love both styles of Chicago pizza (deep and thin) and I haven't been able to find either ones outside of Chicago. I went to school in Iowa and obviously found no real duplicate for the deep dish style but neither could I find a good replicate of the thin crust style. There is a difference in Chicago thin crust over thin crust in other cities. And I craved mostly the thin crust Chicago style pizza when I was away.

                  BUT: Both styles are unique and fantastic and we are lucky to be Chicagoans and fight this argument every other month. LOL! In fact tomorrow, I'm treating my office to Pizano's deep dish and then I am going to order thin crust from Calo's when I get home. Best of both worlds!

              2. Just some background...

                This topic was split off from another discussion in the Chicago Area forum, where the OP was asking for recommendations on where to eat pizza.

                Also, this portion of the discussion asks a SEMANTIC question, i.e. the use of the term "Chicago style pizza". Most of us are aware that many styles of pizza are available in the Chicago area, including the two major variants of "deep dish" that are unique to Chicago - single-crust "pizza in the pan" and double-crust "stuffed pizza" - as well as the many variants of thin crust pizza found all over the United States: New York style (foldable with gooey cheese), California style (with non-traditional toppings), Neopolitan style (including one restaurant, Spacca Napoli, certified by the American arm of the Neopolitan certification organization - see their website at
                for the list of the couple dozen places across the country with that certification), the national chains, and various styles of thin crust pizza from local independents. We even have more unusual types, such as the version that's like a "pizza pot pie in a bowl" from a restaurant called Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company.

                1. I always thought of Chicago pizza as one with a cornmeal crust (be it thin or deep-dish). Is that wrong?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Melanie

                    Leaving aside the semantic question, I believe that most Chicago pizzas do not contain corn meal, in the crust. The one exception that is frequently cited is Gino's East, whose crust has a yellow color to it. Gino's East pizza is also sold prepackaged in the frozen foods section of supermarkets in the Chicago area, and it has the same yellow color to the crust; however, the ingredients shown on those packages do not include corn meal, but do include food coloring. I do not know whether or not their pizza sold in their Chicago-area locations contains corn meal, though.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      Corn meal is used to coat the pan so it won't stick, not for flavor. That's my understanding.

                  2. Do you eat Chicago style pizza with a knife and fork?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: neverlate

                      I do. Or just a fork. I've seen both.

                      1. re: Whosyerkitty

                        It's pretty difficult to eat Chicago-style (deep-dish) pizza with just a fork, for two different reasons. The single crust "pizza in the pan" variant, such as at Lou Malnati's, has a thick, rather rigid crust that is difficult to cut with only a fork and not a knife. (Thanks to its rigidity, this type can also be picked up and eaten by hand, although the slices are pretty darn heavy.) The double-crust "stuffed pizza" variant, such as at Giordano's, has two somewhat thin crusts, so it doesn't have the rigidity of the other variety; however, the inner layer of cheese tends to be somewhat gooey (not as much as the foldable "New York style" pizza, though) and this, along with the need to cut through two crusts, one of which is on top of the cheese, makes it difficult to cut with only a fork. I'm not saying it can't be done in either case, but I've usually seen both knife and fork on both types.

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          You are apparently not as good of a fork cutter as me. Keep trying.

                      2. re: neverlate

                        yes. It's one of the things that makes it unique among pizzas.