Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Jun 23, 2010 03:38 PM

Types of pizza in and around Chicago

Having tried the pizza at a few Chicago deep-dish pizzerias, I can say that I en joy the style. However, I understand there are other varieties that are commonly found in the midwest. I'd also love to try as many of these as are offered in Chicago.

Some of the styles found below are pretty uncommon here in NYC, so if you could point me to any of them in Chicago, it would be much appreciated.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Just to get the ball a rollin -

    Some of the Chicago Styles:

    Deep Dish


    Thin Crust

    Butter Crust

    Tavern Style which I refer to as (Ultra thin "cracker crust")

    Most Chicagoans I know are more fond of thin crust and tavern style than the deep dish or stuffed styles.

    Standard thin crust joints are a dime a dozen.

    Vito and Nick's gets a lot of praise for "Tavern Style."

    37 Replies
    1. re: gordeaux

      Most Chicagoans I know are more fond of deep dish pizza, including the single crust "pizza in the pan" as well as the double-crust "stuffed pizza", than they are of any of the thin crust varieties.

      Also, the Chicago Tribune has conducted polls showing that most Chicagoans prefer deep-dish to thin-crust pizza.

      1. re: nsxtasy

        LOL, Nsxtasy -

        I know you have brought this up in the past which is why I prefaced with "Most Chicagoans I know..."

        But I gotta tell you, if the Chicagoans you know use the term "pizza in the pan," then I think they aren't from Chicago. (We all know you mean "pan pizza" or "deep dish," I'm just busting yer stones)

        1. re: gordeaux

          Deep dish is a tourist pizza ... maybe preferred by transplants as well, but not something native Chicagoans would prefer from what I've learned over the years. The touristy magazines and guides promote the deep dish stuff. Thin crust, even the "cracker crust" is probably considered the traditional pizza in the city. ;-) Nick & Vito's is good (often 'hit or miss' in quality, though), as well as Candlelite in Rogers Park ... both serving the traditional favorite cracker crust style thin pizza.

          1. re: gomexico

            As a lifelong Chicagoan whose neighborhood pizza place was (and still is) the original Malnati's I find that an odd statement. Must depend on where in the city you live. My friends and I grew up on Malnati's and it's still a favorite with my family, as are a couple of other local pizzerias, one with a cracker crust.

            The whole concept of "best" or "favorite" pizza is an odd one because at some point they aren't capable of comparison as maybe a hot dog or hamburger might be. A Neapolitan pizza like Spacca Napoli's is an entirely different experience than something like deep dish and incapable of a

            Spacca Napoli
            1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

            1. re: ferret

              I think the preferences/opinions are probably generatiional, in their difference and I don't disagree with your observations that trying to determine which is "best" and "favorite" will change amongst people depending on various factors. To us folks who are born/raised in the city ... from a point before the introduction and proliferation of the touristic-centric deep dish movement ... we remember what made Chicago pizza different from what was offered in so many other cities in the country. People who read guidebooks or were born after the proliferation of the deep-dish are, I understand, relating to the marketing of that product and their exposure to it. Thanks.

              1. re: gomexico

                >> I think the preferences/opinions are probably generatiional

                I can't see how anyone can conclude that it's a generational thing, when there is no way to determine which generation an individual poster is from, except for the few who indicate it in their posts.

                >> To us folks who are born/raised in the city ... from a point before the introduction and proliferation of the touristic-centric deep dish movement

                You mean, born and raised before 1943? :)

                The Chicago Tribune poll has demonstrated the preference of a majority of CHICAGOANS (not tourists, or touristics) for deep-dish pizza. For additional proof, if it were only tourists who enjoyed it, Lou Malnati's would not have opened 29 locations away from downtown Chicago, and Giordano's would not have opened 36 locations away from downtown Chicago.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Pizza as a general food item didn't enjoy much widespread popularity until the post-WWII boom, so UNO was pretty much at the leading edge. Pre-War pizza was still mostly an ethnic thing and that includes the bakery-style pizza from Taylor Street which is neither crackery nor deep-dish.

                  As for North/South allegiances, I'd speculate that the South Side did gravitate toward thin more so than the North side.

                  My first pizza memories from the late 60's were limited to thin (my parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe and didn't have pizza on their food radar) but when Malnati's opened it became our standard - certainly through high school (although we jumped on the Giordano's bandwagon for a while - just for the obscene volume of food).

                  1. re: ferret

                    Regarding North/South differences, Lou Malnati's and its single-crust pizza began in the near north suburb of Lincolnwood, whereas Giordano's - which popularized double-crust stuffed pizza shortly after it was first introduced by Nancy's - began on the south side of the city (at 63rd and California, IIRC).

              2. re: ferret

                If you grew up on the original Malnati's as your neighborhood pizza, then you're not from Chicago, you're from Lincolnwood. I grew up in Chicago (within the city limits) and we still eat thin crust 9 out of 10 times we eat pizza. The real Chicago pizza is thin crust (party cut) pizza with cheese and sausage...period. Don't get me wrong, I love Lou's and I go there almost every time we want deep dish. However, to say you grew up in Chicago when you actually grew up in Lincolnwood doesn't add up.

                1. re: Tim N

                  I grew up in Peterson Park (between Peterson and Devon). It's Chicago. I'm closer to Malnati's (0.4 miles) than I am to our thin-crust favorite, Martino's (0.5 miles). If you recall, President Reagan ordered the destruction of the concrete wall that used to run down Devon to separate Lincolnwood from Chicago. Before that we used to tunnel through.

              3. re: gomexico

                I know we've had this conversation before, but every time you make one of those pronouncements about Chicagoans preferring thin crust, I can only assume you are talking about yourself and your friends. Thin crust pizza is fine. In fact there is some great thin crust pizza in town.

                But I am a lifelong Chicagoan and while I was first introduced to pizza as a child in the thin-crust variety, my first taste of deep dish at Unos as a young teen changed my preference forever. And as an early baby boomer I venture to say that my generational roots may precede yours or certainly what you describe as the "touristic-centric deep dish movement."

                I enjoy thin crust (especially when I'm watching carbs), but deep dish -- especially Malnotis and the original Unos and Dues simply lives for me as the real deal.

                I totally respect your preferences and those of the "most Chicagoans you know," but I do wish you would stop generalizing that into what most Chicagoans prefer.

                I'm still wondering if this is a northside/southside thing.

                1. re: chicgail

                  My almost 80 yr old father-inlaw, a lifelong born Chicagoan just had his first deep-dish last month!

                  It is a generational thing.

                  I also think that thin crust varieties are more often viewed as an "everyday thing" but the deep dish style is something that is more of an "event".

                  Whatever the preferred style, one thing is true. Chicagoans who move away, cringe at the thought of eating pizza from anywhere but a Chiago pizzaria. Pizza in the rest of the counrty usually just sucks in comparison.

              4. re: gordeaux

                >> if the Chicagoans you know use the term "pizza in the pan,"

                They aren't; I am. I use those terms to distinguish the single-crust pizza sold at Uno/Due, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, and Pizano's from the double-crust pizza sold at Giordano's, Edwardo's, Nancy's, and Bacino's. The double-crust type of pizza is usually referred to, on restaurant menus, as "stuffed pizza". The single-crust type of pizza is usually referred to, on restaurant menus, as "deep dish pizza". However, I have heard plenty of Chicagoans refer to both styles as "deep dish pizza", which results in ambiguity. That's why I always accompany any reference to one style or the other with the terms "single crust" and "double crust" (even though no one uses those terms, either) just so there is no doubt as to which style I am referring to.

                >> I'm just busting yer stones

                Yes, you are.

              5. re: nsxtasy

                "Also, the Chicago Tribune has conducted polls showing that most Chicagoans prefer deep-dish to thin-crust pizza."

                "prefer" and "eat frequently" are two different things. My Platonic ideal of pizza is a deep dish sausage from Uno, however I only eat that maybe once a year, possibly less. On the other hand, I have pizza at least once a week when I am in Chicago, usually from DOC or Spaca Napoli. Growing up, deep dish was a special event kind of thing; we'd go downtown to celebrate a birthday or graduation, but Friday night pizza was thin crust. I can't imagine that most people in Chicago eat deep dish pizza the majority of the time, no matter what the Trib says they "prefer".

                1. re: lulubelle

                  >> I can't imagine that most people in Chicago eat deep dish pizza the majority of the time

                  Well, I think you're just flat-out wrong about that; don't make the mistake of thinking everyone does the same thing that you do! After all, Lou Malnati's has about thirty locations here, and Giordano's has about forty locations. If there weren't plenty of Chicagoans eating deep-dish pizza most of the time, those locations wouldn't exist. :)

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    We don't do Malnati's as much when it's just the two of us at home, but when the kids were living at home it was a pretty regular restaurant in our rotation (along with Wholly Frijoles).

                    Wholly Frijoles
                    3908 W Touhy Ave, Lincolnwood, IL 60712

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      Lou's and Giordano's both sell thin crust, too.

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        Don't get me wrong here...I'm a big fan of all of your posts and think you are one of the op contributor's here, but I will strongly disagree with you here. Despite the proliferation of Giordano's, Lou Malnati's, and others, varieites of thin crust pizza still dominate in the Chicago area. I can't get the source for the life of me, but I recall getting a number from a pizza industry person about 3 or 4 years ago that estimated 83% of restaurant pizza sold in the Chicago area was of the thin crust variety. I believe that to be fairly accurate, as if you think about it, the majority of deep dish/stuffed crust places also sell thin crust, while most places that specialize in thin crust do NOT do a deep dish/stuffed crust version.

                        1. re: RSMBob

                          The Chicago Tribune did a survey a couple of years ago, and most people said they preferred deep-dish pizza over thin crust.

                          Sure, there are plenty of thin crust pizza places out there, including Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's, and other big chains, which account for a large portion of the revenue. They constantly advertise deals which gives them a huge price advantage over deep-dish. So yes, thin crust may sell more. But when asked which one they actually prefer, most people answered deep-dish. That doesn't mean they buy more, only that they wish they did; too bad for deep-dish lovers that they don't see those deals with two large pizzas for $10! And of course, there was a significant minority that prefers thin crust; fortunately, there's plenty of variety in Chicago so that everyone can try different kinds and get plenty of their favorite, whatever kind that is!

                          P.S. Thanks for the kind words!

                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            Every time I go back to visit my family in Chicago ('burbs) I just wonder how the heck Domino's, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's do ANY business there.

                            1. re: RSMBob

                              I know, I know... but they do. I think it's partly because of those specials.

                              1. re: RSMBob

                                I live 1/2 mile from the original Malnati's, 1/2 mile from the excellent thin crust at Martino's and also 1/2 mile from a thriving Pizza Hut. It's maddening to see a steady stream of customers stopping in at Pizza Hut, but it's quick and cheap - and that's about it.

                        2. re: lulubelle

                          Thin crust has always been the preferred pizza in the city ... the most often eaten pizza in the city. It's what's most often referred to as "Chicago-style" pizza. Deep-dish and stuffed pizzas are promoted widely for tourists, as we read here in threads such as this one. I do recognize than many folks in the city like, once and a while, a deep dish pie, but I doubt many "chowhounds" frequently order the stuff.

                          1. re: gomexico

                            >> Thin crust has always been the preferred pizza in the city

                            Not true. The surveys done by the Chicago Tribune have consistently shown a majority of pizza eaters prefer deep-dish to thin crust.

                            >> the most often eaten pizza in the city.

                            That's a different matter. As noted above, nationwide chains Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's sell a lot of pizza here. As a result, thin crust is indeed the "most often eaten pizza in the city" - and, more specifically, Pizza Hut (with 65 locations in Chicagoland) or Domino's (67 locations) can probably tout this moniker for their brand. Given the price disparity vs deep-dish, especially with their frequent promotions, it's not all that surprising.

                            >> It's what's most often referred to as "Chicago-style" pizza.

                            Also not true. The vast majority of people, in Chicago as well as across the country, think of deep-dish pizza when they hear or use the term "Chicago-style pizza". Not thin crust.

                            >> I doubt many "chowhounds" frequently order the stuff.

                            Also not true. There are many posts here from many different Chowhounds lauding deep-dish as well as stuffed pizza. There's even plenty of disagreement among them, with some praising Uno/Due, others Lou Malnati's, and still others Pizano's, Gino's East, Burt's Place, Pequod's, Giordano's, Bacino's, Nancy's, Carmen's, Edwardo's, etc. Many others here like thin crust. Fortunately, there's plenty of pizza in Chicago of all types, to meet everyone's preference.

                            1. re: gomexico

                              I've never heard of anyone outside of Chicago refer to thin crust as "Chicago-style." That term has been universally applied to deep-dish. As for deep dish and stuffed being touristy, I've lived near the original Malnati's as long it's been open and it has been our neighborhood go-to spot for pizza (unless we're in the mood for thin). It's far from touristy and nearly everyone I grew up with has considered Malnati's to be the standard in the area (unless our weekend activities put us in range of My Pi). If you look at the various locations of the popular deep dish and stuffed pizza, restaurants you'll see numerous outlets are in neighborhoods that are far from "touristy."

                              If you want to call thin-crust "Chicago style" you're free to do so, but few people will agree with that definition.

                              1. re: gomexico

                                I'll agree with nsxtasy and ferret here...if you say "Chicago-style pizza", 90% of people would think deep dish/stuffed.

                                And as a true Chowhound, I am equally partial to thin crust and deep dish/stuffed. More often than not, it's thin crust because it is easier to find and frankly, easier to eat. However, there are some times when the craving for deep dish/stuffed hits, and for me, that means a 40 minute drive (I live in SoCal but my pizza heart remains in Chicago).

                                1. re: gomexico

                                  This has been an ongoing and fairly absurd discussion on this board for some time.

                                  A couple of posters prefer thin crust pizza as do their friends and call it Chicago-style pizza. I think it's a distinction that is held in a very small circle of people and has very little bearing on what the rest of the world calls Chicago-style pizza. If it makes them happy to call thin-crust pizza Chicago-style -- so be it.

                                  I refer to my dog as a cat from now until Thursday and beyond, but he will never be a cat.

                                  1. re: chicgail

                                    To me this has never been a porterhouse vs strip steak argument. Thin crust is a very different animal from deep dish and is equally distinguishable from Neapolitan style or Sicilian. Much like you can argue that all pasta is basically the same, all pizzas have the same origin but are different experiences. So while there are some days I prefer fettucine over gnocchi, I can feel like thin crust one day and stuffed another. You can't really say one is "better" or more authentic. They're different experiences entirely. In just the past 2 weeks I've had about 5 or 6 different types of pizza - all good and all very different.

                            2. re: gordeaux

                              As a follow up, I think I've tried all of the different styles by now.

                              I went to Pat's last week to try "tavern style". It was pretty underwhelming. I'll wait until Vito & Nick's before I categorically dislike this style, because it was the kind I was most excited to try.

                              1. re: Bone Thug n Hominy

                                If you get to the Northside of the city ... Candlelite on Western Ave. in Rogers Park serves excellent tavern-style - an original Chicago-style - pie. Vito & Nick's is okay, but unless I was close by I wouldn't go out of my way to pay a visit. I'm not from 'out of town', though, and I understand the need/desire to search-out the various styles of pies.

                                1. re: gomexico

                                  Thanks! I've heard good things, but is it substantially different from/superior to Pat's, in your opinion?

                                  My problem with Pat's was that it tasted like a large flour tortilla, sparsely covered in bland sauce and generic "pizza cheese", and baked at a low temp. Something I would whip up if I were dieting, and in the mood for something that resembled pizza. Not something that I would pay for.

                                  My only other experience with tavern pizza was back in the Northeast. It looked like the below pic, and was greasy, salty, and very flavorful. I was told it was made in the midwestern, tavern style, but I'm wondering if it was something different altogether.


                                  1. re: Bone Thug n Hominy

                                    Pat's was at the top of the game maybe a decade ago. Fine pies, then. Now, I don't think so. But opinions from chowhounds are going to vary. The Candlelite pies are classic Chicago cracker crust, with some char. Over time, pie quality varies by location. Another style, relatively new to Chicago, which I enjoy is the pie-style of Coalfire on Grand Ave.

                                    1321 W Grand Ave Ste 2, Chicago, IL 60642

                                    1. re: gomexico

                                      I still haven't made it to Candlelite or Coalfire, but I did get to taste Barnaby's in Schaumburg. Now, THAT was an excellent tavern pie. The dough was crispy, but also flavorful, and the toppings/sauce were all proportioned perfectly.

                                      1. re: lulubelle

                                        It IS cut into squares. And after 30 years or so it's still one of my favorite pizzas around.
                                        They make their own dough, and you can smell the yeast as soon as you walk into the place. They also pinch the edges all around the top of the pizza like a fruit pie crust, and the crispy crunch they get is terrific!

                                        1. re: Laury99

                                          I think that was a reference to the picture I posted. I guess, technically, yes.

                                          1. re: Laury99

                                            I'm only near Chicago and haven't tried the tavern style. I wonder if it's more or less the same beast as the relatively thin-crust, square-cut pizza I had on a visit to Dayton, Ohio--a style they regarded as local, but maybe it's more like midwest urban style? Tasty stuff. Crust had a texture that suggests to me some corn meal in the dough, kind of like Home Run Inn frozen pizzas.

                                2. The two types of pizzas created and developed in Chicago are deep dish (Unos and Dues in the 1940 sand later and Pizzano and Malnotis) and stuffed pizza(notably Nancy's, Gulliver's and Giordano's) in the 1970s.

                                  That's not to say that we don't have examples of tons of other kinds of pizza that you can find in lots of cities, including some of the varieties listed by gordeaux but is is deep dish and stuffed that were invented here and for which Chicago is known and where you can find the best versions.

                                  1. Thanks for the commentary. I've had deep dish, butter crust, and what I believe you call thin crust (the thin kind at Pisano's). All were excellent, but I am also interested in trying this tavern style. I'll give Vito & Nick's a try when I'm in town.

                                    1. you should definitely try pequods! more of a variation on pan pizza, than a style, but the caramelized crust is awesome.

                                      1. As others have said in here, I think by and large, thin-crust pizza is the type Chicagoans eat the majority of the time. When my family ordered pizza to eat at home, which was often, it was always thin-crust from our neighborhood place. This place also served deep dish but we never got it from there. All my other family members and friends also ordered thin-crust when they got pizza at home.

                                        This doesn't mean that none of us liked deep dish because we all did. It was just something that we had every once in a while, like maybe 2-3 times a year.

                                        I cannot attest to what the majority of Chicagoans eat most of the time when they get pizza but I believe most Chicago people get thin-crust most of the time.