I recently spent three months living (and eating) in Chicago.
Since pizza is one of my favorite foods, I was determined to seek out the very best deep-dish! There are roughly one billion pizza joints in the city, so I used a combination of legend, myth, hearsay and asking Chicago natives to come up with my hit list.
There’s some debate about who exactly invented it, but most agree deep-dish was born at Pizzeria Uno in 1943. Today, who makes the best deep-dish is something people argue at length about. It can make the Cubs vs. White Sox baseball rivalry seem tame by comparison!
One thing to make clear: Deep-dish pizza is not pan pizza, which simply has a really thick crust and is more of a glorified cheesebread.
Is baked in a deep, round steel pan with walls (similar to a cake or pie pan), which is oiled to make it easy to remove the finished pie. This also “fries” the crust (more on that later).
Has a crust that comes up to the top of the pan. This makes a cavernous container to pile ingredients high in. However, the crust floor that ingredients actually sit on is no thicker than your average pie.
Is densely delicious. Since ingredients are piled so high, deep-dish pizzas require longer baking time. I was told to expect a wait of 40-45 minutes everywhere I went. Since cheese would burn if it was on top, ingredients are basically loaded on in reverse order.
Yeah, Yeah – So What’s the Best?
1st Place (Mariana Trench Award): Giordano’s
Some people hate on Giordano’s (it’s the biggest chain) but it’s all about the pizza, kids. The crust was the real eyes-closer. It’s buttery, it’s flaky, it’s basically a pastry. I would eat it by itself! No other crust came close, and since the crust is the foundation…winner.
2nd Place (Deep End of Pool Award): Pequod’s
This is one of the places that boasts a “caramelized” crust, which is basically cheese that is sprinkled between the pan and dough. Some people call the crust burnt. I call it delicious! Also: The best sausage on my tour… actually had some kick to it.
3rd Place (Middle of Pool Award): Lou Malnati’s
If you love tomatoes, The “Lou” is the pizza for you! I only like them. As for the pizza itself, pretty good crust, but not much flavor. Ingredients tasted incredibly fresh, and they don’t skimp on the cheese.
4rd Place (Shallow End Award): Gino’s
Meh. I like the décor, with customer graffiti all over the place and red-checkered tablecloths, but the pizza didn’t do much for me. And took much longer than 45 minutes, I might add. Downer: No personal-pizza option, which meant lugging half a pizza home on my back.
5th Place (Kiddie Pool Award): Exchequer Pub
This place seems to be a cult favorite. After many people mentioned it, I went… and found it extremely blah. The crust tasted like flour, and I couldn’t tell if the sauce was made from tomatoes or ketchup. Good thing there was a lot of cheese! Also no personal-size option.
What do you think? Is the best deep dish pizza in Chicago or (gasp) elsewhere?
Or you even can try making a deep dish pizza right at home!
Here are five of our fave recipes: