Chicago's deep-dish pizza is legendary, but we have to break it to you: To get the best pizza in Chicago, you have to get out of River North. Otherwise, you'll miss out on the remarkable, cheese-laden specimens at Pequod's in Lincoln Park. Since as many people love deep-dish as love to hate it, we're happy to inform you that Chicago is home to many other pizza styles, from New Haven (Piece) to Neapolitan (Spacca Napoli) to Neapolitan-ish (Reno)—and trying them all is a rite of passge that should top your list bucket list of things to do in Chicago. For a real taste of the city, head south to the stalwart Vito & Nick's, which has been slinging cracker-thin pies since 1949. Here are our picks for the very 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.)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Contrary to most of the country’s opinion, Chicago does not exist on deep-dish alone. The other kind is “tavern-style pizza,” a pie with cracker-thin crust topped with bubbled, almost crispy, cheese that’s square-cut rather than pie-cut. Since 1940, this liquor store/bar/restaurant has been serving a very tasty version. Sausage is the preferred topping among the dudes sucking down beers at the bar, and we agree that the fennel-seed-flecked Italian sausage is great.
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, a version of Detroit-style pizza with a thicker crust and a crispy edge.
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.
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.
Chicago residents 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 over, 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.
Bonci is the namesake of legendary Italian pizza maker Gabriele Bonci, whose landmark Roman shop Pizzerium slings some of the best scissor-cut (al taglio) slices in Italy. The West Loop storefront marks his debut on U.S. soil, and those springy, crispy pies piled with all manner of artisanal goodies taste like nothing you can get around here. Pizza choices may include anchovies draped over oozy burrata, fior de latte with crimson ribbons of prosciutto crudo, or cubes of potato blanketed in lightly blistered mozzarella.
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.
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.
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