Chicago may be famous for many things: the gusts that sweep in across Illinois from Lake Michigan to grant its Windy City nickname, the city’s gangster past and the prohibition era of speakeasys and Al Capone - even the Chicago Bears NFL team. But one of its contributions to the world of gastronomy really stands out: the Chicago deep dish pizza.
In fact no visit to the city would be complete without sampling this classic variation of the traditional pizza dish. But with so many places to choose from, where’s best? Here are five tried and tested options to start you off.
The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company serves up its specialty at 2121 North Clark Street - a distinguished old brownstone with a long and chequered history. The infamous St Valentine’s Day Massacre took place over the road, and this building is rumoured to have been a lookout for the mobsters.
Today its speciality is the Pizza Pot Pie -a mouth-watering combination of tomato, cheese, sausage and peppers all wrapped in Sicilian-style dough.
You can choose from two Coalfire Pizza restaurants - one’s in the West Town area and the other overlooks Lake Michigan. Both offer food fans the chance to enjoy pizzas cooked to order in a coal-fired oven – a big departure from wood-fired tradition. Regularly listed in the food critics’ best pizza places in Chicago, Coalfire offers all the usual fare, along with more unusual selections of toppings like honey and salami.
Pequod’s Pizza on North Clybourn Avenue first rose to fame in the 1970s because of its special caramelised pizza crust. Here the edge of the pizza pan is layered up with cheese and allowed to burn on, adding a delicious cheesy crispness to the crust. Over the years Pequod’s has expanded and moved location several times before arriving at its current address. Once you’ve pulled up a chair, choose the size of your base and build your own personal preference from more than 20 toppings available.
While most Chicago pizza restaurants have a distinctly US feel to them, as its name suggests Pizzeria de Nella is proud of its Italian heritage. More specifically, it’s probably where you can find the very best Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza in town. Situated near Lincoln Park, Nella and her team of chefs take real pride in sourcing authentic Italian ingredients. And heaven forbid, should you ever find you’ve had your fill of the doughy stuff, this is the place for a great range of pasta dishes too.
Taking some of its inspiration from Dante’s famous work Inferno, you can satisfy a suitably monster appetite at Dante’s Pizzeria. For example there’s a 20” ‘build your own pizza’ option, as well as other varieties called The Minotaur and The Gorgon. The Inferno pizza itself is formed in rings to reflect the circles of Hell depicted in Dante’s masterpiece – but the taste is far from hellish. If you’ve still got room, the cookie desserts are really fantastic too.
Now that you’re up to speed on the top five places to feast on pizza in Chicago, you’ll need to think about hiring a car to fit them all into a busy food trip - although you may also want to walk off at least one or two of those delicious dinners...