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Where to get the best deep dish pizza in Chicago, is a repeatedly asked question our tour guides get from their guests after their tours. Pizza may be Italian by origin, but it's internationally known as an American food. And within this American staple, there is New York style and Chicago's Deep Dish, but there are also New Haven style, Detroit's double baked, and even a St. Louis local style.
While you are visiting Chicago - eating a deep dish pizza is a MUST. Deep dish in Chicago is like a religion. Some folks are deeply reverent and eat it weekly while others stick to Christmas and Easter to indulge and reflect.
What is Chicago Deep Dish Pizza?
Reportedly invented in the 1940s by Pizzeria Uno, deep dish pizzas can be up to 3" deep allowing for a heaping of cheese and tomato sauce. Being so thick, deep dish pizza crusts require longer cooking which could burn the toppings. For this reason, the pizzas are assembled in the reverse order with the tomato sauce on top. It really is a pizza pie!
Deep dish pizza starts with the dough which is pressed into a circular steel pan that resembles a cake pan. After this initial bowl of thick dough is created, it is filled with favorite toppings like pepperoni, sausage, onions, olives, and green peppers. Loads of mozzarella cheese is added, of course. Finally, the pie (or cake) is topped with tomato sauce.
You mustn’t confuse deep dish with stuffed pizza as that is a completely different pseudo Italian meal. Stuffed Pizza adds another layer of dough after the cheese to create a giant pizza pie. Usually there is a hole in the very middle to vent the pie and sometimes there is tomato sauce on the very top.
“My big downfall is deep-dish pizza from Chicago. That is why I can't go vegan - I can't give up cheese. I can't give up dairy.” -Parvesh Cheena
Where to get the best deep dish pizza
There are MANY choices when looking for a great deep dish pizza place and every Chicagoan has their favorite but as Fred Bertoli of Gino’s East Pizza said, “Good competition makes everyone a winner!” Below are some of our favorites with some tips, hints, and a bit of history too! Thanks to the Instagram users who let us share their awesome pizza pics!
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Original location: 29 East Ohio Street. Nearest el: Red Line Grand
Established in 1943, by Ike Sewell and Rick Riccardo. Originally, Sewell wanted to open a Mexican restaurant to reflect the food of his Texan youth; however, after eating a sample meal, Riccardo got physically sick and was completely turned off by the food. Riccardo suggested pizza as an alternative because he enjoyed it so much in Italy. Sewell had his doubts because pizza isn’t as filling and he considered it an appetizer. After experimenting, a more substantial pizza that was thick, filled with cheese, sauce, and loaded with toppings. Pizzeria Uno’s is considered the original deep dish pizza in Chicago!
The deep dish is incredible with crispy crust that has a soft middle. It is charming location in the heart of downtown and certainly family friendly.
Cost: Deep Dish pizzas from a personal pizza to a large pizza range from $14-$28.
Lunch Special: Although this is not on the menu, there is a lunch special! Individual pre-made deep dish pizza, with soup or salad M-F from 11am-3pm. Cost: $8.50
Pro Tip: If Pizzeria Uno is too busy- head across the street to Pizzeria Due. It is the same people- just a second location.
Downtown location: 439 N. Wells. Nearest el: Red Line Grand
The Malnati family worked at Pizzeria Uno. Rudy Malnati was the manager at Pizzeria Uno and his son Lou Malnati managed pizzeria Due. After Rudy’s death, Lou decided to venture out on his own opening Lou Malnati’s pizza in 1971 in Lincolnwood. Apparently, Lou really liked the idea of opening an Italian restaurant in a Jewish neighborhood on an Irish holiday. This pizza is incredibly delicious with cheese that stretches so much it resembles eating spaghetti.
Cost: Deep Dish pizzas from a personal pizza to a large pizza range from $7.75-$24.95
Lunch Special: Individual pre-made deep dish pizza with a soup or salad and your choice of pop. Cost: $8.95
Pro Tip: If you are gluten-free (what a bummer!) then Lou’s has a “crustless” pizza which is served with lean sausage as the base and then topped with mozzarella and tomato sauce.
Original location: 864 N. State Street. Nearest el: Red Line Chicago
Another family restaurant, Pizano’s was opened in 1991 by Rudy Malnati’s son Rudy Malnati Jr. Their deep dish is thick and flavorful, but many people including Oprah consider their thin crust their favorite. The Chicago Magazine says that Pizano’s is extra special because, “In a State Street basemen, an 83-year-old lady named Donna Marie Malnati may represent our last link to the genesis of deep-dish pizza. The widow of Rudy Malnati-an early player at Pizzeria Uno- and mother of Pizano’s Rudy Malnati Jr., Donna Marie spends her nights fashioning dough balls from an old and secret family recipe. Whatever is in it, the recipe produces the most addictive thin crust in Chicago. Irresistible caramelized edges here and there give way to a buttery, pastry like base that recalls deep-dish without the backbreaking bulk. It’s got the distinct flavor of history.”
Cost: Deep Dish pizzas from a small pizza to a large pizza range from $15.70 to $29.65
Lunch Special: Individual pre-made deep dish pizza. All day long. $9.00
Pro Tip: There is another location that is a 5 minute walk from Millennium Park and it closes at 2am!
Gino’s East Pizza
Original location: 162 E. Superior. Nearest el: Red Line Chicago.
River North location: 500 N. La Salle St.
This deep dish pizza place was founded in 1966 by two taxi driver’s Fred Bartoli and Sam Levine and their grocer friend George Lover De, who were frustrated with rush hour traffic. It has become one of the top places to indulge in deep dish with it’s famous golden corn-meal like crust. The original location is at Superior and Michigan off of the Magnificent Mile. Another great location is the River North Gino’s East which has an onsite brewery and a comedy bar upstairs called the Comedy Bar. If you love a good laugh, are over 18 (age limit at Comedy Bar) and enjoy a local brew: this place is great. Some of the brews are: Great Bam-Gino (Cascadian Dark Rye), Broken English (Extra Special Bitter), Witte Chicks Dig Me (Belgian Witbier), and LaSalle St. Lager (traditional German Helles). Beers range from $4-$7 and a beer flight is $7.
Cost: Deep Dish pizzas from a small pizza to a large pizza range from $15.00 to $35.00
Lunch Special: Individual pre-made deep dish pizza, a small salad and a pop served M-F 11AM-2PM. Cost: Under $10
Fun Facts: At the Mag Mile location, be sure to bring a sharpie because graffiti is encouraged on the walls, tables, and chairs. But not the bathroom! But the River North location is in a gorgeous old Cable Car Powerhouse building from 1887. And it used to be the Michael Jordan restaurant.
Downtown location: 730 N. Rush. Nearest el: Red Line Chicago
Giordano’s opened on the southside of Chicago in 1974 by Efren and Joseph but the history of their recipes begins in Italy with Mama Giordano’s beloved “Italian Easter Pie”. This dish was a double-crusted cheese stuffed delight and what could be imagined as the start of what we called “stuffed pizza” today. Giordano’s is known for their famous stuffed pizza and more recently their connection to Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls basketball player. As Rose says, “My city. My pie.”
Cost: Stuffed and Deep Dish pizzas from a small pizza to a large pizza range from $15.50 to $35.00
Lunch Special: Individual pre-made deep dish pizza, a small salad and a pop served M-F, 11 AM-3 PM. Cost: $9.50
Pro Tip: Giordano’s has 10 different lunch special combos including the individual deep dish pizza, lasagna, a meatball sub, chicken parmesan sandwich and a grilled chicken salad. There is a new location of Giordano’s on Navy Pier which is perfect for tourists who are exploring the pier!
2207 N. Clybourn Ave. Nearest el: Brown Line Armitage or Blue Line Division
Two words: caramelized crust. Burt Katz was the real pioneer of caramelized crust and created an incredible pizza recipe to accompany it. The flavor is full and the pizza is hearty. The original location is the suburb of Morton Grove but the second Pequod’s location is near the hip neighborhood of Wicker Park. This pizzeria is a bit farther away from the downtown area but certainly worth a visit! Katz open and owned a series of different pizza restaurants including: Dante’s, Gulliver’s, Pequod’s and then simply Burt’s Place. All but one refer to a different literary character, can you guess what they are? Pequod’s refers to Moby Dick, of course.
Cost: Deep Dish pizzas without any toppings, from a small pizza to a large pizza range from $11.75 to $18.55.
Lunch Special: Individual pre-made deep dish pizza and a pop served M-F, 11 AM-3 PM. Cost: $4.95
Fun Fact: Burt Katz took a short break from pizza to go into a business-related career; however, he ended up quitting his job and returning to pizza. The day he quit was the last day he shaved his beard. That was in 1971.
Other popular deep dish pizza places
- Aurelio's Pizza - known for a unique Chicago style thin crust pizza.
- Rosati's - "Five generations of great taste!"
- Nancy's Pizza - Nancy's also claims to be the creator, and its signature dish, is the stuffed crust.
Chicago Pizza Tours
There are many companies in Chicago that offer dedicated Pizza Tours or even Chicago Food Tours with Pizza as a highlight. Since Deep Dish is so filling, it is hard to commit to a full tour of chowing down, of course. Here are a few of the food tour companies that highlight pizza:
Slice of Chicago Pizza Tours offers a two hour tour in River North area near the Mag Mile. The tour visits 3 out of 4 pizza restaurants (Pizzeria Uno’s, Giordano’s, Quartino, and Pizzeria Ora). At each visit, you get a sample of pizza but not a full slice so that you can make it through the entire tour! This is a seasonal tour that doesn’t operate over the winter since it involves eating outdoors at a few of the stops. They recommend to bring a water bottle and walking shoes of course. Cost: $50 per person.
Chicago Pizza Tours offers 3 different Pizza Tours including one that has adult beverages! The general deep dish tour is a bus tour and stops at 4 different pizzia restaurants offering a full slice at each stop, so come hungry! Since this tour commutes on a bus, it operates year long, rain or shine. Cost: Between $45-$85 per person.
Chicago Taste Buds Tour doesn’t offer a tour solely dedicated pizza but offers a more general Chicago Food tour that includes a stop at Pizano’s. This is great for tourist who want to try a little bit of everything. Stops include: Pizano’s Pizza, The Berghoff, Sugar Bliss Cake, Al’s Beef, and Fannie May Chocolates. Chicago Taste Buds are walking tours that run year long and operate rain or shine. Cost: $55 per person.
If you can’t make it to Chicago and want to try our deep dish pizza- there are many Chicagoans who have left our city and brought this delishious dish with them. But if you can’t find a proper pizza place, channel your inner chef and give this tutorial a try!
Fun Chicago Pizza Facts:
- Chicagoans eat their deep dish with a fork and knife.
- When ordering deep dish carry out, the pizza is never pre-cut to prevent the sauce from leaking down and making the crust soggy.
- When you order deep dish - it takes AT LEAST 45 minutes to make. This is consistent and EVERY place if it is made to order.
- Most Chicagoans eat thin crust on a regular basis and most thin crust in Chicago is cut in SQUARES, not PIE shapes!