With exposed brick and plasma-screen TVs, Pequod's is firmly a neighborhood bar. But Pequod's is a bar that serves some of the best pizza in the city. The signature pan pizza is ringed with caramelized cheese, and 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.
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.
River West/West Town
The all-day bagels-and-pizza joint from the Telegraph 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. But this is nothing more than a great neighborhood pizza parlor, albeit one with excellent house-made pastas, a killer mizuna salad and house-made hot sauces on the tables.
Art of Pizza has a stand-out pie, and whether you order an entire 12-inch pizza to go or stop in for a slice, you’re sure to get the authentic Chicago pizza experience. The cracker-like crust at Art of Pizza is typical of many of deep dish joints, but with the crisped golden crust you can only get from a well-seasoned pan, they do it best here.
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.
If you told anyone the pizza was "heart healthy" while they were chowing down on the stuffed spinach pizza at Bella Bacino's, they'd call you a liar. But it's true—it's been deemed as such, and it's a pretty damn good pie to boot. Filled to the brim with spinach, cheese, herbs and optional mushrooms (you should add them), the 'za is a great option for Loop workers and tourists alike.
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.
This place is serious about Neapolitan pizza: 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.
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.
The counter-service pizza and sub joint serves New York-style slices, which are big, thin and completely satisfying for a quick lunch or snack. You can't beat the classic thick-cut pepperoni, though the artichoke pie is a nice mild blend of artichokes, spinach, aged provolone, mozzerella and white sauce, and the wild mushroom adds black truffle.
The Logan Square outpost of the Brooklyn pizza joint serves up the same wood-fired pizzas it has in its other locations, all coming from an oven blasting at a hot 1,000 degrees. Crispy crusts filled with bubbles dominate the menu—like the Daniela Spinaci, with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh mozzarella, sliced garlic, baby spinach and olive oil. Want to depart from the original? Grab one of the Logan Squares, with a thicker crust and a crispy edge.