While out-of-town pizza styles — namely, those hailing from Detroit, Rome, New York, and Sicily — have gotten all the love locally in recent years, it’s time for tavern style to regain the spotlight. Chicago’s favorite homegrown contribution (sorry, deep dish) is seeing a resurgence, with artisan and cheffy pies leading the comeback. These are four of our favorites.
Kim’s Uncle Pizza
207 N. Cass Ave., Westmont
The take Classic South Side pizzas with a Sicilian soul
The skinny Back in 2018, Cecily and Billy Federighi — with help from neighbor Brad Shorten — started making Sicilian and Neapolitan pizzas in their Ukrainian Village apartment. They baked so many they gave some away on Instagram. Things really clicked in 2020 when Cecily embraced her South Side roots and they started making tavern style. Loose-leaf-thin crust. Breadcrumb bottoms. Slightly “angry” Sicilian-style sauce. Light on the cheese, heavy on the spicy sausage. The trio offered their pies at the now-closed Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream in Bridgeport, and now you’ll find them at this Westmont spot, which opened last summer.
Best order Sausage-mushroom classic, $23
Bungalow by Middle Brow
2840 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square
The take Tuesday-night-only ultra-thin-crust specials — no takeout allowed
The skinny Middle Brow is mostly known for its Neapolitan-ish pies, but on Tuesdays, owner Pete Ternes taps into local tradition. His tavern crust will make your toes curl — made with artisanal Midwestern flour, it’s teeming with sourdough and cinnamon notes. That dough gets hit with cornmeal and flattened till it’s as thin and crackly as parchment paper. The result? Ethereally light and irresistibly snackable pies dapped with a sauce that’s as rich as tomato jam.
Best order The Tavern special topped with sausage, kale, caramelized onions, and an espresso-maple glaze, $19
Humboldt Park Eatery, 3220 W. Grand Ave., Humboldt Park
The take Unconventional and impossibly crunchy ghost-kitchen pies
The skinny After lecturing about pizzas, apprenticing under pizza masters, and competing in pizza competitions, Tony Scardino has accepted a new challenge: baking the crispiest cracker-style pizza in the 606. The Professor nailed it: His par-baked crusts produce edges so crunchy they’d make a kettle-cooked chip blush. And his use of specialty cheeses (aged mozzarella) and creative toppings (braised leeks and fried rosemary) gleefully gives the middle finger to convention. Keep an eye out for collabs with local chefs like Henry Cai of 3 Little Pigs Chi.
Best order His deluxe pepperoni, with garlic, oregano, whipped ricotta, and hot honey, $27
Crust Fund Pizza
Secret location, Ravenswood
The take Tavern pizzas that benefit charity
The skinny John Carruthers, communications manager for Revolution Brewing, insists he’s just a philanthropic pizza hobbyist. But his creativity (he’s making pies like pastrami and mustard seed on a rye crust) and the quality of his garlic-paprika sausage and lip-smacking sauce spiked with fish sauce say otherwise. In 2020, he began swapping his pies, which you pick up from his alley garage, for $25 donations to local charities (the last pie of the night goes to the highest bidder). Track his monthly pop-up by signing up for his newsletter at nachosandlager.com or following @nachosandlager on Instagram.
Best order The signature sausage-giardiniera pizza, named after a rotating lineup of local writers, like Mike Royko and Studs Terkel, $25