Best Chicago pizza: Where to go for deep dish and more
Whether hawking deep-dish pizza or turning out thin-crust, square-cut pies, these are the pizzerias that do Chicagoans proud.
Chicago's deep-dish pizza is legendary, but we have to break it to you: To get the best versions of this iconic dish, you have to get out of River North. Otherwise, you'll miss out on the remarkable, cheese-laden specimens at Pequod's and Burt's Place. Since as many people love deep dish as love to hate it, we're happy to inform you that Chicago is home to many other pizza styles, from New York (Armitage Pizza) to New Haven (Piece) to Neopolitan (Spacca Napoli) to Neapolitan-ish (Reno). For a real taste of Chicago, head south to the stalwart Vito & Nick's, which has been serving up its cracker-thin pies since 1949. Here are our picks for the very best pizza in Chicago.
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Armitage Pizza There are a few tables scattered in James Spillane’s small pizza workshop, but oftentimes the groupies sitting at them aren’t eating—they’re watching. Spillane, after all, is something of a legend. He has the looks of a retired rock guy (and the attitude to match), and here he puts out a crust that’s a close sibling to what he made for years at Coalfire: thin and crisp on the bottom, puffed around the perimeter. It’s good stuff, even when topped with just strong olive oil, ricotta and some herbs (the white pie). If you can snag a table to actually eat on, that’s ideal, since the pizza is best when it’s hot. If not, well, that’s what toaster ovens are for. 711 W Armitage Ave (312-867-9111). Tue–Fri 3–10pm, Sat noon–10pm, Sun noon–8pm. Average pizza: $13.
Burt’s Place Before opening this antique- and jazz-filled pizza joint, Burt Katz owned Inferno, Gullivers and Pequod’s, concocting his signature, crunchy, nearly burned crust. Toppings are across-the-board fresh, with tricolor peppers, portobellos, quarter-sized Italian sausage patties and tangy sauce all adding up to one hell of a pie. Katz and his wife, Sharon, are a two-person team (save a guy who helps out on the floor on Saturday nights) and will likely welcome you like family (once you become a regular). 8541 N Ferris Ave (847-965-7997). Lunch (Wed–Fri), dinner (closed Mon, Tue). Average pizza: $16.
Pequod’s Pizza Exposed brick and plasma-screen TVs have taken the place of worn pool tables and dart boards after a fire forced a redesign of this neighborhood dive. But while the digs may be snazzier, the signature pan pizza—in all its glory with a ring of caramelized cheese around the crust—remains the same. Skip flavorless fried-vegetable appetizers, salads and sandwiches and save your appetite for a couple of ginormous slices of a sausage pie, dotted with perfectly spiced, Ping-Pong ball–size pieces of seasoned ground pork. 2207 N Clybourn Ave (773-327-1512). Lunch, dinner. Average pizza: $14.
Piece Two things keep this place from going the route of sports-bar-beer-bong culture: excellent house brews and expertly executed pizzas. The crispy pies hold a lot of weight, so after you choose your pizza style—red, white, BBQ or New Haven–style “plain” (red sauce, no mozzarella)—start piling on the toppings. (If you’re really going New Haven–style, try one with clams and bacon.) Wash it down with a pitcher of the crisp Golden Arm, and you’ll never disparagingly say “pizza and beer joint” again. 1927 W North Ave (773-772-4422). Lunch, dinner. Average pizza: $18.
Reno The all-day bagels-and-pizza joint from the Telegraph crew is a casual coffee shop by day—so casual it feels almost cafeteriaish—and only slightly less casual at night, when proper table service kicks in. Given the pedigree of the chefs here (Telegraph pastry chef Katie Wyer on desserts and those fabulously crisp wood-fired bagels; Telegraph alum Elliot Green on savories), the vibe may seem like a disconnect. But actually, this is nothing more than a great, neighborhood pizza parlor, albeit one with excellent housemade pastas, a killer mizuna salad and housemade hot sauces on the tables. 2607 N Milwaukee Ave (773-697-4234). Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Average main course: $13.
Spacca Napoli This place is serious about Neapolitan pizza: A custom-built, oak-stoked oven kicks out bubbling beauties with perfectly charred peaks and valleys in less than two minutes. The hand-formed crust is paper-thin at the center and thicker toward the edges and has the unmistakable chew of a true Neapolitan pie. Aside from the simple marinara or Margherita (which can also be had with fresh buffalo mozz that’s flown in each Thursday), toppings run the gamut from fennel-flecked sausage to bitter rapini to prosciutto ribbons. Add a humble Italian wine-and-beer list, after-dinner options such as espresso and limoncello, and you’ve got a great night out. 1769 W Sunnyside Ave (773-878-2420). Lunch (Wed–Sun), dinner (Tue–Sun) (closed Mon Oct–May). Average pizza: $12.
Vito and Nick’s Serving pizza to Chicagoans since 1949 (although this location opened in ’65), Vito and Nick’s is the king of thin-crust pizza done Chicago-style. With Old Style on tap and the Bears on TV, surly waitresses shuffle bubbling-hot pies to a full room of revelers. The crispy but pliant crust, tangy sauce and top-quality sausage separate this pizza from other Chicago thin-crusts. The wait times for pie can run a little long on weekends, so order your drinks by the pitcher, and enjoy a true Chicago scene. 8433 S Pulaski Rd (773-735-2050). Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $10.