Best thin crust pizza in Chicago
Serving pizza to Chicagoans since 1949 (though 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.
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 (which can also be had with fresh buffalo mozz that’s flown in each week), 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.
Tops among the thin crust pizza joints in Chicago is Coalfire, a little spot in West Town that 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 take-out, and a second, larger location in Lakeview.
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. The other kind is “bar 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 quite a 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.
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.
Don’t get us wrong, we love the fresh toppings, including meaty chunks of mild sausage and fresh vegetables that are crisp and crunchy when you bite into them. But it’s really the sauce—full of fresh tomato flavor, speckled with oregano, basil and the faintest hint of red pepper—that’s made this pizzeria an institution. Both the deep-dish and the (not very thin) thin-crust resist sogginess after a night in the fridge, making them the breakfast of champions.
From Vito and Nick’s in Ashburn to Pat’s Pizza in Lincoln Park, it seems every Chicago neighborhood has its favored thin-crust pie. 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.
The Logan Square outpost of the Brooklyn pizza joint serves up the same wood-fired pizzas its 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.