Pizza can become a heated topic in Chicago - family feuds spanning generations have been started by people giving their opinions on deep dish vs. tavern-style. And new styles have crept in too, creating whole new types of pizza fights for us to have. But we fight because we care, and we care because pizza is a nearly perfect food that everyone likes. If you don’t like it, you should take a good, long look in the mirror. That, at least, we can all agree on.
This is a guide to the best pizza places in Chicago and it only includes spots that are currently open during the pandemic. In other words, this means you won’t find places like Bebu on this list until they reopen.
A recent survey of Chicago transplants proved that Pequod’s was a contributing factor in their decision to relocate here. OK, that’s not true, but whenever an out-of-towner asks us where they should get deep dish, we say “Pequods” - usually before they finish their question. Pequod’s serves pan-style pies, with sauce underneath the toppings (unlike traditional Chicago-style deep dish, which has sauce on top). What sets Pequod’s apart from the average pan-style is its “caramelized” crust, also known as the burnt edges of crispy cheese surrounding the pie. The crust itself is thick and airy with a great crunch, and the pies only have a little bit of sauce.
This carryout window in Ukrainian Village is one of the newest spots on this list, and we’re excited to have it on here. Pizza Friendly Pizza sells Sicilian pan-style pizza by the slice (you can also pre-order a full pie) and it’s f*cking fantastic. The thick crust is incredibly light and airy with a slight sourdough-y flavor, and the tomato sauce is rich and spicy. They have several varieties available, like the charred pepperoni (that are perfect little grease cups), rapini and chevre, and specials like The Apple - which has apple, gouda, caramelized onions, and hot honey.
Two reasons we really enjoy Bob’s is that there’s no “Bob” (the chef just likes the name) and this place boldly claims it makes “Pilsen-style” pizza (which isn’t a thing). But we love it because it’s the kind of fantastic pizza we immediately want all of our East Coast friends to try. The crust is made with beer and it’s pliable enough to fold, with a slightly-charred undercarriage and puffy outer edge. We’re big fans of the specialty pies here - the pesto and stracciatella is a stand-out and so is the pickle (with mortadella and garlic cream), which sounds weird, but we promise is good.
When Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream opened in Bridgeport last summer, it focused on Sicilian-style slices sold out of a takeout window, and they were very good. But they recently pivoted to tavern-style pies - which are incredible. The crust is thin and crispy, slightly burnt around the edges, and topped with things like pepperoni or sausage with giardiniera. There’s a rumor that they might be discontinuing the tavern-style, but we’re hoping they’ll read this and realize that’s a terrible idea.
You might already be familiar with the New-York-style pizza at Pizza Lobo. It originally appeared on the menu at the temporarily-closed Lone Wolf in the West Loop, but now the pies have their very own place in Logan Square and it’s still great. You’ll find red sauce options like the “amatrice yo-self” (roasted tomato, pancetta, and Calabrian chile), and white pies like the spicy broccoli rabe with garlic jam, creamy pesto, and fresh mozzarella.
Vito and Nick’s has been around since the 1950s and is a Southside institution worthy of its place in the Chicago Pizza Hall of Fame (which doesn’t actually exist but probably should). Their specialty is cracker-crust pizza, which is super thin and crispy, with bubbly browned cheese and spicy tomato sauce.
Paulie Gee’s is from Brooklyn and might at first seem like an unnecessary addition to the Chicago pizza scene. But if you haven’t already, you need to try their Neapolitan and Detroit-style pies. Go for any variety that comes with hot honey (and order extra honey to go with it). While you’re doing that, we’ll be busy investigating how they got so good at making Midwestern pizza.
Burt’s isn’t in Chicago - it’s in Morton Grove - but this is our guide, so we make the rules. If you’re willing to travel for pizza, you need to know about Burt’s. It was started by the original owner of Pequod’s and has developed a cult following. The pizza is almost identical to what they serve at Pequod’s, with the same caramelized crust, but has a sweeter sauce. New owners took over in 2017, but kept the recipe and, perhaps just as importantly, the original cast iron pans. Legend has it they were forged in the Great Chicago Fire.
Milly's Pizza In The Pan
Milly’s is a new pizza place taking its inspiration from Pequod’s and Burt’s. This means Milly’s has the same kind of pan-style deep dish with a caramelized crust that we all know, love, and keeps increasing our census numbers. What makes Milly’s different is that this pie has dollops of fresh mozzarella, making it a bit cheesier.
If you’re a transplanted New Yorker searching for big pieces of pizza you can fold, this is where you’ll find them. Jimmy’s serves huge, perfectly greasy slices on little paper plates. Come for the basics, like a plain cheese pizza with red sauce and a garlicky white one topped with blobs of ricotta.
Spacca Napoli in Ravenswood makes great Neapolitan pies. They have bubbled, puffy edges and the thin crust is just perfect. And while you could only get them for dine-in or takeout before, they’re now also available for delivery.
Forno Rosso in the West Loop also makes fantastic Neapolitan pies, and we like them just as much as the ones at Spacca Napoli. But if you’re ordering from Forno Rosso, consider getting a calzone too.
Rounding out the Neapolitan trifecta is Nella Pizza e Pasta, a fantastic Neapolitan pizza place in Hyde Park. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven and have the perfectly-charred crust you hope for in a Neapolitan pie.
Piece in Wicker Park holds its own with its New Haven-style pies, which have a soft and chewy crust, lots of red sauce, and parmesan cheese instead of mozzarella (so no gooey cheese bombs here, unless you ask for them). As a bonus, Piece is also a brewery that makes some solid beer.
One thing this list makes abundantly clear is that Chicago isn’t just a deep dish city - despite what the rest of the world thinks. Robert’s in Streeterville showcases this fact with its yeasty, airy, slightly crispy thin-crust pies. And this place has a variety of options to choose from - like fennel with pepperoni and honey, and sausage with caramelized onions.
Coalfire’s specialty is thin crust. The dough (as the name suggests) is coal-fired, giving it a charred, bubbly crust. You’ll find a variety of tasty toppings like whipped ricotta with pepperoni, Italian beef, and pistachio pesto. In other words, it’s the kind of light, delicious pizza that you’re going to want to eat a lot of - so plan on ordering at least two.
Five Squared Pizza
This pizza spot is a little more elusive than the others. Five Squared Pizza operates out of a virtual kitchen in The Hatchery on Fridays only, the menu changes weekly, and is released on Mondays. And if you like tasty and interesting Detroit-style pizzas, it’s worth seeking out. Their long menu has fun varieties like cheeseburger (American cheese, caramelized onions, and beef patties), pimento mac (topped with Cheez-it crumbs), and spicy house-made meatballs.
If you want deep dish (and not the pan-style variety), order Lou Malnati’s. It’s the best version of classic Chicago-style pizza, meaning its sauce is on top with the cheese and toppings underneath. The crust is buttery and flaky, there’s a ton of cheese, and the whole thing is pretty much a gooey and delicious mess. The weight of it when the delivery person puts it in your arms might make you nervous, but just go with it. Treat it like it’s your baby and you’ll be fine.