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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6 Lou Malnati’s

Deep-dish with sausage

Deep-dish: The pizza cognition theory, developed by Sam Sifton of The New York Times, postulates that your childhood pizza will inevitably become the measuring stick for all future pizzas. This may explain why every North Shore native goes all drooly when anyone mentions Lou’s, while the Siftons of the world can try it once, shrug, and move on. But there’s a magic to this pizza that goes beyond nostalgia. It starts with the special flaky butter crust—best extra 75 cents you ever spent—and pulses through the vine-ripened tomatoes and lean, subtle sausage. Then again, just in case Sifton is right, maybe you should take the kids to Malnati’s now. 6649 N. LINCOLN AVE., LINCOLNWOOD, 847-673-0800; 29 OTHER AREA LOCATIONS

7 Santullo’s Eatery

Pepperoni

New York: The nonstop ball busting from New York friends about the lack of a good NYC slice in Chicago always strikes me as absurd. Do I whine about a dearth of good Chicago pizza in your town? (No, because it’s your town.) The one place we can all agree on is Santullo’s, where Chicagoans and Gothamites napkin-blot the grease, fold our droopy slices, and bury the hatchet. I haven’t found many options in the five boroughs as good as Santullo’s, each piece a sturdy, charred treasure with crisp pepperoni and a blistered collar, balancing crunch and chew in a way that so many New York pizzas can’t. 1943 W. NORTH AVE.; 773-227-7960

8 Burt’s Place

Pan with sausage

Deep-dish: The appeal of this glorious junk trap’s pizza stems mainly from the improbability of its maker. At 73, Burt Katz—inventor of caramelized crust, original man behind Pequod’s and Gulliver’s—looks like a strung-out Santa. But this oddball who doesn’t care about money and hasn’t shaved since the seventies goes to the market every morning for fresh veggies, makes his own smooth sauce, and buys impeccable sausage from a butcher he refuses to name. Every thick, doughy pie that comes out of Katz’s little kitchen is a paragon of freshness: light on cheese and heavy on telltale black marks—and every bit as soft underneath as Burt. 8541 N. FERRIS AVE., MORTON GROVE; 847-965-7997

9 Art of Pizza

Stuffed with sausage

Deep-dish: I never understood the point of stuffed pizza. If regular deep-dish doesn’t provide you with enough bread, just get a calzone and say goodnight. But AoP makes sense of the conundrum, producing a crunchy exterior crust and a doughy interior one. It’s an irresistible, herby combination aided by an acidic-zing tomato sauce and copious sausage nubs so wee and decadent that they cook into perfect little colonies of depravity. And though it strained my back to do so, I picked up the first slice with my hands so my teeth could sink right into the mozzarella. Second and third ones, too. 3033 N. ASHLAND AVE.; 773-327-5600

10 Pequod’s

Pan with sausage

Deep-dish: I had a cute but unpredictable girlfriend in college with whom I broke up and reunited so many times I lost count. Same thing with Pequod’s. I love it, I hate it, I love it, I have a restraining order against it . . . and lately I’m falling prey to its charms again. The thick, golden crust—its edges famously caramelized into blackened perfection by a thin layer of cheese applied before cooking—is brawny enough to shoulder hefty lumps of secretly blended sausage and a gloriously chunky sweet sauce. Take me back one more time, Pequod’s? I’m on my knees. 2207 N. CLYBOURN AVE., 773-327-1512; ANOTHER LOCATION IN MORTON GROVE

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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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