When it comes to pizza, there are some famous places that come to mind: Italy (Napoli in particular), Rome, New York, Chicago, etc. Besides the taste, one thing that differentiates the various pizzas from all these famous places is the way the pizza is prepared. Chicago is unique in that sense, as it is home to the deep-dish or pan pizza (yes, this style of pizza was invented in Chicago). The main difference here is in the crust. Nowhere else in the world will you get to bite into the tall thick crunchy pie, the way you will in Chicago. Over the years, pizza in Chicago has undergone several cycles of innovation, and now the type of crust is not the only thing that makes the Chicago pizza scene so unique. There are things like stuffed pizza, pot pizza and they even ship pizzas in the mail (with dry ice to preserve). Below are some of the most famous pizzas of Chicago:
A classic pan pizza, it has a tall and thick crust all across the diameter of the pizza, from one end to the other. It is like eating a thick bread covered with the goodness of “marinara” sauce (or tomato sauce – as it is called in the US). Topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and sprinkled with some parmesan powder over the pizza toppings, it is a classic. Lou Malnati’s was started by the son of the person who invented the Chicago style pizza, and you cannot get more original than this. Their standard pizza size is about 9 inches.
Slightly similar to Lou Malnatis, and yet totally opposite, Ginos East pizza has a crust which is thick only at the edges, and is narrow across the other part (see picture above). Plus, the cheese is at the bottom! Before baking, the folks at Ginos East put the cheese first, followed by the toppings and then the tomato sauce. An upside down pizza, nonetheless delightful to eat. These pizzas are cooked in cast iron pans, and Ginos East was actually started by two taxi drivers from Chicago. A must have for anyone in the Chicago area.
Giordano’s is what we call innovation. Story is that two brothers from Argentina (whose mum used to cook Easter pies while they all lived together in Italy) experimented and came up with this stuffed crust pizza. Some people say that there are others who invented stuffed crust and not the brothers. Whoever invented this completely new category of pizza, Giordano’s has today become an icon of Chicago’s gastronomic world. A unique crust filled/stuffed with cheese and toppings, then topped with tomato sauce, and finally sprinkled with parmesan, eating two slices of this delicious pie will fill you up pretty good. Keep in mind, their pizza does take around 40 mins to be prepared and you probably have to use a fork and knife to eat it. But the wait is well worth it.
Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Co.
Another innovation from the windy city, this pizza is probably unlike any pizza that you can find across the globe. The Chicao Pizza & Oven Grinder has an interesting history linked to famous Chicago mobster Al Capone (read here). The pizza however, is so unique, that its sizes are not in inches or centimeters. Rather they are in pounds! You can get either a half pound or a full one pound. The dough is made in the shape of a pot, and then filled with tomato sauce, cheese and toppings. Then it is covered with an aluminum based paper and inverted. The inverted “pot pie” is then baked for a few minutes and voila! The waiter brings the inverted pot to your table, turns it upside down, and removes the aluminum based paper cover from the top. Next thing you know, you are eating the most amazing gooey cheesy stuff. It is important to point out that they have only one outlet, and it isn’t very big. So the waiting could be long. Best thing to do would be to go early, perhaps around the time they open in the day.
So there you have it, the famous pizza places of Chicago. Funny thing is, Chicago has so many wonderful pizza places, that I could not cover all of them. One notable missing name is Pizzeria Uno. Perhaps one of you can write about the places I have missed. But if you are visiting Chicago, and are in the mood to experience the pizza culture of the windy city, then the above places will surely create a lifetime memory for you.