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Great Lake Pizza

Great Lake was just named the best pizzeria in the country (not without controversy, though) by Alan Richman. Thoughts? I've never been there, but am going to Chicago in a few months. Is it worth making a day trip? I've read up on it, and it sounds like a pretty good place, but is it worthy of top pizza in the US? Chicago?

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  1. It's really good, but I think it all depends on what you want in a pizza or pizza place. It's probably best to read the entire article to get a feel for what you want. The article makes a great point about differentiating between all sorts of different types of pizza. It's almost apples to oranges to say one place is better than another when they are approaching things from completely different sensibilities. For example, how can one say that Great Lake is better than Gino's pizza? They're doing two completely different things. Also, for what it's worth, although Richman singles out Great Lake as number one, he lists no other Chicago restaurants in his top 25. Despite that, he still lists Chicago as the number 4 pizza city in the country calling it "by far the most versatile pizza city in the country." That's probably a valid assessment, but it makes the whole ranking thing a bit arbitrary depending on what you are looking for in pizza or a pizza city. In sum, I think you have to take it all with a grain of salt.

    Richman singles out Great Lake for the best "new American style of pizza-making." I'm not exactly sure what that means. For me, Great Lake was extremely close to the pizza I had in Naples (so it's a little hard to say that Great Lake is especially new or American). However, if you are going to say that Great Lake represents those pizza places where the ingredients are top notch and the crust approaches a perfect convergence of chewiness, airiness, and char, Great Lake is certainly doing things right. For my money, there IS something about it that makes it just a little better than some of the other local places doing the same type of pizza.

    EDIT: btw, Great Lake is located in Andersonville which is a fantastic Chowhound neighborhood anyway. It's also not difficult to reach from downtown (take a red line or a bus). What I'm getting at is that it's not really a day trip and time in this neighborhood would not be wasted on a Chowhounder.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rubinow

      Also make sure to read the article's comments about the wait for a pizza and the size of the place. Then imagine what it will be like after this article.

    2. Spacca Napoli, for me, is a better choice. Everybody has an opinion on which is "best". These types of reviews are just plain silly, there's no reliability to it. It's a "I went here and it was really good" piece. And it is really good, but "best"? Not by my standards.

      And as a wise man once said to me, "pizza is like sex; even when it's bad, it's good."

      2 Replies
      1. re: ferret

        Agree on SN, altho it would be tough to declare a pizzeria lauded by the Associazione Pizzauoli Napoletani (among others) for its authenticity as the best "new American style of pizza-making."

        1. re: jbw

          Especially when Richman opens the article by saying how much he dislikes the pizza in Naples

      2. I think people going are going to find the seating for 12, to no seating thing a real pain, especially if they get famous or popular based on the article. I find it hard to get past the being limited to three pizza choices of the day. And while I enjoyed it, I really disliked not being able to customize my toppings.

        Best in the US? Not in my book! Is it a really good place? You bet!

        6 Replies
        1. re: abf005

          I thought it was 5 choices a day? Nonetheless, I see you point. There is a phrase used to describe restaurants after they are shown on the Chicago restaurant show "Check Please," aptly titled the Check Please Effect - meaning that after a not so well known place is shown on the show, it gets super packed for a month or so, and then dies down. Its going to be interesting to see how long the Richman Effect lasts.

          1. re: pastry634

            I was there just two weeks ago and it was down to three choices. One of the folks I was with lives in Andersonville, and he also stated that it had previously been five, until recently.

            Yes, I'm aware of the term "Check Please! effect", but I just wasn't sure it applied in this instance being as it was GQ...perhaps we should call it the GQ effect?! LOL

            Personally I think Richman is a moron, anyone who writes as audacious an article as the one he wrote called: 2ND CITY NO MORE with a byline of "Chicago has never been known for its cuisine, but three dynamic young chefs are transforming it into a culinary mecca". http://men.style.com/gq/features/full...

            Yet he brings out Charlie Trotter in the next paragraph as part of the old guard, and not one of above mentioned three. He has extreme issues with being credible from paragraph to paragraph...

            1. re: abf005

              My bad, abf. I didn't mean to put your word down like that :P. I'm thinking about heading out there for dinner on a Wednesday or Thursday night. They open at 5, correct? If I would get there right as it opens, or a little thereafter, do you think I should have any problem with wait times?
              To comment on your Alan Richman assessment, I could not agree more. In his pizza article (http://men.style.com/gq/features/land...), he claims that buffalo mozzarella and the Neapolitan pizza in general is a big, soupy mess that shows how that kind of pizza in inferior to others. Yet, he claims that Una Pizza Napoletana in NYC is "the most beautiful pizza in America, the outer ring grand and pillowy, the San Marzano tomatoes bright, the buffalo mozzarella dazzlingly melted." I've read his book, "Forked," and loved his writing style. I just don't think he should be rating restaurants.

              1. re: pastry634

                No worries!

                I'm thinking that his article could have been "Best Neapolitan pizzas in the US" since 20 of the 25 selections are of that style...

                The guys a knob, plain and simple

                1. re: abf005

                  I'm not sure I can speak on his intelligence from just one article, but I never understand why anyone would want to endure the controversy and uproar that usually goes hand in hand with these Top # lists. Mix that with the fact that he is doing the best pizza in America, and even he should know that the vast majority of people will disagree with him just because he didn't visit their favorite place. I'm sure he's a smart guy and an experienced eater, but regardless of your standing in the food world, just don't do these lists.

          2. OK, call me clueless. Who is Alan Richman, and where might I find the article being discussed?

            2 Replies
              1. re: Warthog

                Richman's a food writer and in the early, content-starved days of the Food Network was the co-host (with Nina Griscomb - a cute blonde with no real food background) of "Dining Around" -- a restaurant review show.

                He was insufferable then and has continued down that road through the years.

              2. had to rip open my husband's GQ when i saw the article title on the cover. couldn't believe that there was only 1 chicago place on the list... i haven't been to great lake yet, so i can't comment on the validity of his review there... but, to not have Burt's Place on the list is a sin! a bit northwest of the city, but well worth the ride (remember to order ahead!).

                1. Has anyone been recently? Wondering how their handling the increased crowd from the GQ article.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: oysterspearls

                    I have not been recently but reports are that they are not handling it too well- it is not their fault and should not be blamed, this has been an unexpected and sudden tidelwave thrown upon a small neighborhood establishment, they are doing the best they can i'm sure.

                    1. re: oysterspearls

                      I went there a month or so ago. We got there 20 minutes before opening and there was a significant line. We placed our order around 545 and our pizzas weren't ready until 715. We live about 15 minutes drive from there, so maybe it was due to the time between cooking and eating, but we didn't find them to be that special. Good, not great.

                    2. I recently had the opportunity to try Great Lake. Like all 'best of' article's Alan Richman's choice of best pizza was controversial. Practically everybody weighed in with an opinion on why he bypassed their favorite.
                      I walked away from Great Lake having tried the three pizza's being offered that night and without any doubt could understand why it was Richmans number 1 pick.
                      I would put this pizza at the same level as Pizzeria Bianco and in pinpointing any particular style it was most similar to Chris Bianco's pizza.

                      Like Alan Richman I also watched the owner Nick Lessins preparing pizza's and that's where my opinion and Richman's differ. If Nick Lessins could be transported into the kitchens of Per Se, Jean George, Alinea etc etc one would call his work meticulous attention to detail and certainly not slow.
                      These pizza's are taken to another level and great care is used that is comparable to the best top restaurant kitchens. But I think pizza is so implanted and stereotyped in our minds as being simple fast food that we can't imagine it being anything else.

                      Also while I was there I seen no indication of chaos or being overwhelmed from the onslaught of business from the Richman article. The owners and staff could have not been more friendly.
                      I can't stress enough that those customers likely will be disappointed who are looking for pizza where they can choose their own toppings, consider pizza fast food, not willing to wait etc etc. Great Lake is not that kind of pizzeria and I doubt they want to be.
                      Personally they have my utmost respect for not jumping on the Richman publicity bandwagon. Most restaurant/pizzeria owners would have in a heartbeat.
                      Like expanding or using a larger three deck oven, hiring a few young kids to bang out as many pies as possible in a day. But then they would be no different then the other thousands of pizzerias in the country selling mediocre pizza and no national publications would be writing about them.

                      I for one am very glad they are sticking to their original concept.

                      1. I went to Great Lake a few days ago while in Chicago with little to know knowledge of the hype surrounding the place.

                        I found the food good... not the BEST pizza I've ever had but certainly way above average. The staff was nice, the service was beyond slow and watching the chef/owner place basil on the pizza was excruciating to watch.

                        with that said it is great to see restaurateurs take such a pride and be so meticulous about their product.

                        A full assessment of my visit is here: http://whatsonmyplate.wordpress.com/2...