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A Guide to Chicago’s Pizza Styles

EXPLORE ALL OF CHICAGO’S ICONIC PIZZA STYLES, FROM DEEP-DISH TO PIZZA POT PIE

Lou Malnati’s Deep-Dish Pizza
Lou Malnati’s Deep-Dish Pizza

Sure, Chicago may be known for deep-dish pizza — and honestly, it’s delicious — but there’s so much more pizza than meets the eye in the City of Big Shoulders. The pizza game here is second to no one, with five official styles waiting to make your acquaintance. Grab a plate (and definitely some silverware) and use this guide to eat your way through Chicago’s best pizza.

First things first, though — a quick hit guide to the most-asked questions about Chicago pizza.

  • What kind of pizza is also known as Chicago-style? That’d be deep-dish (or sometimes stuffed, depending on whom you ask).
  • What type of pizza do Chicagoans eat? What type of pizza don’t we eat? Casual nights are for thin crust, and special nights are for the rest. Just don’t fold your slice, please. (It’ll be too hard with our tavern-cut pies, anyway.)
  • What is true Chicago-style pizza? It’s hard to say, with so many styles invented here. Just pick your favorite, and that’s what it is.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

If you’re getting Chicago-style pizza, you’re probably heading to Lou Malnati’s and getting a deep dish pie. It’s the pizza we’re best known for. There’s a battle about who invented it (current contenders are Lou’s, Uno’s, and Rosati’s), but it’s pretty much the same across deep-dish spots in the city: a buttery crust smashed into a deep pan so that it covers the bottom and creates a bit of a lip, cheese and toppings on that, and sauce on top. Lots of sauce. So much that you may want to scrape some off. You’ll need silverware to eat this, and don’t plan to eat more than one slice — you’ll fill up pretty quick. Aside from Lou’s, some other great spots for deep-dish include My Pi Pizza and Gino’s East.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Gino’s East
Gino’s East Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
My Pi Pizza Chicago Deep Dish
Pi Pizza | Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago Stuffed Pizza

It may look almost the same as deep-dish, but stuffed pizza is a whole other pizza creation in the Windy City. The truly savvy pizza connoisseurs will recognize this with the first bite when they find… an extra layer of crust? It’s true: Stuffed pizza has the bottom layer of crust, then cheese and toppings, then the second dough layer, and then the sauce. It’s the specialty of locally owned chain Giordano’s. Some other key differences between deep-dish and stuffed? The crust is more evenly rolled (it usually goes through a sheeter) and the pizza is deeper to accommodate that extra layer. In addition to Giordano’s, try Nancy’s for a delish stuffed pie.

Chicago Stuffed Pizza Nancy’s Pizza
Nancy’s Pizza Chicago Stuffed Pizza
Nancy's Pizza Chicago Stuffed Pizza
Nancy’s Pizza Chicago Stuffed Pizza

Chicago Pan Pizza

Thanks to Pequod’s delightful fare, Chicago’s pan pizza is quickly gaining fame. The crust is thick and deep, but we do something extra-special: We line the pan itself with cheese before baking, so it caramelizes into a crispy, deeply caramelized burst of flavor that brings toppings all the way to the edge. As for the pizza contents themselves, it’s built just like a regular pizza — crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings. Just like deep-dish and stuffed pizza, one slice of pan pizza is an entire meal.

Pequod’s Pizza Chicago Pan Pizza
Pequod’s Pizza Chicago Pan Pizza
Pequod's Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza
Pequod’s Pizza Pan-style Deep Dish

Chicago Tavern-Style Pizza

Chicagoans may love it, but super-thick pizzas are generally reserved for when out-of-towners visit. On a regular day, we can instead be found at the corner pub noshing on a tavern-style pie. These ones have a cracker-thin crust (and most likely sausage on top) and are always cut into squares — also known as tavern cut, pub cut, and party cut. It’s not that we want less pizza, it’s just that you can feed more people and it’s easier to hold your drink in your other hand at the same time when the slice is smaller than a pie slice. Check out great versions of Chicago thin crust pizza at Labriola, Bartolini’s, and Candlelite.

Labriola
 Chicago Tavern-Style Pizza
Labriola Chicago Tavern-Style Pizza
Candlelite Chicago Tavern Style Pizza
Candlelite Chicago Tavern-Style Pizza

Chicago Pizza Pot Pies

Pizza pot pies are one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets — most likely because you can only find them at one place, the historic Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company. These are pizzas that come with a show. All the toppings and sauce go into a bowl, a layer of crust is stretched across the top, and then it goes into the oven. It comes to your table upside-down. The server then flips it over onto the plate, pries the dough off from around the bowl, and allows the whole thing to settle on your plate as a cheesy, delicious pizza.

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