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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