The world of Chicago pizza has undergone a seismic shift since 2015, when we last embarked on a quest to find the best pies in town. Now, alongside deep dish, tavern style, and Neapolitan, there are a Roman-style boom, a thriving Detroit-style scene, and some nonpizzerias shaking up the rankings. Seven of the top 10 spots, including our No. 1 , are newcomers to the list.
Bungalow by Middle Brow
Perhaps it’s presumptuous to put a pizzeria that’s only had its oven going since January at the top of our rankings, elbowing out some generations-old names. But this brewpub for one of the city’s most oddball breweries has shifted the paradigm for what makes good pizza in Chicago — and from here on out, every other pizzaiolo in town will be playing catch-up.
Head baker Jess Galli’s origins are in sourdough (she previously kneaded at some of the finest bread makers in San Francisco), and it’s her crusts that earned Bungalow by Middle Brow the crown. Galli uses Wisconsin wheat flour for her dough, which she ferments for four days before it hits the oven. Each pie’s unexpectedly delightful combination of toppings (raspberry jam, shishito peppers, and pulled pork, anyone?) works in concert with the appealing tang and funk of the bread beneath. Yes, they go great with one of the eight or so beers on tap. But pizza this good deserves to be a destination in its own right. 2840 W. Armitage Ave.
If you’re one of those Chicagoans who are quick to disparage deep-dish pizza as tourist food, Labriola may change your mind forever. In the midst of the Magnificent Mile’s madness, Rich Labriola (the whiz behind Stan’s Donuts, among other carby delights) has cracked the inch-thick-’za code with a brilliant triple play: creating a bubble-pocked dough that offers height without heft, using a restrained amount of cheese, and, best of all, developing fennel-flecked sausage crumbles that act as flavor land mines as you chew through a slice. Whether you choose that or pepperoni (pictured), it’s deep dish even the most jaded native can love. 535 N. Michigan Ave.
An instant classic for both the purists and the trend seekers when it opened in 2017, Bebu keeps getting better. The crust is blistered in all the right ways — crunchy on the undercarriage, airy in the middle, supple-tender at the edge. The housemade meatballs find their perfect foil, visually and texturally, in dabs of ricotta, and the pickly tang of giardiniera is like the supporting actor that makes every scene sparkle. 1521 N. Fremont St.
Welcome to the Detroit-Style Pizza Era. At least five places focusing on this thick-crust, square-cut regional variant have opened since 2016, to say nothing of the continued infiltration of the Jet’s Pizza chain. But a location of this Evanston-based mini-empire has been doing Detroit pizzas since before they were cool. Union’s crust, so dense it’s practically focaccia, gets topped with a zingy tomato sauce that’s dolloped over the toppings, as they do in the Motor City, turning what could have been a leaden slice into a surprisingly bright bite. Long after the trend has faded, Union shall be preserved. 1307 Chicago Ave.
Any restaurant inspired by The Divine Comedy needs to bring the excess, and Dante’s does just that, with 20-inch New York–style pies decked out with toppings like shrimp, prosciutto, jalapeños, and pineapple and jumbo slices with sausage or pepperoni that go for less than a fiver. But even if you’re just looking for ballast before hitting the bars, size isn’t the reason to frequent this neighborhood joint. It’s the crust: crouton-crunchy and bulging with lightly browned air pockets, yet still foldable. Don’t miss the Beatrice, a garlicky canvas dotted with earthy mushrooms. Slightly greasy, yes, but it’ll take you straight to Paradiso. 3028 W. Armitage Ave., 2825 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Sapori Napoletani Pizzeria e Ristorante
Old Norwood Park
This hidden strip-mall gem offers Neapolitan pizzas that rival those at Spacca Napoli (No. 15) and Eataly (No. 24), but without the crowds and parking headaches. Owner Antonio Vitello hand-built his wood-fired oven, and he mans it day and night, turning out pizzas that, per tradition, cook in less than two minutes. The crusts feature the kind of puffed, airy, charred edge that shows the hand of a skilled pizzaiolo. An excellent sauceless pizza with sausage and rapini hits the spot, while toppings like corn, tuna, and sliced hot dogs provide surprising touches. 6050 N. Northwest Hwy.
Usually a menu advertising two vastly different crust styles raises a red flag: It’s damn near impossible for one kitchen to nail both. Consider this outpost of the Brooklyn-based Neapolitan legend the exception. The speckled, wood-fired circular pies, like a soppressata with basil number (pictured), are top-notch — but so are the rectangular ones. Previously available only on weekends, the Detroit-style pizzas have a pan-baked crust that’s airy, tender, and ringed with lacy cheese. The tastiest, which is topped with crisp pepperoni and cold tomato sauce, is the number one selling pie. 2451 N. Milwaukee Ave.
You haven’t tasted a proper cracker crust until you’ve become acquainted with the one at this nearly 70-year-old neighborhood institution, where crisp-bottom pies are still baked in the same oven that was fired up on opening day. Stick to classics like Pat’s Special, topped with snappy sausage, peppers, and onions, and enjoy a very tasty kind of time travel. 2679 N. Lincoln Ave.
Sono Wood Fired Pizzeria
The best seat in this rustic restaurant is at its small corner bar, where you can watch the pizzaiolo hand-toss your order before sliding it into the glowing maw of the brick oven. Each pie emerges with a thin and crackly crust, fortified with puffy edges that lend a satisfying chew, and is anointed with a drizzle of olive oil. The ephemeral crust somehow supports the weight of flavorful toppings like, say, a rich, creamy vodka sauce with delicate mozzarella-like fior di latte and generous spicy sausage nubs. 1582 N. Clybourn Ave.
West Loop, Wicker Park
With the familiar chew of focaccia, the satisfying crunch of a tavern-style pie, and a sweet, caramelized edge, Bonci’s legendary Roman-style crust is some kind of miracle. It’s the perfect canvas for this Italian import’s intriguing topping combinations, like bell peppers piled atop buffalo mozzarella, sautéed leeks sinking into funky Gorgonzola, and prosciutto cotto with mozzarella (all pictured). They’re pies with so many textures and layers of flavor that even the smallest nibble feels enormous. 161 N. Sangamon St., 1566 N. Damen Ave.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
There’s a reason you end up here every time you’re hosting out-of-towners for the weekend: Malnati’s makes the quintessential Chicago deep-dish pizza, and no matter which of the 57 locations you visit, you’re guaranteed a good pie (so long as you order yours with a butter crust and the formidable disk of ground pork they call sausage), which is a rare feat for such a spread-out enterprise. We live in uncertain times, but Malnati’s will always deliver. loumalnatis.com
Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe
Chicago is woefully lacking when it comes to an honest-to-Gotham New York slice. Just the sight of the oversize specimens behind the counter here — mottled with congealed cheese, scattered with wilting basil leaves — will make you fleetingly feel like a Yankees fan. Go traditional and get a slice covered in fat marbles of sausage or, better yet, pepperoni, which will curl into menisci of oily red-orange goodness after a couple of minutes in the deck oven. Your slice will be served on a ridged paper plate, as it must, ready for you to fold. 5159 N. Lincoln Ave.
Gripe all you want about Reno’s cash-only policy, but it’s hard to quibble with the pliable, slightly charred pies, which are best eaten on the lively patio. Some toppings are surprising, like carnitas with salsa verde, while a couple of pizzas do double duty for brunch, like the Jorge, a decadent layering of prosciutto, potatoes, and caramelized onions, crowned with a fried egg. Go on Tuesday to enjoy two pies for $22. You’ll wait for a table, but you won’t mind. 2607 N. Milwaukee Ave.
This laid-back newcomer’s dough is made with beer instead of water, producing a yeasty, puffy collar on its 16-inch beauties. The simple cheese pizza boasts blackened air bubbles the size of the Superdome. An extra $3 will get you a drizzle of truffle honey, which neutralizes the sauce’s acidity and balances the sea salt and cracked black pepper to create something approaching transcendence. 1659 W. 21st St.
Spacca Napoli Pizzeria
Owner Jonathan Goldsmith takes tradition seriously. Your first clue: the reproduction of a third-century mosaic depicting a Roman baker at his oven that graces the restaurant’s front door. Inside, a similar oven — its bricks flown in from Naples — turns out refined pizzas made with imported Italian ingredients, from the flour for the nicely blistered, chewy crusts to the finish of grassy olive oil. Try the earthy combo of mushrooms, mildly seasoned sausage, and fior di latte that melts into blended San Marzano tomatoes. And no one leaves the crusts — this is bread you’d happily eat on its own. 1769 W. Sunnyside Ave.
Stix ’n Brix Wood Fired Pizza
Just an errant firework away from Guaranteed Rate Field, this family-run spot generates thin, firm pizzas that bear the telltale leopard spots on the bottom of the crisp crust from the wood-burning oven. The best creation is a basil-tinged number with roasted tomatoes and a large dollop of creamy Burrata atop each slice. This is a pizza that produces its own pyrotechnics. 220 W. 33rd St.
Roots Handmade Pizza
East Ukrainian Village, Lincoln Square, Old Town
We have the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group to thank for introducing Chicago to the scissor-cut pie native to the Quad Cities. It’s a tender, hand-tossed variety with a flavor that’s sweet, nutty, and complex, thanks to an infusion of malt in the crust. You’ll find eight to 10 rotating pizzas dreamed up by area chefs, and while they’re intriguing, they can’t upstage the straight-up sausage pie. The meat is ground in-house, then seasoned, baked, and ground again before ever touching a crust. A blanket of gooey mozzarella cloaks all the toppings here, making this pie a worthy ambassador of its home region. 1924 W. Chicago Ave., 2200 W. Lawrence Ave., 1610 N. Wells St.
West Town, Lake View
As reliable as death, taxes, and Twitter wars, Coalfire pulls excellent pizzas from its 1,500-degree coal and wood oven night after night. The celebrated pepperoni and whipped ricotta pizza gets all the glory, but when it comes to pure wham-pow deliciousness, we’ll take the option with the scattering of chewy nubs of Berkshire pork sausage sparked by Calabrian chiles and softened by sweet onions — all orbiting six moons of buttery stracciatella. 1321 W. Grand Ave., 3707 N. Southport Ave.
Nella Pizza e Pasta
Nella may have more competition for the Neapolitan crown these days, but it still does a damn fine pizza. The crimson San Marzano landscape of the Nella D.O.P. (pictured), mellow and soupy-droopy in the center, becomes one with the rich buffalo mozzarella, and the pleasure extends all the way to a bulbous, blackened perimeter. Only the ungainly, slippery basil leaves knock this one down a couple of pegs. 1125 E. 55th St.
Nueva Italy Pizzeria
This unprepossessing carry-out counter offers virtually every kind of pizza Chicago can lay claim to, from deep dish and butter crust to square-cut tavern style. But here’s what you want to order: the extra thin. The crust warps a bit in the oven and emerges crackery here, pliant there, and totally irresistible. The cheese and sauce slide around at first, which is OK given the sturdiness of the base, but as the pizza cools, everything melds into textural harmony. Thanks to the owner’s Hispanic heritage, you can even opt for jalapeños, a natural friend to sausage. 7109 N. Clark St.
Stella Barra Pizzeria
While the family-friendly, semi-upscale environs of this Lettuce Entertain You pizzeria may feel generic, the crust is anything but. It comes courtesy of chef-partner Jeff Mahin, a fine-dining veteran with science and math degrees who is exacting when it comes to dough. His is made with fresh-ground California wheat, filtered water, and sea salt and rises for more than a day before getting hand-stretched to order. It sports a puffed, crackly outer edge and is preternaturally thin. You’ll find fancy toppings aplenty, but the pizza with crisp Hobbs’ pepperoni atop oozy mozzarella shows that Mahin hasn’t forgotten his audience. 1954 N. Halsted St.
That a pizza this thin could support the cornucopia of toppings adorning each pie at this old-school joint seems to defy the laws of physics. And yet the slices never sag beneath the bountiful meats and vegetables on the Rosangela’s special (pictured), rendering it more filling than most of its tavern-style competitors. 2807½ W. 95th St.
Who would have guessed Danny Grant (of luxe steakhouse Maple & Ash) knew his way around wood-fired pizza so intimately? His pies’ charm lies in the procession of textures: The slick and slouchy center segues into a sturdy middle area and culminates in a mountainously puffy edge. The whole thing is an ideal base for seasonally adventurous toppings — say, chimichurri and squash with soft Treviso cheese — that carry a touch of haute cuisine gravitas. 1840 W. North Ave.
Near North Side
Pick your way through the scrum of tourists, past the bags of artisanal orecchiette and the $40 bottles of Ligurian olive oil, to the relative calm of the far back upstairs corner, where a dining counter sits alongside two gold-domed pizza ovens. Here you will find the kind of single-serving Neapolitan pies Italians consider their birthright. You really just want the Margherita, with its simple tomato passata, top-quality mozzarella, and a few basil leaves atop a delicate crust with an appealing chew. 43 E. Ohio St.
Marie’s Pizza & Liquors
The red pleather booths and mirrored walls all but shout “Welcome to 1940!” — which happens to be when Marie’s opened. Luckily, the family that runs this time portal continues to serve some serious tavern-style pies: crisp-bottomed, square-cut creations bubbling with golden-brown cheese and red sauce. Eat the Marie’s Special: the ultraorthodox classic medley of sausage, green peppers, onions, and mushrooms. It goes great with a bottle of cheap Chianti bought at the attached liquor store. 4127 W. Lawrence Ave.