Posted November 26, 2021
By ISABELLA POPADIUK
CHICAGO — The Windy City is known for many things. Skyscrapers, Wrigley field, Lake Michigan, the Loop, snowy Midwest winters and so much exquisite food. The rich food, history and culture are embedded into the city, putting Chicago on the map and attracting tourists from all over the world to experience its liveliness and beauty. One of the main attractions: deep dish pizza.
Deep dish has become a staple of the Windy City where the pies made their way to fame in the 1900s. Yet the history of pizza goes even further back than that. The concept of pizza began in the 6th century B.C. over in Europe. It continued to evolve, spread and grow all around the world to what pizza is known for today. According to Giordano’s, the term “pizza” was first used as a word in 997 A.D. Europe continued to influence pizza into the 20th century when many Italian immigrants were responsible for opening these famous pizza places.
While each person has his or her own preferences and favorite establishments, this list offers our Top 8 Chicago deep dish pizza restaurants or groups. Many of these restaurants are incredibly well known throughout the U.S. have expanded outside Illinois to other locations in new states, like one restaurant on the list, Giordano’s, which has three locations in Florida and many other regions.
The development and spreading popularity of deep-dish pizza restaurants help Chicago born pizza lovers enjoy the specialty pizza dish elsewhere. While locations have grown throughout the states immensely, deep dish pizza restaurants are still a rare gem to find outside Illinois.
“I think living in Chicago has definitely influenced my love for deep dish pizza because I am constantly surrounded by so many different and yummy deep dish pizza places unlike other places in America. For example, pizza in Miami just doesn’t compare to Chicago in general but especially because there isn’t really deep-dish pizza here from what I’ve experienced,” said Sierra Maziur, who moved to Miami from a suburb of Chicago.
The Top 8 list was compiled based on criteria based on the taste and popularity of the pizza restaurants. Criteria for taste by which each deep-dish pizza was judged and chosen for was, ingredients used, the taste of the crust and the freshness of the ingredients. Criteria for popularity for each restaurant was, number of locations, revenue, number of customers on average, how long they have been open for and reviews and awards received by each restaurant.
Here are the Top 8 best deep dish pizza places to try in Chicago…
Uno Pizzeria & Grill
Pizzeria Uno is one of Chicago’s oldest deep-dish establishments, dating back to 1943 when their first location opened. The iconic red neon sign and the green striped awnings proudly represent decades of Chicago pizza success. The operation has continued to grow and there are now 100 locations in numerous states and different countries. The restaurant’s publicity people say they make their dough fresh each morning.
“The real seller is the crust. If the crust isn’t good, that affects the whole pizza. There’s nothing better than a buttery or seasoned crust,” wrote the restaurant on its web site.
While you stuff your face with gooey cheese and flavorful sauce, they encourage customers to wash it down with one of their craft beers. They believe “nothing goes better with pizza than beer.”
Fellow Illinoisans craving a piece of home are in luck. The pizzeria has started shipping its classic deep-dish pizzas and a taste of Chicago goodness to anywhere in the U.S.
In 1955, Belmont Avenue attracted two Italian immigrants to open their own pizzeria. Originally, Pete’s Pizza specialized in extra thin pizza, even thinner than the normal Italian way. Despite adding deep dish and thick crust recipes to the menu, the restaurant prides themselves on carrying many Italian cooking traditions on throughout the decades until today. Pete’s proved to stick to tradition and become a Chicago favorite by making their dough and tomato sauce fresh still to this day. It is agreed by many pizza enthusiasts and restaurant owners, fresh ingredients are key to a delicious pizza pie.
Kayla Addante, heir to her family’s restaurant, Addante’s Pizza, in Wheaton, says the ingredients used and proportions can make or break a pizza.
“The most important part of a good pizza would be the crust and the sauce. If you don’t have enough sauce your pizza will be dry and if your dough isn’t cooked or made right it won’t rise. Only making pizza fresh with high quality ingredients will teach you this.”
It is obvious the stark difference in taste between a frozen pizza and one that is freshly made and baked to cheesy perfection. Pete’s Pizza and these other places might make it challenging to ever enjoy a frozen pizza again.
Pete’s Pizza is famous for its many awards and claims to be “the best pizza in Chicago.” They were voted one of the Top 10 Pizza Restaurants by the Rachael Ray Show, Best of CitySearch: Best Chicago Pizza, and on RestaurantListing.com: Voted Best Pizza. It is fair to say the restaurant has much proof to back up its reputation and claim to fame and delicious pizza.
When walking inside a Gino’s East restaurant, the black walls are completely covered with writing and signatures from decades of people leaving their mark at the restaurant. This beloved deep dish pizza place has been open since 1966. Their claimed secret ingredient? The dough!
Alice Mae Redmond pioneered Gino’s East special pizza crust recipe after she was hired to take the lead in the kitchen. According to Ginoseast.com, Alice created a unique dough conditioner, which gives their dough the special texture and taste different from other pizza places. Her process for making pizza may have slowed down the cooking in the kitchen but increased the quality of Gino’s pies.
In 2019 Gino’s East was the first Chicago deep dish restaurant to bring vegan cheese on their menu. From the vegan cheese, sausage, regular cheese to tomatoes, all ingredients are from family-run organizations.
Gino’s East is another company to expand from restaurant tables to freezer aisles and even the post office. The restaurant has frozen versions of their pies for sale and ships nationwide! This pizza restaurant can also be found in six different states.
Nancy’s Pizza is a part of the Chicago Franchise System Inc., which is a collection of Chicago-style restaurants owned and operated around the U.S. Nancyspizzeria.com says, “Rocco opened his new pizza restaurant in Harwood Heights, Ill. The new location was named Nancy’s after Rocco’s wife, Annunziata, and was dedicated to the preparation and serving of stuffed pizza.” The couple is credited for inventing the concept of stuffed pizza, a unique and successful version of deep-dish pizza.
Nancy’s expanded their business outside the Chicagoland area to Missouri, Georgia and North Carolina. Similar to many other famous pizza restaurants on this list, they ship pizzas by FedEx transit all over the U.S.
Pequod’s has been rooted in deep dish excellence since their opening in 1970. So, what makes their deep-dish pizza unique? In their opinion, their caramelized crust has helped them gain a “cult following” in the Windy City. While their following might be cult-like, they promise a great dining experience with servers and bartenders who have the “Midwestern niceness” and assure customers they will be treated greatly (even if they promise a long wait on busy nights since people cannot get enough of their pizza).
University of Miami student and Chicago native, Drew Gende, says his favorite place is Pequod’s.
“My favorite aspect is how filling and how much quantity of ingredients are in the pizzas. One personal pizza will make you full for at least 12 hours because of how much cheese, sauce, and pepperoni are on them” said the Chicago resident.
Featured boldly and proudly their website says, “Pequod’s is regularly featured on food and restaurant television shows, in national print media and on food and travel features, as one of the Top 5 Pizzas in the United States. Pequod’s has earned so many local and national “Best Pizza” honors that it’s difficult to list them all.”
Make a reservation, order delivery or pick-up or ship a deep-dish pizza to experience one of Chicago’s award-winning restaurants.
The very famous deep-dish restaurant opened their doors in 1971 and opening day was nothing short of memorable. It was reported a car crashed into the walls of the dining room that same evening. Nowadays, people remember Lou Malnati’s for their delicious pies and “unforgettable” crust. The restaurant emphasizes the dire importance of each ingredient that is placed and cooked on their pizzas, so much so that they send a team to California to talk to tomato farmers.
“My favorite deep dish pizza place in Chicago by far is Lou Malnati’s! Their pizza is really flavorful, and they load their pizzas with cheese and sauce which I love, and they also have a really good tasting crust,” Chicago-born resident, Sierra Maziur, 21, said.
Lou Malnati’s takes pride in their relationships with their community, customers and staff. They were voted a leading National Workplace and for the 11th time, made it on The Chicago Tribune’s Top 100 Places to Work.
Lori Lightfoot, mayor of Chicago, helped Lou’s celebrate its 50th anniversary this year by naming March 17 as Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria Day in Chicago.
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder
There are many legends and mysteries surrounding the tale of the original location and building of the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder, dating back to the late 1920s. The building is said to have been a lookout for the men involved in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929. Fast forward to 1972, the building was bought and remodeled by an attorney Albert H. Beaver and transformed into the restaurant known today. The signature dish since it opened: the pizza pot pie. The company describes the pot pie as “made from scratch with triple-raised Sicilian bread-type dough; a homemade sauce consisting of olive oil, fresh garlic, onions, green peppers, whole plum tomatoes and a special blend of cheeses; sausage made from prime Boston butts; and doorknob-size, whole, fresh mushrooms.”
They are offering indoor dining and curbside pickup, for wherever one chooses to enjoy their pizza pot pies.
Since 1974 Giordano’s has made a name for themselves in the deep-dish pizza industry, attracting tourists and customers from all over the world. The restaurant also claims they have the best stuffed pizza and have been recognized with many awards, including “Chicago’s Best Pizza” by NBC, CBS Chicago, New York Times, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Eater, Home & Garden Magazine, Concierge Preferred and more, as presented on the website.
Miami native Daniel Toll enjoys a slice of Giordano’s each time he visits.
“My favorite time eating at Giordano’s was when I went to the location at Navy Pier. It was buzzing with life, there were a ton of people and just the touristy environment there was really memorable,” said Toll.
Count on making a reservation beforehand to grab a spot at this popular restaurant.
Pizza will never be hard to find, but within one bite someone can taste the contrast between hand tossed freshly baked pie from a huge chain pizza place like Little Caesars or Domino’s. Chicago is a great place to find a wide array of unique restaurants and fun cuisines and one of, if not the best, in the world for deep dish and stuffed pizzas. People travel far for the city’s world-famous deep-dish pizza. Even if you prefer thin crust, deep dish is a chance to bring out the utensils and devour a special piece of thick cheesy and saucy goodness. Don’t hate on it until you’ve tried it!
At the end of the day, deep dish pizza will leave everybody stuffed, but craving more.
If You Go:
- Uno Pizzeria & Grill— 29 E. Ohio, Chicago, IL 60611; Hours: Daily 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Pete’s Pizza— Granville Location: 1100 W. Granville, Chicago, IL, 60660; Hours: Dine in, Carryout and Delivery: Sunday to Thursday 10 a.m. – Midnight and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Western Location: 3737 N. Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60618; Hours for Dining Room: Tuesday to Thursday 3 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday 3 p.m. – Midnight, Saturday Noon – Midnight and Sunday Noon – 10 p.m.
- Gino’s East— 162 E. Superior St. Chicago, IL 60611; Hours: Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Friday to Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Nancy’s Pizzeria— 1000 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607; Hours: Monday to Thursday 3 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 3 p.m. – 1 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Pequod’s— 2207 N. Clybourne Ave., Chicago, IL 60614; Hours: Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – Midnight.
- Lou Malnati’s— There are almost a dozen locations in Chicago, check out the link for more information and a full list of addresses, locations and hours of operation. https://www.loumalnatis.com/chicagoland.
- Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder— 2121 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614; Hours: Monday to Thursday 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. – 11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Giordano’s— There are dozens of locations in the Chicago area, check out the link for more information and a full list of addresses, locations and hours of operation. https://giordanos.com/all-locations/