I first tried Chicago deep-dish pizza in South Korea. Yes, you read that right, South Korea.
I had just started dating Sam and I quickly learned that there were two things he really loved: the Blackhawks and deep-dish pizza. The boy’s not even from Chicago (he’s from British Columbia!), but he somehow has a big love for all things from the Windy City. So during one of our weekends in Korea, he decided to drag me about 1 hour and a half into Seoul so that we could go eat at one of the only deep-dish pizzerias in the whole country…
Once we were back in North America, I knew it was only a matter of time before he planned a trip to Chicago, and because I like to eat, I tagged along.
So what’s Chicago deep-dish pizza?
Deep-dish pizza is not your average slice of pizza. It has a really thick crust that can sometimes be up to 3 inches high! The pizza is baked in a steel pan and the toppings are usually assembled upside-down starting with cheese, followed by pepperoni or sausage, and then topped off with crushed tomatoes. (This is actually done so that the cheese won’t burn seeing as deep-dish pizza requires a longer baking time.) The result looks less like a pizza and more like a pie, but it’s so delicious that I’m sure Italians are wishing they had come up with it.
Because so many different pizzerias claim to make the “best deep-dish pizza in all of Chicago”, I decided to go in search of the best myself. With one week in the Windy City I managed to eat at 5 different establishments. Here’s a little recap:
Gino’s East Side
Gino’s East Side has been around since 1966. The restaurant was started by 2 taxi drivers who were tired of dealing with traffic and decided to open a pizzeria with a friend. The place became a hit with locals and visitors, and it’s still around today.
What I liked about Gino’s East Side is that they make their pizza slightly different from the rest. Their website states that the pizza is made with a “secret, golden crust” but it seems to be common knowledge that the secret to their recipe is cornmeal. This makes the dough yellower and it also has a slightly different flavour, which to me was a welcome change after eating pizza every single day.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
Lou Malnati’s is a respected name in Chicago and it also has a long history when it comes to pizza in the city. Lou got his start in the 1940’s working with his dad in Chicago’s first pizzeria. In 1971, he took all his pizza knowledge and decided to open a restaurant under his own name.
The pizzas at Lou Malnati are special in their own way. Their crust is a little thinner than your average deep-dish pizza, but it’s also extra buttery and flaky – that’s a good thing! Because of this I found that I could eat more of it without getting too stuffed.
Giordano’s was started by Efren and Joseph Boglio, two brothers who emigrated from Argentina. Discouraged by the lack of ‘authentic pizza’ in the city, they opened the first Giordano’s in 1974, where they introduced their mother’s stuffed pizza recipe (FYI stuffed pizza is even deeper than deep-dish pizza). The result was a hit and today there are 14 Giordano’s in downtown Chicago, plus another 30 locations spread out across the Chicago suburbs and Florida.
This was my first introduction to Chicago-style pizza and it set the bar pretty high. Their tomato sauce was a little saltier than the rest, and the flavours were very rich. I know this sounds very vague, but I thought Giordano’s had a classic flavour – like this is how pizza should taste!
Bacino’s prides itself in being “America’s first heart healthy pizza”. When its founder Dan Bacino came into the business 30+ years ago, he knew it would be competitive, so he decided to set himself apart by sourcing the freshest and highest quality ingredients. While other pizzerias may rely on canned ingredients, Dan Bacino decided that even his pizza sauce would be made from scratch. And so he became a success!
I went to Bacino’s with a few travel-blogging friends (hi Ted, Katie and Val!) and we ordered the Chicago-style stuffed Bacino’s special which came with Italian sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions. The pizza was a hit! My slice even disappeared from my plate when I wasn’t looking…that’s how you know something is good!
Uno Pizzeria’s history dates back to 1943 and there is actually a plaque inside the restaurant that states this was “the first pizzeria in the world to serve pizza-in-the-pan or deep-dish pizza”.
I ordered their specialty pizza called “Numero Uno” which comes with sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms, chunky tomato sauce and mozzarella. Their crust was baked to perfection, and the pizza toppings or “fillings”, were pure magic. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this pizzeria is pretty special, because there was always a long line of hungry pizza-lovers waiting to get in. Uno’s actually turned out to be my favourite pizzeria of them all…and I ended up eating there several times during my stay. Is it a coincidence that “Uno’s” was the same pizzeria I first went to in Seoul, South Korea?
Oh, and if you have a bit of a sweet tooth you might just enjoy the Deep-Dish Sundae they serve here. Picture a soft chocolate chip cookie baked in a pizza pan, which is then topped with vanilla ice cream, whipping cream, and chocolate syrup. The calorie count is scary, but the dessert itself is really tasty.
And that sums up my Chicago deep-dish pizza-gobbling adventures. If you have more time in the city you may want to check out a few of the other big names, including: Pequod’s, Pizzeria Due, The Art of Pizza, Burt’s Place, Pizano’s…and there are plenty more – just ask a local for their personal recommendations.
Have you tried Chicago deep-dish pizza?
What’s the best pizza you have ever eaten?
We tried Giordanos when we were in Florida, three times! We even had it delivered to the hotel room one night. Best pizza hands down. Compared to pizza in the uk that is, because we have yet to try the other ones on your list. We are going back next year so time to find out where the rest are! Yum!
Whoa, 3 times! Sounds like you guys really enjoyed it. 😀
mmm I love deep dish pizza! I’ve had a couple of those places… once I made the mistake of having a salad app before… never do that! haha
Same here. I ordered an appetizer the first time, and then I couldn’t finish the pizza even though it was an individual size. Lesson learned. 😉
That looks good! At first I read it as deep-fried pizza! Imagine how healthy that would be!
That is a Scottish specialty – deep fried Pizza! They batter a mini pizza then deep fry it
I’ve heard those are really popular in Scotland, but I never got around to trying one when I visited. That must be a bomb to the stomach.
I’ve never tried one but am saving myself for when I make it to Chicago in the next few years. I don’t want to spoil the experience by having a mediocre one somewhere else in the world and then be turned off trying the really thing. I’ll be keeping this post tucked away for when I do get there.
Good plan. You won’t be short of pizza options when you go there. 🙂
We actually have an Uno’s close to me (I’m not in Chicago), and it is great! I’d love to try them all, for research sake of course 🙂
It sounds like Uno’s has quite a few locations around the world. I still can’t believe they had one in South Korea of all places!
I usually prefer pizza with a very thin crust, but you may have just convinced me to give deep-dish a try!
It’s an experience. 🙂 If you swing through Chicago, you have to give it a try.
Happy you enjoyed the pizza! And happy I got to meet you. I actually had Pequod’s for the first time just before I left Chicago and I think it’s my favorite pizza. So definitely try it next time!
I’m glad you got to try Pequod’s. I had several people recommend that one, so it’s too bad I didn’t make it there. P.S. I hope your travels in Peru are off to a good start. 🙂
I thought I’d had deep-dish pizza before, but apparently those pizzeria’s were dirty filthy liars, because what I ate resembled NOTHING like those photos! Looks like I’m going to have to make a trip to Chicago sooner than I thought, because I really need some authentic deep-dish pizza in my life right now.
Haha, I’m wondering what kind of variation they were cooking up in that pizzeria…
Oh my…this post is not good for me! I am a diehard Pizza fan. Now I have to have one as soon as possible.
I don’t feel like I’ve ever had a proper deep-dish pizza. Coming from California most of my favorite pizza places serve super thin-crust pizza, which I love. But suppose I love pizza in whatever form it comes in. Your photos are making my mouth water!! I’d love to try a deep-dish pizza in Chicago one day 🙂
Deep dish is definitely my favourite style of pizza! I have only had it in Chicago – we went to Pizzeria Due – and I was blown away. We ended up going back the next night for more. I haven’t tried any other places but we were told that Pizzeria Due is owned by the same person as Uno so I would imagine the pizza would pretty much be the same at both places.
I’m from New Jersey and i think deep dish pizza was an accident, and a real eye sore.
I love lou Malnati’s! It’s so fun to read about your being back ‘home’! You were one of the driving forces that helped us make the decision to teach abroad….we leave for Korea in less than 2 weeks! I love reading about your adventures!
yes! team lous!
I’m not a big fan of deep-dish pizza but I do love the more traditional Italian style pizza and I also enjoy making my own which it doesn’t always turn out perfectly 🙂
Giordano’s is my favorite, but then I haven’t tried Uno yet. (Kinking myself because one night our hotel was RIGHT down the street from Uno. Ah well, next time!)
I’ve never had deep-dish pizza before but would love to try it. Haven’t seen it anywhere around Europe yet though.
YUM – I LOVE Chi-town pizza!
I was looking them up on google. They look delicious you are making me hungry 🙂
This looks so nice, we don’t get deep dish pizzas in india, we don’t want to go back to our jobs, We could start one. Definitely goes on our to eat list.
i had never heard of deep dish pizzas , but looking at your photo i have seen and ordered meals like that before, but we call them open pies, like a pie without the lid.. and they are usually made out of a different base than the normal australia pie..
It’s always neat to eat “westernized” while abroad to see their take on it. That pizza looks pretty delish!
Having not sampled a deep dish pizza before I am curious to know if the ratio of base/side to topping is?! Is there enough topping to make it not taste too doughy?
Love me some Gino’s! I have debating making layovers in Chicago just to get deep dish again. Now I know where else to try.
Thanks for the list
Your post just made me hungry! This deep dish pizza looks ultimately yum!
Loved Giordanos! I sometimes lay awake at night thinking about that deep dish pizza… will have to try a few of the others next time I’m in town. As well as visit a few gourmet hot dog stands!
Thanks for the list of Chicago pizza places! I have family in Chicago, so I will make them take me out next time I go visit.
I haven’t tried these places, but Chicago has the best pizza ever. I love pizza that is bready and deep dish is just amazing. I wish you could find deep dish in North Carolina!!
I have pleasant memories of eating at Uno’s in New York. I always had good times there.
This post made my mouth water. I must say though I am 100% team Lou’s!
By chance did you go to Portillos while in Chi-town? After pizza that’s the best food in Chicago 🙂
My family went to Chicago for vacation when I was in high school and having Giordano’s for the first time just ruined pizza for many years, because the small town in S.Texas where I’m from had nothing remotely close. Moving up to Austin has given me a few good options, but nothing is like that first bite of Chicago pie. We have a spot that serves up Detroit-style pizza, and is my favorite in Austin. One of these days I want to do what you did and do my own pizza tour of Chicago, and cheese steak tour of Philly.