Milly’s Pizza in the Pan
1005 W. Argyle St., Uptown
The past few years have been a great time for pizza in this city. During the worst of the pandemic, new purveyors were cropping up every week, as many top chefs pivoted to takeout food. But no newcomer has wowed us like Robert Maleski, whose pizza is so flavorful, with its tangy tomato sauce and chewy, cheese-edged crust, that it has made us rethink how we see pan pizza. After he was laid off as a server, Maleski launched Milly’s out of a Logan Square ghost kitchen in August 2020 before moving it to an Uptown storefront. It’s a three-man operation: They serve just 65 pizzas a day, closing up shop when they sell out (order pies for delivery, pickup, or dine-in via Tock). Maleski started with a recipe inspired by Burt’s Place in Morton Grove, then tinkered with it until it morphed into something wholly its own. He cold-ferments yeast-cultured dough for 36 hours before it hits the oven, and the pies pop with colorful toppings, like the pepperoni, olives, and sweet peppers on the Updog. But even a simple sausage and onion, finished with creamy fresh mozzarella, is a standout. Tasting the work of this new pizza talent is nothing short of thrilling.
2451 N. Milwaukee Ave., Logan Square
STYLE Detroit and Neapolitan
TRY US Pizza Cup Winner
While the Neapolitan pizza at this Brooklyn-based chain is stellar, it might not be until your third or fourth visit that you manage to try it. That’s because here you’ll find the best Detroit-style pizza in the city: the Logan Squares. With thick crusts and crispy, cheesy edges, these six-square pies somehow manage to be ethereally light. The pepperoni with cold tomato sauce is delicious, but the best is owner Derrick Tung’s shamelessly named US Pizza Cup Winner, which has a just-right salty-spicy-sweet combination of white cheddar, pepperoni, bacon jam, and ricotta, finished with hot honey.
Bungalow by Middle Brow
2840 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square
STYLE Thin and tavern
TRY Cacio e pepe tavern
Bungalow earned its pizza reputation with its thin-crust pies, and while we still love those, it’s the tavern-style ones that excite us. Owner Pete Ternes’s rounds are available only on Tuesdays, so you’ll need to plan accordingly and gird yourself for a wait. But it’s worth it: These are überthin and have a sweeter sauce. While you’ll always find pepperoni and sausage, the weekly specials from chefs Carolyn Centofanti and Pilar Duplack are the most fun. Look for the cacio e pepe, a frequent offering, loaded with Parm and smoked black pepper.
6821 W. Pershing Rd., Stickney
The cooks here top a pizza so neatly that each piece of the supremely good tavern-style sausage pie has a big chunk of fennel-forward meat right in the middle. Ask for it well done for an extra-crispy crust. This 68-year-old joint was started by Alfonso Tornabene, who might be better known for his supposed role in the Chicago Outfit, where he went by “the Pizza Man.” His family sold the business in 2020, but all of the same managers are still in charge, ensuring the old-school pie endures.
6050 N. Northwest Hwy., Norwood Park
The city’s best Neapolitan-style pizza comes out of a hand-built oven in a modest strip mall in Norwood Park. Chef-owner Antonio Vitiello hails from Naples and made his first pizza at the age of 8 in one of the pizzerias his parents owned there. His pies spend less than two minutes in the oven (if Antonio isn’t manning it, one of his daughters is) and need to be eaten immediately, so don’t even think about getting it to go. You will be rewarded with a marvel of engineering and flavors. The Margherita is the bestseller for good reason. We also have a soft spot for the Calabrese, with its oily spots of spicy ’nduja and slivers of red onion.
Chicago Pizza Playoffs
Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe
2434 W. Montrose Ave., Ravenswood
STYLE New York
TRY Pepperoni and mushroom
While we wish that this New York–style slice shop would set up satellites throughout the city, we’re always happy to make the trek for these foldable beauts. The crust is airy and well risen with a fermented tang, the red sauce is bright and zesty, and the toppings are unfancy but always on point. Our last delivery arrived so hot we were tempted to give it a moment to keep the cheese from sloshing, but those crisp pepperoni cups beckoned.
Kim’s Uncle Pizza
207 N. Cass Ave., Westmont
Billy and Cecily Federighi and Bradley Shorten had a winding road to becoming the new darlings of tavern style: In 2018, they started making various styles of pizzas in their apartment and giving them away, then served Sicilian slices at Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream. Finally, they found their way to their true love, tavern style, and took over an old neighborhood pizzeria in 2022. Their cold-cured dough comes out super crisp. Mozzarella before the bake and grated Parmesan after provide a super-cheesy taste, a spicy sauce adds kick, and the sausage is extra herby. This is what pizza dreams are made of.
43 E. Ohio St., River North
TRY Ruota di carro Margherita
A style of Neapolitan pizza, ruota di carro (“wagon wheel”) is larger, thinner, and crispier than the excellent standard versions at this Chicago location of the Italian food emporium. Brave the throngs of tourists and the River North traffic and sit down for the gourmet pleasure of tomatoes, milky cheese, basil leaves, and lighter-than-air crust meeting in exactly the right way.
2679 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park
Pat’s has been cranking out some of the city’s best tavern style since 1950. The secret is the special cold-curing process: The dough is rolled as thin as it can possibly get, left to dry slightly, then stashed uncovered in the refrigerator for up to six days. The result is a crust so crisp it shatters. Pat’s uses noteworthy sausage — a secret family recipe that’s packed with fennel.
George’s Deep Dish
6221 N. Clark St., Edgewater
TRY Halas’ Classic
George Bumbaris serves pan rather than deep dish, but his pizza is so delicious he can call his joint, which he opened in 2021, anything he wants. He uses a novel sourdough based on lagana, a northern Greek flatbread that’s like a cross between focaccia and ciabatta, yielding a pizza with a super-crisp edge and soft center. He goes wild with ingredients, tapping everything from spinach-artichoke dip to spaghetti, but the Halas’ Classic, with Italian sausage, cremini mushrooms, green peppers, and red onions, hits the spot every time.
People Behind the Pizza
3059 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square
TRY Palak paneer
This modern Indian restaurant uses rich, pliant naan dough made with yogurt and eggs for its pizza. The pies emerge from the oven puffy and pillowy, but sturdy enough for some serious toppings. Our crave-fave has to be the riff on palak paneer, which unites lightly creamed spinach and mozzarella under a sprinkling of fried shallots and a drizzle of chile oil. Tear yourself away from the famous butter chicken calzone to give it a try.
Naudi Signature Pizza
926 W. Diversey Pkwy., Lake View
Daniel Kadyrbekov looked toward classic New York pizzerias when he opened this tiny restaurant in 2021, but what he developed is something entirely his own. His pasty tomato sauce betrays no trace of sugar, and his four-cheese blend delivers a tangy, salty punch. It all comes spread over a manhole-cover-size crust as thin and sleek and crackery as lavash and apparently showered with a full bunch of basil. This is pizza for those with savory tastes.
Coda di Volpe
3335 N. Southport Ave., Lake View
TRY Mortadella e pistachio
Though it boasts Vera Pizza Napoletana certification, this restaurant serves a style that might best be called American Neapolitan, given the big-enough-for-two size and a sturdy undercarriage that keeps its integrity after slicing. Whatever it is, we’re here for it, and we love the creative outliers best, like the combo with mortadella, crunchy pistachio pesto, and bufala and caciocavallo cheeses.
1321 W. Grand Ave., West Town;
3707 N. Southport Ave., Lake View
TRY Honey and salami
Everyone has a go-to Coalfire order, and ours is the honey and salami, with soppressata, honey, basil, Calabrian chiles, and mozzarella atop a classic red sauce. While you may be more of a pepperoni and whipped ricotta person or a lasagna pizza lover, every pie here, no matter its inventive toppings, features Coalfire’s signature bubbly thin crust, which is baked in a 1,500-degree coal-fired oven. Opened in 2007, Coalfire is a perennial favorite in our pizza rankings, the kind of place that will never go out of style.
Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria
8433 S. Pulaski Rd., Ashburn
TRY Sausage and giardiniera
More than any place on this list, Vito & Nick’s, which opened in 1923, is like a trip back to old-school Chicago: the Old Style drafts for $2.25, the Friday night all-you-can-eat smelt dinners — and it’s still cash only. The pizza has remained among the city’s best for nearly as long — its thin crust is crackery and flaky, with an always-perfect balance of toppings. The chunks of sausage are loaded with fennel, and the hot giardiniera is a nice local touch.
The Case for Whole Foods Pizza
Sfera Sicilian Street Food
5759 N. Broadway, Edgewater
TRY Chicago-style sfincione
This counter-service spot serves big, sturdy slices (and slices only) of sfincione, a Sicilian-style pan pizza with a thick layer of crisp breadcrumbs. The approach originated in Palermo, but the Chicago-style offering pays homage to our city: It comes piled with crumbled Italian sausage, green peppers, sautéed garlic, mushrooms, marinara, and Wisconsin mozzarella, plus pecorino breadcrumbs for a cheesy crunch. Take it over the top by adding chile oil and/or truffle aïoli.
Robert’s Pizza and Dough Co.
465 N. McClurg Ct., Streeterville
TRY The Funghi
Robert Garvey’s impeccable brick-oven-baked crusts — soft in the center, with a pleasantly crunchy edge, every bite bursting with sourdough flavor — are so delicious we’d eat them plain. But why, when the inspired toppings include three types of cheese from Indianapolis’s Tulip Tree Creamery for one pizza and truffle cream, wild mushrooms, garlic, and Wisconsin ricotta for the Funghi?
Uncle Jerry’s Pizza Company
133 W. Main St., Cary
STYLE Deep dish
TRY Spontaneous Spinach
Jerry Czerwinski spent years playing around with deep-dish recipes before opening his own spot in 2021. The dough is fermented and seasoned, making for a killer crust that’s crisp, crackly, and surprisingly light. We dig the Spontaneous Spinach, which has a chunky, bright red tomato sauce, fresh garlic, and oozing cheese. The restaurant, in the far northwest suburbs, may be a trek, but a Metra from Ogilvie station will drop you off just a short walk from the front door.
Spacca Napoli pizzeria
1769 W. Sunnyside Ave., Ravenswood
That the place settings here include silverware in addition to a pizza wheel is a tacit suggestion: While you can cut your pizza into slices and eat it with your hands like an American, why not try it the Italian way — with a knife and fork? Cut inward, starting with the puffy cornicione (the outer edge), which you can swipe through the saucy center to appreciate each bite for its textural variety. The upgrade from fior di latte mozzarella to bufala is worth the few extra dollars. This is the pizza you remember from your trip to Italy: not the famous place, but the little spot with the nice patio that exceeded all expectations.
3037 N. Clark St., Lake View East
STYLE New York
What started out as a hobby for brothers Brett and Chadd Nemec during the pandemic turned into a full-fledged pizzeria with fantastic East Coast pies. We love the crust, which is brushed with an herb-and-garlic-infused olive oil and finished with salt: It’s light and airy with a good chew. Get your pie or slice topped with spicy Ezzo pepperoni cups — simple, but just right.
Frank’s Pizzeria & Restaurant
6506 W. Belmont Ave., Schorsch Village
TRY Frank’s Special
Frank’s doesn’t get the love that some of Chicago’s other classic tavern-style spots do, and that’s a shame — it serves a model version. Started by the Pianetto family in 1952 and owned by the Prosio family since 1968, Frank’s has had the same recipe all along. The crust is crisp and paper thin and perfectly dressed every time. Our favorite, Frank’s Special, comes with onion, mushrooms, green peppers, and an excellent housemade Italian sausage.
1124 W. Grand Ave., West Town
This 53-year-old family business, which sells by the slice, is all about the crust. Which is no surprise, given that the bakery supplies its bread to more than 200 Chicago-area restaurants. The wonderfully yeasty dough is pressed into deep sheet pans, yielding a unique pizza bread with a super-caramelized crust. The Supreme stands out with a colorful mix of peppers, onions, mushrooms, and Italian sausage and a tangy tomato sauce mixed with cheese. Be sure to ask for an edge piece.
The Oakville Grill & Cellar
163 N. Green St., West Loop
TRY Daily special
This wine-country-inspired restaurant offers only a couple of pizzas — a basic Margherita and a rotating special — on its broad menu. But they are good enough that you’ll want to plan to have pizza and wine in the bar next time you’re in the West Loop. The malted crusts, made with bread and rye flours, are crunchy and airy and make perfect foils for any toppings that come their way. At brunch those may be bacon, egg, and Alpine-style cheese; at dinner fresh local spinach and kale will take things in an oh-so-Californian direction.
Louisa’s Pizza & Pasta
14025 S. Cicero Ave., Crestwood
STYLE Deep dish
The late Louisa DeGenero, who made pizzas at Pizzeria Due, opened her own place in south suburban Crestwood in 1981. Her legend lives on through her deep-dish recipe, which is lighter than other versions. The overall pie is thinner and has less cheese. But lest you think this is diet deep dish: The crust is buttery and its edges caramelized, and the pizza boasts rich tomato sauce and tons of excellent sausage.