Top 10 Chicago Pizza Palaces You Must Try

Any way you slice it, Chicago pizza is delicious

The Windy City is known for a few famous standout dishes: Italian beef, Chicago-style hot dogs and our infamous pizza. Whether you’re into the traditional Chicago-style deep dish or a more modern thin crust with artisanal toppings, the city has you covered. Here are ten of our favorites places to get your next slice.

 

LINCOLN PARK: Pequod's

Since 1970, Pequod’s has been home to some of the finest pan style pizza in in the city. Beyond the dive bar chic of exposed brick and cheap beer, what makes Pequod’s so special is their signature crispy crusts that has a caramelized cheese edge. These decadently deep and large slices full of fresh toppings (we love the sausage) are a nice step away from thin crust, a perfect hearty meal for Chicago winters. Pequod’s has quite the following, so be prepared to wait during busy dining hours. But, it’s worth it. 2207 N. Clybourn Ave., 773.327.1512

 

CHICAGOLAND: Lou Malnati's

Deep dish can be a divisive topic in the city. Many love it while others argue it’s more a casserole than a pizza. And everyone has their own favorite pie. No matter what side you land on the deep dish debate, Lou Malnati’s has unquestionably emerged as one of the gold standards of Chicago-style deep dish. The famous chain has 54 locations that stretch across the city and suburbs and even will ship pies for those with a craving in other states. What makes this place world famous? It’s the hearty amounts of sauce made from California-grown plum tomatoes and fresh Wisconsin cheese all housed in a thick hand-crafted buttery crust. Make sure you grab a fork and knife, you’re going to need them. Loop location: 805 S. State St., 312.786.1000

 

LOGAN SQUARE: Paulie Gee’s

Found in the fashionable Logan Square neighborhood, this outpost of the famous Brooklyn-based shop tops their pizza with farm fresh artisan ingredients that get a little creative compared to many pizza spots. Paulie Gee’s also offers many options for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Try the Porkypineapple with house-pickled pineapple and post-oven speck, or In Ricotta De Vegan, which includes house-made vegan fennel “sausage” and cashew ricotta dollops. They cook their hand-crafted pies in two Stefano Ferrera wood-fired ovens imported from Italy, giving you a perfectly crispy yet chewy crust. Vegan options also extend into dessert, with cakes by acclaimed punk rock inspired local baker, Pie Pie My Darling. 2451 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773.360.1072

 

WICKER PARK: Piece

Graced with sleek design and co-founded by Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, Piece is an award-winning brewery and gourmet pizzeria in the middle of the bustling Wicker Park district. The pizza is a departure from Chicago deep dish, focusing on New Haven style pies that have gained Piece a worldwide fanbase including the band Foo Fighters and the late Anthony Bourdain. A local favorite is the Honey Butter Fried Chicken Pizza, which is topped with a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan cheese, red and banana peppers, fried chicken and fried crunchies from Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and drizzled with honey. While you’re here, make sure to try some of their small batch beer produced in their seven-barrel brewhouse. 1927 W. North Ave., 773.772.4422

 

ALBANY PARK: Marie’s Pizza & Liquors

Established in 1940, Marie’s Pizza & Liquors has long been a northside institution and a pilgrimage for Chicago pizza fans. Family owned and operated to this day, Marie’s has become infamous for both its quirky decor and tavern-style thin crust sausage pizza. Inside the pizzeria you’ll find funky disco inspired vintage mirrors, sparkling chandeliers, dark decadent wood floors and eccentric red leather-esque seats. Order a round of toasted ravioli to start, a Midwestern classic. Once you get settled in, your pizza comes on a thin cracker-like crust topped with piping hot melty cheese that goes great with an ice cold beer or even one of their martinis. Marie’s also serves old school Italian fare, like lasagna and baked mostaccioli. On the weekends, dining is soundtracked by a swing band performing live jazz. 4127 W. Lawrence Ave., 773.725.1812

 

RAVENSWOOD: Spacca Napoli

Chicago may be the home of deep dish, but traditional Italian-style pizza is alive and well in the city. Located in Ravenswood, Spacca Napoli has made their authentic Neapolitan pizza the old world way for a decade. Most of the ingredients they use are imported from Italy. They start each day kneading dough by hand to turn it into their delicate, tasty crust. Once formed, each pie is topped with a sauce made of tomatoes from southern Italy and other fresh Neapolitan ingredients such as mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto. Each order is finished with a quick toss in a pizza oven built by master artisans from Napoli. For something different, try the Pistacchio, topped with fior di latte cheese, sausage, a pistacchio cream and basil. Don’t sleep on the marinated grilled baby octopus on the antipasti menu as well. Spacca Napoli also has an impressive wine and spirits collection, including multiple digestives if you’ve enjoyed a bit too much ‘za. 1769 W Sunnyside Ave., 773.878.2420

 

LAKEVIEW + WEST TOWN: Coalfire Pizza

Minimalist in design and named after their clean burning coal oven that reaches 1,500 degrees, Coalfire has created a mini empire of delicate thin crust pizzas that have just the right amount of crispy char. Even better, they only use locally sourced organic ingredients from small-batch farmers and humanely harvested hormone-free meats from artisan butchers as ingredients to make some of the best pizza in Chicago. Highlights of the menu include a honey and salami pizza and the ‘Nduja, which comes topped with the namesake spicy spreadable pork salumi, mozzarella, berkshire sausage, ‘nduja infused whipped ricotta cheese, cherry bomb peppers and chopped basil. Lakeview location: 3707 N. Southport Ave., 773.477.2625; West Town location: 1321 W. Grand Ave., 312.226.2625

 

WEST LOOP + WICKER PARK: Bonci Pizza

Called the “Michelangelo of Pizza” by Vogue Italia, Gabriele Bonci is widely considered to be one of the best pizza makers in the world. After winning over audiences in Rome, his critically acclaimed Bonci Pizza made its American debut in Chicago’s West Loop in 2017. The expansion was so successful, Bonci recently opened a second location in Wicker Park. Make a departure from the endless deep dish vs. thin crust debate and try your next slice al taglio-style. This means Bonci makes their dough from imported Italian heritage stone flour and have a menu that is constantly fluctuating based on what fresh locally-sourced ingredients are available at the given moment. Each cooked pizza is served behind a bistro counter displaying all currently available slices, custom cut with scissors with the size of the slice being determined by the guest and priced by weight. Creative toppings you might see on the menu include burrata and anchovy, pumpkin, mortadella and mustard, or spicy eggplant and octopus. West Loop location: 161 North Sangamon St., 312.243.4016; Wicker Park location: 1566 N. Damen Ave., 872.829.3144

 

ASHBURN: Vito and Nick’s Pizzeria

Located in the far southside neighborhood of Ashburn, Vito and Nicks is a beloved family-owned tavern that has been an old school Chicago institution for going on almost a century. They specialize in cracker-thin crust pizzas that have just the right amount of crunch, best paired with classic toppings like Italian sausage or pepperoni and served with a pitcher of ice cold Old Style. If you’re looking for fancy ingredients and décor, you may want to keep searching. Vito and Nick’s no-thrills attitude has gained them quite the cult following in Chicagoland and beyond, including high-profile features on TV shows such as “Check, Please!” and “Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives.” Not into pizza? They also serve a wide variety of pasta, BBQ ribs and fried chicken dinners. When you go, just remember they are cash only. 8433 S. Pulaski Rd., 773.735.2050

 

HYDE PARK: Nella Pizza e Pasta

A labor of love led by classically trained pizzaiola, Nella Grassano, Nella Pizza e Pasta is known for its excellent Neapolitan-style handmade pastas and pizzas. Formerly in Lincoln Park, they recently relocated to the southside Hyde Park neighborhood. Step through their doors and you’ll be greeted by an almost cinematic aesthetic, marble and dark wood bathed in natural light anchored by an authentic bright yellow scooter you’d see zipping down an Italian street hanging over the bar. The food is just as impressive. Nella uses imported San Marzano tomatoes for their sauce, the finest Italian mozzarella di bufala, and makes their dough daily. Once prepared, they cook their pizza in their 1,000-degree wood-fired oven. Pizza highlights include a Ortolana-style pie topped with hearty eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers and mushrooms or the earthy Bianco Nero with black truffle pate, mozzarella di bufala, grilled zucchini, porcini mushroom and white truffle oil. For fresh pasta try the gnocchi di mare with shrimp, baby clams, extra virgin olive oil, white wine, garlic and parsley, or the spaghetti al cartoccio with calamari, mussels and baby clams in a tomato sauce with red pepper flakes. 1125 E. 55th St., 773.643.0603

Selena Fragassi
About the author