When out-of-towners start talking about the best pizza in Chicago, they tend to get hung up on deep dish. The supremely gooey, decadently thick style certainly has its moments, but real Chicagoans know that the city is rife with options from near and far, like tavern, New Haven, Detroit and Neapolitan. And though we may not lay claim to all of these styles, we know some Chicago chefs who do them justice. We tracked down the best pizza in Chicago at slice shops, Italian restaurants and delivery-only ghost kitchens. Consider this lineup a rite of passage that should top your bucket list of things to do in Chicago. Put down the folk and knife and prepare to get your hands dirty with the best pizza in Chicago.
Tops among the thin crust pizza joints in Chicago is Coalfire, a little spot in West Town that turns out blistered pies with a chewy, slightly crisp edge from its 800-degree coal oven. While the crust is a work of art itself, toppings are inspired—soft whipped peaks of ricotta balance coins of spicy pepperoni; thin slices of fiery ‘nduja, a spreadable Calabrian salami, with fresh mozzarella; and a garlicky white pie are among the standouts. The restaurant fills up fast, but there’s take-out, and a second, larger location coming soon to Lakeview.
2. Burt’s Place
Every Chicagoan has a favorite deep-dish pizza—and will defend that choice until the bitter end. If you’re still searching for yours, consider Burt’s Place in Morton Grove, Illinois. After closing nearly two years ago, the iconic pizza parlor reopened earlier this year, much to the delight of its longtime fans. Burt’s still takes phone orders ahead of time (highly recommended), but it has done a gut rehab of the building, adding a bar with several draft taps. Of course, you can also take your chances as a walk-in, but be prepared to wait. From the city, a relatively quick Metra ride will get you there in a jiffy, making Burt’s a must on any pizza lover’s deep-dish checklist.
3. Spacca Napoli
This place is serious about Neapolitan pizza: A custom-built, oak-stoked oven kicks out bubbling beauties with perfectly charred peaks and valleys in less than two minutes. The hand-formed crust is paper-thin at the center and thicker toward the edges and has the unmistakable chew of a true Neapolitan pie. Aside from the simple marinara or Margherita (which can also be had with fresh buffalo mozz that’s flown in each Thursday), toppings run the gamut from fennel-flecked sausage to bitter rapini to prosciutto ribbons. Add a humble Italian wine-and-beer list, after-dinner options such as espresso and limoncello, and you’ve got a great night out.
4. Pat’s Pizza and Ristorante
We’re not advocating taking Roger Ebert’s advice on pizza, but we will give some credence to his claim that there’s a good thin-crust pie to be found here. Pastas, salads and a handful of cheesy, sauced chicken entrées round out the options, but we suggest sticking with the pizza, especially if you’re a fan of crispy paper-thin crust and square-cut slices. Order a vegetarian version and one topped with crumbled Italian sausage, plus plenty of beers to wash it down, and you’re in for a wallet-friendly night in a good old-fashioned family-friendly joint.
5. Robert’s Pizza Company
The Chicago-New York pizza rivalry runs deep, but every once in a while, us Midwesterners fall in love with an East Coast import. So is the case with New Yorker Robert Garvey’s Streeterville pie shop. You see, Garvey is a certified Pizzaioli who spent nearly 20 years developing an anatomically perfect crust. Cooked in a brick oven, these thin-crust pizzas boast the right crunch-to-chew ratio and are dressed up in a slew of creative toppings. You can create your own, but why bother? Garvey has dreamed up a laundry list of delicious pairings, like the duck prosciutto with cured duck breast, calabrian chile, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce.
These are just a few of the many pizza places to try in Chicago. Next time you’re in town be sure to visit one of these spots for a great slice.