The Quest for Chicago’s Best~The Pizza Wars

by Jessica on January 11, 2012

When you think of Chicago rivalries, it should be baseball, White Sox, and Cubs that jump to mind.  But there is another, perhaps slightly more delicious but just as vicious, rivalry that is broiling all across Chicago-Pizza.  I came to Chicago knowing that they had their own their own style of pizza, but I was fuzzy on the details.  After all, anything served on dough and topped with mountains of cheese is okay in my book. 

In my quest to find Chicago’s best, I innocently asked two guys in line at the supermarket if they could recommend a great pizza place nearby.  It seemed like a good bet at the time.  Both guys looked as if they had eaten their fare share of pizza (likely followed by plenty of beer) and their well worn Cubs hats revealed them as locals. 

What ensued was a battle of words that can only be described as a brawl.  Of course, we were talking about pizza, so it was all in good fun, but it was clear that simply throwing some cheese and sauce on a ball of dough does not a pizza make.  They seemed to agree that plenty of meat and cheese were necessary, but the sticking point was the crust.  Thin crust.  No, deep dish.  Just when I thought that was settled, they launched into a discussion about the right kind of sauce.    As I was smiling and nodding while slowly backing away, I was sure of two things: that pizza in Chicago is serious business and that I was going to eat a lot of it to truly understand the nuances of the Chicago pie.  Oh the sacrifices!

The dueling pizza dudes did agree that I could every kind of proper Chicago pizza at Giordano’s, which was just around the corner.  Once at Giordano’s, I asked for a crash course in Chicago pizza.   Chicago is best (and suitably) known for its deep dish pizza, which was created by Pizzeria Uno in 1943.  Deep dish pizza consists of cornmeal and olive oil coated dough that is pressed into a deep pan, so that it forms a fried bowl into which layers of meat, cheese, and sauce are piled and baked.   

Giordano’s wanted to take the deep dish pizza a step further, and so invented the stuffed pizza.  Stuffed pizza has an even deeper crust that is liberally filled with cheesy, meaty goodness and then topped with a second thinner layer of dough which is then covered by a slightly chunky sauce.

Finally, I was schooled on thin crust pizza, of which Chicago has a unique style.   Unlike, New York style pizza, Chicago thin crust is thin enough to have a noticeable crunch, and is usually sliced into squares rather than wedges.  The sauce in the Chicago style thin crust pizza is full of herbs and has a slightly spicy taste with no tomato chunks. 

Lesson complete, we ordered a thin crust pizza for the kids and a stuffed  pizza for the adults.  Stuffed pizza requires a double baking process, first to bake the outer crust to a fried, crispy perfection and then to bake the remaining ingredients, so the server suggested serving the thin crust first.  We were cautioned, though, to save plenty of room for the stuffed pizza that would be ready in about 35 minutes. 

The thin crust pizza was satisfyingly crunchy with a sauce that was zesty and flavorful.  I personally don’t enjoy much, if any sauce on my pizza, but of course, I didn’t tell that to the pizza dudes.   This sauce was unique enough that it was enjoyable and I didn’t feel the need to covertly mop a bit of it off to enjoy the pizza.   The kids certainly enjoyed it, as it was devoured in no time.

Then the stuffed pizza arrived.  The pinnacle of pizza perfection!  The pizza to end all pizzas.   Let's cut to the chase, it was BIG.  And cheesy. And full of goodness. And BIG.   Your only plans after eating a slice or two of this bad boy would be to waddle to your car and take a nap.   The ingredients were fresh and flavorful, and the cheese, glorious cheese, was plentiful to the point of dairy induced coma. The double crust is what really sets it apart from all other pizza.  As you bite through the pizza you have the satisfying textural softness of the top crust that descends endless through the cheese and then ends with a thick crunch.  As a bonus, the sauce sits on the top, so crazy sauce haters can modify the sauce amount.  Sometimes it' the little things.

As we waddle off to take our nap, we were fully satisfied that we had been properly educated and indoctrinated in the intricacies of all of the Chicago style pizzas.  Although we didn't want to play favorites, it was clear that the stuffed pizza was the upper crust. (Ba-dump-dumpp-ching).  Just don't tell those pizza dudes. 

See what other people are eating all around the world at Wanderfood Wednesday on Wanderlust and Lipstick


Lisa January 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Do they deliver?  It might be best to eat that in the hotel room so you could just crawl to the bed to lay down after! :)

Steve January 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Stuffed pizza is the best pizza known to man. I prefer a little less cheese inside my stuffed pizza, then another layer on top of the sauce, but I'm ok with regular style as well. Thin crust is my pizza of choice if I want to actually move again for the rest of the day. Basically, as long as it's not soggy and a puddle of grease, I'm good with it. I don't think I'd want to wait 35 minutes for my pizza each time though. 

Carolyn January 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm

How is it that I grew up within a day's drive of Chicago and never tasted stuffed pizza? Sounds like a road trip is in order…

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