The city's deep dish pizza is legendary, but we'll let you in on a little secret: To find the best pizza in Chicago, you have to get out of River North. If you don't, you'll miss out on some fantastic alternative styles, like tavern, New Haven, Detroit and Neapolitan. And though we may not lay claim to these versions, we know some Chicago chefs who do them justice. We tracked down the best pizza in Chicago at slice shops, Italian restaurants and beyond. Consider this list a rite of passage that should top your list bucket list of things to do in Chicago. Put down the folk and knife and prepare to get your hands dirty with the best pizza in Chicago.
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The best of the city under one roof
What makes Art Shabez's slices stand out in a bona fide pizza town like Chicago? Sure, the gooey mozzarella, fennel-flecked Italian sausage and market-fresh veggies are all stellar, but the real star of the show is the fan-favorite red sauce, which bursts with vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh oregano and basil, and a faint hint of red pepper. Luckily for us, the stuff is slathered all over every pie served at the pizzeria's Time Out Market Chicago stand. The Art of Pizza has elevated itself to the status of an institution, making it an essential for anyone who claims to be a pizza aficionado or for anyone who loves pizza, which is everyone.
Best pizza in Chicago
Serving pizza to Chicagoans since 1949 (although this location opened in ’65), Vito and Nick’s is the king of thin-crust pizza done Chicago-style. With Old Style on tap and the Bears on TV, surly waitresses shuffle bubbling-hot pies to a full room of revelers. The crispy but pliant crust, tangy sauce and top-quality sausage separate this pizza from other Chicago thin-crusts. The wait times for pie can run a little long on weekends, so order your drinks by the pitcher and enjoy a true Chicago scene. (Or, thanks to a glut of national attention after the Food Network blew through town, scan the walls for plenty of reading material.)
Just when we thought that Chicago had too many pizza joints, Pizzeria Bebu opened its doors with 25 pies that highlight delicious seasonal ingredients and genius flavor combinations. Purists will dig the pepperoni, which is accessorized with spicy Calabrian chiles, fresh basil and melty Parmesan cheese. Looking for something a bit more adventurous? You can't go wrong with the Garden State, which is dressed up with mozzarella, broccoli rabe, pickled jalapeño, red onion and ricotta. And because guests can order each flavor by the half pie, you can mix and match to avoid FOMO.
Two things keep this place from going the route of sports-bar-beer-bong culture: excellent house brews and expertly executed pizzas. The crispy pies hold a lot of weight, so after you choose your pizza style—red, white, BBQ or New Haven–style “plain” (red sauce, no mozzarella)—start piling on the toppings. (If you’re really going New Haven–style, try one with clams and bacon.) Wash it down with a pitcher of the crisp Golden Arm, and you’ll never disparagingly say “pizza and beer joint” again.
Contrary to most of the country’s opinion, Chicago does not exist on deep dish alone. In fact, most locals really dig tavern-style pizza, a pie with cracker-thin crust topped with bubbled, almost crispy, cheese that’s cut into squares rather than triangles. This beloved stalwart—which is part liquor store, part pizza parlor—has been around since the 1940s, and it's not hard to see why it's still kicking. Take a seat in one of the restaurant's storied red booths, order a glass of cheap red wine and prepared to be charmed—both by the pizza and the roaming live jazz ensemble.
The flame-kissed pies at this Logan Square brewery might just rival the beer that Middle Brow is best known for. Expect a short but sweet menu of options, like the classic margherita with fresh mozzarella and herbs or the mushroom with melty fontina and caramelized onions. And because the dough's made in-house daily, there's not a dud on the menu. The only mistake you can make is not pairing your 'za with a beer: The namesake lager is just right for an afternoon on the patio.
After going on a two-year hiatus, Burt's reopened in 2017, much to the delight of its longtime fans. The Morton Grove pizzeria specializes in deep dish pies that boast a signature caramelized crust. Stuff yours with whatever you want (we're fans of sausage, onions and mixed bell peppers) and enjoy a glass of wine while you wait. Psst: You can still call in a carry-out order, which is arguably the easiest way to get your fix.
Usually we'd shy away from putting a Brooklyn import on a Chicago list, but we can't deny Paulie Gee's pull. And once you try the springy, bubbly, fire-kissed crust at this Logan Square shop, you'll be powerless, too. We feel like proud Chicagoans when we order the Logan Squares, a Detroit-inspired twist that's thick, cheesy and smothered in bright tomato sauce. Pro tip: Ask for a side of hot honey to jazz things up.
Coalfire comes out among the top of the thin crust pizza joints in Chicago. The little spot in West Town (with a second location in Southport Corridor) turns out blistered pies with a chewy, slightly crisp edge from its 800-degree coal oven. While the crust is a work of art itself, toppings are inspired—soft whipped peaks of ricotta balance coins of spicy pepperoni; thin slices of fiery 'nduja, a spreadable Calabrian salami, with fresh mozzarella; and a garlicky white pie are among the standouts. The restaurant fills up fast, but there's always takeout.
If you ask an honest-to-god Chicagoan to name their favorite deep dish pizza, chances are they'll point you to Pequod's, where the signature pan pies are ringed with caramelized cheese and the slices are massive—one piece makes a meal. Add veggies to lighten it up a bit, or go all in, with the sausage pie, dotted with perfectly spiced, ping-pong ball–size pieces of seasoned ground pork. It's not hard to see what all the fuss is about.
The all-day bagel-and-pizza joint crew is a casual coffee shop by day—so casual it feels almost like a cafeteria—and only slightly less casual at night, when proper table service kicks in and wine flows. The menu is rife with far-out flavor combinations that totally work, like the Spanish Monster, with mushrooms, chorizo, cream sauce, scallions and mozzarella. You can certainly share the 14-inch pizzas, but we recommend one per person if you're hoping to have leftovers.
Chicagoans have become accustomed to a variety of different styles of pizza: Neapolitan, New York, Detroit and Sicilian. But what the heck is a Quad Cities-style pie? The crust is crafted with dark-roasted malt, which gives it a subtle sweetness and great chew. From there, a slightly spicy sauce is layered with toppings and blanketed in cheese. After baking in the oven, each pie is cut into long strips with a pair of scissors. No matter where you're from, it's a style worth trying—if only for that satisfyingly sweet crust.
This place is serious about Neapolitan 'za: A custom-built, oak-stoked oven kicks out bubbling beauties with perfectly charred peaks and valleys in less than two minutes. The hand-formed crust is paper-thin at the center and thicker toward the edges and has the unmistakable chew of a true Neapolitan pie. Aside from the simple marinara or Margherita, toppings run the gamut from fennel-flecked sausage to bitter rapini to prosciutto ribbons. Add a humble Italian wine and beer list, after-dinner options such as espresso and limoncello, and you’ve got a great night out.
There are two kinds of Chicagoans: Giordano’s people and Lou Malnati’s people. Lou's has been slinging deep dish pies since 1971 and is known for its flaky, buttery crust. Each pizza is stuffed with fresh mozzarella cheese from Wisconsin, vine-ripened California tomatoes and an exclusive sausage blend. Don't fuss with anything else on the menu—including pasta dishes or thin-crust 'za. A large deep dish pizza easily serves (and fills) four hungry adults.
Owner Nella Grassano is a professionally trained pizzaiola, which essentially means that she's a bonafide pizza expert. Grassano and her husband, Francesco, use this training to crank out pristine Neapolitan pies at their Hyde Park restaurant. Go classic with the stripped-down Nella D.O.P., with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil—or turn things up a notch with the pescatore, a pie loaded with calamari, shrimp, mussels and clams.
Welcome to the “Nine Levels of Hell”: poblano peppers, pepperoni, giardiniera, bacon, fresh garlic, jalapeño, sausage, red onion and banana peppers, together forming the “Inferno.” This pizza sounds terrifying, but trust us, it won’t hurt. The heat’s present but mild-mannered, the thin crust is pleasantly chewy, and the thing is huge. The pizzas have more going for them than the bare room they’re served in, so do carryout or delivery, or resign yourself to the Tenth Level of Hell: eating greasy pizza on a paper plate while some kid bangs on a video game.
Bonci is the 31 Flavors of pizza, in a more elevated, carbo-loaded sort of way. No two visits are the same, thanks to a rotating cast of Roman pies that guests are invited to order by the strip. The crust eats like focaccia, and you can expect to find classic and imaginative toppings like crispy potatoes, spicy eggplant, silky lox and creamy ricotta. Three or four strips is the perfect serving for a hungry adult, and the staff at Bonci is happy to heat them up on-site or give you detailed instructions to do it at home.
Every Chicago neighborhood has its favored thin-crust pie, and for decades, Bridgeport’s preference has been Phil’s. Unfortunately, in 2008, it closed its original wood-paneled spot on Halsted, leaving those years of hard-earned personality behind for a boring dining room a few blocks away. Luckily, the owners took their old-school Blodgett ovens with them, and the crispy exterior crust, chewy interior crust and hunks of fennel-flecked sausage honor the tasty tradition of the original.
Tucked in a cozy basement space in Lincoln Park, this pizzeria has only a handful of tables and a large tourist draw, so you may want to avoid the wait at peak hours. Instead of the traditional deep dish or pan, these pizzas are actually pot pies, built bottom-up in a ramekin and baked with the crust on top. Served tableside, the pie is flipped upside-down and the fillings slide into the resulting bread bowl crust. Overflowing with a sausage-laced bolognese sauce and lava-like cheese filling, this is pizza to the extreme. You can’t provide a better spectacle for out of town guests requesting a Chicago pizza.
Where to find more pizza in Chicago
Good pizza doesn't only exist in pizzerias
We picked the best of our iconic style
When you just want a quick pizza slice, head to one of these restaurants for deep dish or thin crust pie