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Apr 27, 2010 12:06 PM

wtf is up with chicago-style thin crust pizza getting zero respect? discuss.


seriously. after yet another ridiculous pizza-xenophobia thread on my home board, i apparently need to have this explained, one more time. there's more than one way to cook a chicken or make a dumpling. there's more than one flavor of ice cream. the absolute across the board dismissal of a food product by so many people is just weird.

resolution 1: the further away from nyc you are, the more what you are eating is not, in fact, pizza. it's a travesty. buy yourself a plane ticket and come to civilization.

resolution 2: chicago thin crust/midwestern square cut/cracker crust pizza, and its regional variants, is a legitimate pizza style. the possibility of other non nyc/nj pizza styles may also exist.

resolution 3: there's more to life than obsessing about snack foods like pizza and hot dogs, who the heck cares?

all coherent arguments in favor or against resolutions 1, 2, and/or 3 are most welcome.

debaters, begin.

  1. Different people like different styles of pizza. If it's delicious, serious chowhounds don't care if it's legit or not.

    P.S. there is the possibility of non nyc style pizza, e.g. various forms in Italy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: limster

      Great point. It is about the pie, and how well-done it is. We are seldom culinary-anthropologists, so the exact history of a dish means less, than the overall delight.

      Going back, a client was from downtown Chicago. We were doing a shoot, and ordered in from a "Chicago-style" pizza joint in Denver. The pie was great, but client went ballistic. We called the restaurant and found out that the owner was from Ravenswood, outside the Loop. His family had been there for 3 generations, unlike my client.

      Who cared (the client did), as the pie was great and we WERE in Denver, after all?

      I grew up in the New Orleans environs, and wife is a native. We do enjoy the cuisine of the City, but look to the flavors, and never talk about "authentic," as we are not food writers, only diners.


    2. R1 - firstly new haven is waaay better than nyc for pizza (duck). and jfood has posted numerous times on what Puck has done to pizza, but it is flatbread in jfood opinion, and really great flatbread. last year jfood was lucky enough to eat a pizza everyday for lunch as he toured italy. the word that keeps coming to mind is "elegant." How can pizza be elegant? it floats from the plate to your tngue, no pretentiousness, simple ingredients and a just a beautiful experience.
      R2 - jfood lived in chicago for a couple of years. there was a absolutely great thin crust pizza joint near his apartment in a strip mall. jfood still craves that pizza, even living full time in CT now. and some of the big guys (malnoti) make an abomination of a thin crust pie..
      r3 - could not agree more

      4 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        :) you are such a good sport Jfood. was the chicago pizza of your memory square cut, or in slices? does the pizza joint still exist, or do you remember the name?

        re: your malnati's observation-- i wonder if there is something about not being able to do 2 pizza styles, with competency, at once in the same establishment. i have noted this exact same phenomenon.

        1. re: soupkitten

          jfood does not know whether it does or not, it was a small local place in a strip mall in Hyde Park in the 70's. It was the first time that jfood ever saw a pizza flattening machine used and the first time he ever saw square 2" sliced pizza. jfood is no.t a fan of malnatti's pizza at all, he just not understand all the hoopla about it

          1. re: jfood

            jfood - I've been in Chicago for the better part of my life, and I would have agreed with you about Lou's until last year. I NEVER understood the love. We had a party at work and ordered Lou's. It was STELLAR. And I mean STELLAR. It still doesn't really bode well for them in my eyes because it means that their track record for consistency is abysmal since I've had only had dreck from them every time before this one stellar experience. I can see now, however, how some ppl would swear by them. I don't think I'd ever spend my money there and take a chance, but if you ever have a good pie at Lou's, you'll at least understand the "hoopla."

            1. re: gordeaux

              always good to know when a place figures out how to catch up with their reputation. :-))

      2. Interesting, though few responses.

        FWIW, my friend from Chicago and I agree we've yet to find great pizza near us (VA suburb). She's all about the toppings and views the crust as just transportation for them. I'm all about the crust and think the fewer toppings the better so showcase it. I lived in Boston, traveled often to NYC years ago and probably developed my preference there. The best pizza I've had in recent years, believe it or not, has been in Gettysburg, PA, not a place you'd expect to find good pizza. All variations of pizza are good to me, even the Chicago deep dish pie that many CHs dislike and say isn't real Chicago pizza.

        On resolution 3: I eat pizza and hot dogs are eaten far more often than coq au vin or boeuf bourgignon so I care. I recently dragged the family on a 45 minute drive to find a good Chicago style hot dog that Joe H here recommended. Good hot dog, worth stopping by if I'm in the neighborhood but will not drive 1 1/2 w/out traffic again for them.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          "Interesting, though few responses"

          maybe people think i'm going to bite their heads off ;-P i'm not, i'm just curious. or people just don't know what chicago/midwestern thin crust is. or they are tired of pizza threads. thanks for your response, though.

          1. re: soupkitten

            I had some perfeclty good thin crust cheese pizza at Pat's on Sheffield in the mid-90's. I think they've moved or closed. It was round, and my ex-wife, whom I was visiting, steered me away from deep dish.

        2. SK, I have a Chicago pizza question that hasn't been addressed in the 7 responses so far. Could someone please explain the whole cutting-pizza-into-squares business. We know someone from Chicago, who fancies himself as THE pizza connoisseur of the universe, and he swears that:
          1. ALL Chicago pizza must be cut in square pieces in order to be authentic
          2. Pizza tastes different (i.e. wrong) when it is cut in pie-shaped wedges than when it is cut in squares. Huh? It is important to note that he says this doesn't carry over to cake, pies, etc. The shape of the cut is only important for pizza.

          This makes no sense to me at all and I would love some people in the know weighing in with the straight skinny on this. It sounds very much like an inside joke and this outsider just doesn't get it.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Sherri

            A lot of thin crust pizza in Chicago is also referred to as "Tavern" style. I've heard that it is cut in squares because it was meant to be shared as a snack at a bar. IMO The pizza itself isn't conducive to be cut in triangles. It would ruin the ratio of cheese/sauce/crust. (This is only for thin crust pizza). As kids, we'd fight for the middle slices because they had the most cheese. As an adult. I like the crispy, carmalized edges more. I like all pizza but the only kind I craved when I was away from Chicago during college was thin crust pizza cut in squares. There is something totally unique about it. Everyone goes on about the deep dish/stuffed pizza of Chicago but to most people who grew up within the city limits, thin crust was the way to go. Funnily, I cut my frozen pizzas into squares instead of triangles too!

            1. re: lbs

              great post on the "why" of sq-cut. i've never really thought about it too much, except that it does serve to differentiate the true "cracker crust" (midwest) from other thin crust styles. you want to be able to pick up your pizza square with one hand and have it not flop over-- the famous "foldable" thin crust of the nyc style would not work if you just cut it into squares and called it chi-style. i like what you wrote about sharing square cut pizza. if dh and i share a square-cut, he gets the middle and i get the crispy outside-- works out well :)

              1. re: lbs

                lbs, thank you for your cogent reply. Michael Rhulman would like your "Ratio" answer and it makes a lot more sense than the "because that's the only right way to do it" that I got before.

                1. re: lbs

                  I don't buy the square slice theory here of "ruining the ratios." Maybe I'm not understanding it right? Triangles would let every piece have both a middle part with more cheese and a crusty part.
                  I'm not arguing what's better, I don't really care.

                  I'm a Chicago born ( and currently living there) person, and I too, like all of my friends, prefer Chicago style thin to stuffed. We usually get stuffed pizza when entertaining out of town guests.

                  1. re: lbs

                    I'm a self admitted NY pizza bigot who despises deep dish pizza (I'm not even sure I'd call that stuff pizza) but when I went to college in Ohio, I loved the crap out of that thin crust, square cut pizza. I was used to eating these big drooping slices but I enjoyed the small pieces. It was also the first time I was exposed to pizza with edge-to-edge toppings like bell peppers, onions, sausage, etc. Many decades ago, in a faraway place called Brooklyn, most of the pizza I ate was just sauced and topped with cheese.

                2. The square cut cracker crust is the kind of pizza I grew up with in Milwaukee. The only place I remember seeing pizza cut in wedges was at Chuckee Cheese b-day parties (atrocious "pizza" even for a kid). We never got pizza from any of the chain places. I miss the pizza from "back home" here in Phoenix.