Finding New York pizza in Chicago

In the land of deep dish, a New Yorker searches for Gotham-style slices.

True story: The first time I had thin-crust pizza delivered after I moved to Chicago from Brooklyn, I opened the box, gasped and called the pizza place. “There was a mistake,” I told them. “I didn’t want my pizza cut into child-size squares.”

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To my horror, I learned that those teeny pieces were standard if I wanted anything but the two-inch thick, deep-dish messes that pass for pizza in these parts. Things got worse when I realized my slice-and-a-Coke staple wasn’t available on every street corner. I longed for the crisp, foldable triangles of bubbly dough topped with the perfect ratio of sauce to cheese, so I set out on a mission to find my slice of home.

After I heard about Renaldi’s Pizza Pub(2827 N Broadway, 773-248-2445), I decided there might be a reason to stick it out in Chicago after all. Traditional Neapolitan slices as well as doughy Sicilian squares have a crust that’s charred just right. But there’s way too much cheese, making it almost impossible to fold and eat the Neapolitan slices with your hands. It’s good, but I knew there had to be better out there.

I also heard raves about Santullo’s Eatery(1943 W North Ave, 773-227-7960). It works in a pinch, but the slices are ginormous and a little too floppy for my taste.

Then, I found Café Luigi(2548 N Clark St, 773-404-0200), a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it joint originally run by a guy who hailed from Brooklyn by way of Italy. The counters are cluttered with big, blistered slices, plus calzones and broccoli rolls. It feels like home, right down to the tables of East Coast types blotting the oil off their slices, but there’s still a little too much of that Midwestern “the more cheese, the better” thing going on.

I had found some solace with Luigi’s, but I kept my ears open, hoping to find the perfect taste of home. I was at a party in Uptown when I heard whispers about ducking out for slices at Gigio’s Pizzeria(4643 N Broadway, 773-271-2273). If you ignore the seedy storefront and interior, you’ll be rewarded with a delicately sweet sauce and perfect balance of cheese, though sometimes the slices are a bit overcooked.

An even better discovery came earlier this year at New York Slices(1843 Second St, Highland Park, 847-432-6979), a place that could hold its own alongside any Brooklyn pizzeria. The Big Apple–born owner has the cheese-to-sauce ratio down, but he’s secretive about what makes his hand-tossed crust so bubbly, crunchy and foldable. It’s so good it’s almost enough to make me move to the ’burbs. Hey, at least it’s not 700 miles away.

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