The 25 Best Pizzas in Chicago

We run down the best pizza places in Chicago. It’s the Pizza Top 25, Chicago style!

Margherita pizza at Coalfire (No. 5)   Photo: Anna Knott

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11 Union Pizzeria

Lamb sausage, eggplant, kalamata olives

Thin: Remember when the college-town pizzeria was a dank off-campus basement with greasy, cardboardy scraps and pitchers of watery beer? Now the kids have shiny places like Union, where a professionally trained chef makes organic wood-fired pizzas and skilled bartenders pull perfect pints of French Trappist ales. Vince DiBattista’s best pizza channels a classic Mediterranean combo of tender lamb sausage, smooth eggplant chunks, and meaty Kalamatas, which meld perfectly on the bubbly, charred crust. “When I put it on the menu, I joked that this would be our foodie pizza,” says DiBattista. “Of course, some college kids order it, too.” 1245 CHICAGO AVE., EVANSTON; 847-475-2400

12 Macella

Bianca

Thin: Poor Puglia. The heel of the Italian boot has a long history of being stepped on. The Goths conquered the region; so did the Normans, Byzantines, Turks, Venetians, and Romans (twice). So you can understand why Giovanni Denigris, the Puglia-born owner of Macello, is quick to differentiate his Pugliese wood-fired pizzas from their more celebrated compatriots. “Our pizza is much thinner and crispier than others,” he says. “Neapolitan is more chewy.” Macello’s energetic Bianca looks like a glossy arugula and cherry tomato salad topped with splodges of creamy mozzarella and a pinch of salt atop a delicate cracker that’s somehow supple and golden brown. Grazie, Puglia. 1235 W. LAKE ST.; 312-850-9870

13 Pizano’s

Thin with sausage

Chicago thin: In a State Street basement, an 83-year-old lady named Donna Marie Malnati may represent our last link to the genesis of deep-dish pizza. The widow of Rudy Malnati—an early player at Pizzeria Uno—and mother of Pizano’s Rudy Malnati Jr., Donna Marie spends her nights fashioning dough balls from an old and secret family recipe. Whatever is in it, the recipe produces the most addictive thin crust in Chicago. Irresistible caramelized edges here and there give way to a buttery, pastrylike base that recalls deep-dish without the backbreaking bulk. It’s got the distinct flavor of history. 864 N. STATE ST., 312-751-1766; TWO OTHER AREA LOCATIONS

14 Coco Pazzo

Coppa

Thin: It’s a mystery why coppa—a.k.a. capicola, a.k.a. gabagool, a.k.a. dry-cured pork shoulder and neck—doesn’t enjoy the same widespread recognition as prosciutto. First of all, Tony Soprano revered it, and secondly, it’s more tender than prosciutto, thanks to a higher fat content, which makes it the perfect salumi for pizzas like Coco Pazzo’s outstanding lunch-only option. Delicate wisps of coppa collaborate with dabs of tart goat cheese, adorable caramelized cipollini, and even a robust fried egg to create a heady pie. On a lovely bubbled crust full of rugged character, it all comes off flawlessly. 300 W. HUBBARD ST.; 312-836-0900

15 Spacca Napoli

Margherita

Neapolitan: When Jonathan Goldsmith unveiled Spacca Napoli in 2006, he did it with a passion for all things Neapolitan, and the pizzas from his custom-built oven were miraculous. In the years since, every time a Chicagoan opened another wood-burning-oven pizzeria that turned Naples’s finest export into a tasteless commodity, I felt bad for Goldsmith. After my last few visits to his Ravenswood pizzeria, I feel worse. Spacca’s authentic pizzas are still good, but they’re maddeningly inconsistent: light and transcendent some days, uneven and salty on others. Even when it’s slightly off its game, though, its Margherita—made with impeccable fior di latte mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and Molino Caputo flour—blows away most of the copycats out there. 1769 W. SUNNYSIDE AVE.; 773-878-2420

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4 years ago
Posted by KLF

I can't believe how few of these pizzas are Chicago-style? Was the judging panel from New York?

4 years ago
Posted by Sherry2

Where is Giordanos? I agree with the previous comment, these look like New York pizzas to me! I have never heard of half the stuff on the pizzas.

I like Al's on Cermak/Austin in Cicero. Now that's some pizza!!

4 years ago
Posted by jayrock81

Although I'm happy to see Apart Pizza on this list, you guys missed the boat on the best...Marie's on Lawrence has the absolute best thin crust in Chicago.

4 years ago
Posted by nyerinmo

Does it matter?? ANY of these so called "pizzas" would come in dead LAST against any of New Yorks TRUE pizza! Why people in this town think their pizza is so "great" is beyond me? Its more of a great tragedy that the pizza business has been able to scam this entire city!

4 years ago
Posted by scoods

while some of these on the list ARE great pizza, it's soooo typical of Chicago Magazine/Timeout Chicago. Jeff Ruby has probably never ventured into anywhere but the trendiest northside neighborhoods with his Sex and the City girlfriends all the while thinking they're really digging up some unknown places. i've had great lake pizza it's tasty but shouldn't be called pizza in Chicago. Frasca?? Are you kidding me?? Jeff Ruby should be canned as a food critic if he thinks these are the 25 best pizzas. I'll give you a hint: next time, make sure some thin crust pizza, CUT INTO SQUARES, gets on your stupid list. Northside and Southside gems are missing.

4 years ago
Posted by AustinChicago

1) Chicago-style and New York-style are apples and oranges. The truly enlightened like them both. 2) I cannot believe Pat's on Lincoln isn't on this list... BEST thin-crust in the city. Hands down.

4 years ago
Posted by alwaysacubfan

this is obviously the opinion of a New Yorker! Where is beggars, homerun Inn, Giordano's...please...and why are the slices not in squares? and where is the cheese? Only New Yorkers think a drizzle or cheese and tea spoon of sauce and a basil leaf is pizza!

4 years ago
Posted by jscapes

Where the heck is Barnaby's!!!!!!

4 years ago
Posted by Jay M

For the NY responder that raves about NY pizza; I lived in Chicago for 10 years and have been in NY for 1 year...the two pizza styles are completely different. In NY, you can't get anything close to Chicago pizza unless you go to touristy UNO's. I have to say I can not tell the difference between a great NY slice or a 99 cent NY slice as it all tastes floppy and bland to me. I have to give the edge to Chicago by a landslide. But like the one poster said they are apples and oranges, so I admit my bias.

However, for a Chicago article this is a New York writer with a NY taste. Shame on this editor for letting a non-Chicagoan show us the best pizza in the city.

I would vote Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders for the city and Rosatti's for the burbs!

4 years ago
Posted by badplaid

Um yea...any list without Salerno's (the original on Grand) or Vito & Nick's is pretty incomplete. Burt's Place is way over-rated...dry and bland compared to the original creation at Pequods...and the service there is ridiculous. Art of Pizza should be higher...they have mastered stuffed pizza. Coalfire is great as well, but must be enjoyed dine-in only. Gino's shouldn't be anywhere near the list unless it's 1987.

4 years ago
Posted by Yikes

Enough with Great Lake already. Good God. This list should be re-titled "The Best 25 Trendy Yupster Pizzas in Chicago."

4 years ago
Posted by scoods

Fox's on Western in Beverly

Pat's on Lincoln in Lakeview

Vito and Nick's on 84th & Pulaski.

Suprisingly, these gems of Chicago are not found on the Sex and the City pizza list compiled by Ms. Jeff Ruby.

4 years ago
Posted by rogldr5

Glad to see Aurelio's on the list!! As a South-suburb girl, I would have been disappointed not to find it. I would go with pepperoni, but close enough!

4 years ago
Posted by Coogles

"Burt's Place is way over-rated...dry and bland compared to the original creation at Pequods"

You do know that Burt of Burt's Place is the original owner of Pequods, right?

4 years ago
Posted by Spicy Lou

Um, what about Father and Son / Marcello. That's my family's favorite and we are Chicago natives. New York pizza is the Harold Miner of the culinary world.

4 years ago
Posted by kwhitehead

Chicago pizza is a joke. New Haven style all the way. Or a nice tidy New York slice. Both are milesa bove that goopy Chicago pie.

4 years ago
Posted by SamIam

Jeff Ruby, where are you from? Iowa? Kansas? You sure don't know anything about Pizza. I bet your favorite hotdog is Oscar Myer.

4 years ago
Posted by chipizza888

What about Pizza Art Cafe?!

4 years ago
Posted by ChiGirl67

I am originally from Chicago and am now in Cape Coral, Fl. and what i wouldn't do for a true Chicago Pizza, but you forgot one pizza place off the beaten path and that's Johnny's on Western by Fullerton mmmmm goood the football size could feed a football team..

4 years ago
Posted by rocketmama

What a lazy article -- more than half the photos aren't even of the pizza in question, just the storefront.

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