Pequod's Extra Sauce, Extra Cheese Pie
The original restaurant of Burt Katz, not of Burt's Place (also on our list!), Pequod's continues to thrive under current owner Keith Jackson. With their regular pie, the chunky, juicy sauce and melted mozzarella are applied with a bit toom much restraint. Order your pies with extra cheese and extra sauce if you want it to balance out the massive hunks of crisp, juicy, porky sausage.
It's simple pizza—about as plain as a sausage deep dish gets, but its crust is one of the best in the city. There is nothing gourmet about the pizza at Pequod's, and there is no single ingredient we can point to as being close to the best in Chicago. But the way everything comes together is simply magical.
Spacca Napoli's Diavola
The mozzarella di bufala, imported regularly from Italy, is put on the pizza freely and has a remarkably creamy texture and a tang that adds some nice depth to a cheese that is commonly too bland. The Diavola gets its name from red pepper flakes and a seriously delicious and chewy spicy salami. The heat is balanced by the cheese and the bright, sweet and mildly acidic San Marzano tomato sauce. The large pieces of fresh basil complete a set of toppings that never fails to satisfy us at Spacca Napoli.
The charred crust at Spacca Napoli is consistently beautiful with a slightly crisp outer shell on the end crust, but not very much. It's a delicious piece of bread, and it's about as good as pizza crusts get.
Burt's Place Extra Sauce, Extra Cheese PIe
At Burt's, it's the crust that really stands out. The oily bread, one of the thickest pizza crusts in Chicago, is like an excellent piece of focaccia that would be very good with no toppings at all. Burt's pizza is plenty delicious as is, so most people don't feel the need for extra sauce or cheese. But with the extra sauce and cheese, it is simply magnificent.
Every discussion of the pizza at Burt's Place really should begin and end with the crust. I'm not sure if the chef, Burt Katz, invented the idea of putting a little extra cheese between the dough and the pan to get some chewy browned deliciousness, but he seems to be responsible for making it a permanent part of the pizza landscape.
Burt's Place: 8541 Ferris Avenue Morton Grove, IL 60053 (map); 847-965-7997
Dough Boys Stuffed Pizza
The stuffed pizzas at Dough Boys—a relative newcomer on the Chicago scene that also serves up thin crust, New York style, and Sicilian pies—is significantly lighter than a traditional stuffed pizza. The sauce delivers an outstanding harmony of sweetness and tanginess (though it's a bit heavy on the oregano), and it's applied thick over a moderately thick layer of melted cheese.
But where Dough Boys really stands out is exactly where you'd expect it to: the crust. Made with lard, it's got a far flakier and crisper texture than any other crust in its class, with a burst of fatty flavor running through the whole pie.
Dough Boys: 626 S. Racine, Chicago IL 60607 (map); 312-226-5550
Pat's Thin Crust with Sausage
Pat's is about as old school as thin crust pizzerias get, and by Chicago standards, that means that it's heavy on the cheese and sauce, they make their own excellent sausage in-house, and their crust is so thin as to be completely negligible as far as adding flavor goes: It's a vehicle for delivering great sausage, cheese, and sauce to your mouth.
Every single person who sets foot in Pat's should order a thin crust pizza with sausage. The housemade hunks of fatty, juicy, and chewy pork are little bombs of pepper and fennel. The cheese is moist and always comes out of the old Fauld's oven with some nice browning, and the sauce imparts a pleasant tang.
The impossibly thin crust is somehow simultaneously crisp and soft and even the inner squares retain their rigidity for the duration of the meal. More than sixty years after opening, Pat's is still going strong in the same neighborhood and run by the same family. Here's to hoping they stick around for 60 more.
Great Lakes Heirloom Tomato
Lessin's crust has a beautiful lip or cornicione, as the Italians call it. It is more breadlike than either Anthony Mangieri's is at Una Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco or Chris Bianco's pizza in Phoenix. In fact it looks and tastes a great deal like Nancy Silverton's pizza at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. This is glorious, light yeasty, pizza crust.
The No. 1 comes with slices of fresh heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella, garlic, herbs, and tangy, salty mona cheese (made from a blend of sheep and cow's milk in neighboring Wisconsin), Inspired, perfectly proportioned, and wonderfully balanced, Great Lakes' toppings are in fact the stuff of pizza genius.
Great Lake: 1477 W Balmoral Avenue, Chicago IL 60640 (map); 773-334-9270
Lou Malnati's Malnati Chicago Classic
Sure, there are now over 30 locations of Lou Malnati's in and around Chicago, but it's perhaps the quintessential deep dish pizzeria, and its proliferation belies the foolish claim that deep dish is merely for tourists. They offer a regular crust, but the one to get is their signature buttercrust, which has the ideal crisp and crumbly texture that manages to hold together under large quantities of cheese, sauce, and toppings.
The Malnati Chicago Classic, which combines a buttercrust with their awesome well-seasoned homemade sausage is Lou Malnati's at its finest. And that means it's one of the best deep dish pizzas known to man.
Art of Pizza's Stuffed Spinach Pie
No matter how many times we eat it, the mere thought of getting our hands on a stuffed pizza induces a Pavlovian response. The golden crust filled with a stunning amount of mozzarella and toppings, all topped with a rich tomato sauce brings a thrill that makes the typical 45-minute wait well worth it.
Art of Pizza: 3033 N Ashland, Chicago IL 60657(map); 773-327-5600