FOOD AND DRINK
Where to Get Chicago's Best Pizza
Chicago is as famous for pizza as it is for hot dogs, baseball and Al Capone. It’s a staple in the Windy City and can be found in every neighbourhood.
Pizza’s humble beginnings started with Italian immigrants, who brought with them what was considered peasant food from their native land. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, they mostly settled in the Heart of Italy and Little Italy neighbourhoods, located 10 to 15 minutes from downtown. As they moved to other parts of Chicago, they took their food with them. Pizza eventually, of course, became a big hit for everyone.
All pizza is not great pizza, however. This list showcases some of the very best around town, including some restaurants where the pizza on offer is Chicago-style and some places where it isn't. From a sleek Michigan Avenue reboot specializing in Neapolitan-style pies to classic deep dish at family-friendly landmarks, these spots offer a little slice of heaven.
SPECIALIZING IN DEEP DISH
Uno Pizzeria & Grill
Credited as the architect of deep-dish pizza, Ike Sewell opened his first restaurant in 1943 in a historic River North building. The space is tiny, with red-and-white checkered tablecloths, offering customers a family-friendly, homey setting. An instant success, Uno spawned an outpost across the street called Pizzeria Due. The same classic pizzas can be found on both menus, with spinach and cheese and “Numero Uno” (extra cheese, sausage, pepperoni, fresh mushrooms, onions, green peppers) at the top of the list.
29 E. Ohio St., 312-520-0242
Two things are certain in Chicago: the wind-chill factor in winter and a line snaking around the corner at the original Gino’s East. Opened in 1966, the chain now boasts almost 20 locations. While the menu remains the same at each venue, the original boasts graffiti walls filled with signatures from A-list stars, politicians and other notables. There are thin-crust pies, but the specialty is deep dish. One school of thought on Gino’s East says the more toppings there are, the better the eating experience, which is why the “Meaty Legend” (pepperoni, Italian sausage and two kinds of bacon) and spinach margherita (spinach, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil) are fan favourites.
162 E. Superior St., 312-266-3337
Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta
In the heart of the bustling Gold Coast neighborhood is this long-time pizza parlour catering to late-night appetites. Pizano’s stays open until 2 a.m. Fridays (3 a.m. Saturdays), so revellers can soak up that last drink with the famed deep-dish delights. Pretty much anything may be ordered on a pizza, but why do that when they’ve perfected the pies? Most people keep it simple with cheese, sausage or pepperoni, but another great seller is the “Mark’s Special” of sliced tomatoes, basil and fresh garlic.
864 N. State St., 312-751-1766
SPECIALIZING IN OTHER STYLES
Pizzeria Via Stato
The European-inspired pizzeria serves thin-crust pies that complement Italian vino by the glass, craft beers on draft and seasonal cocktails. At Pizzeria Via Stato, they’re called “tavern” pizzas because they’re made to pair well with alcoholic beverages. Most pizza choices are unconventional (with toppings such as farm-fresh eggs, fennel pollen and vidalia onions), and there’s also a pizza of the month focusing on farmers’ market ingredients. Though the restaurant is located on a busy strip of State Street, it’s not open very late and attracts a good number of locals and visitors.
620 N. State St., 312-642-8450
This newly renovated Italian eatery located right off the Mag Mile is a creation of Tony Mantuano, a highly revered chef boasting Michelin stars and James Beard honours. Bar Toma concentrates on gourmet-style pizzas. Mantuano has travelled extensively through Italy for inspiration, and his menu reflects classic Neapolitan offerings with a dash of local flavour. There are two large wood-fired ovens cranking out sweet gems like “The Gold Coaster” (topped with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula, lemon, grana padano) and “Live For Cheezus” (fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, ricotta, grana padano).
110 E. Pearson St., 312-266-3110
Top Chef fan favourite Fabio Viviani is a partner in this outfit, which is a serious draw for a polished, post-work crowd. Siena Tavern boasts a cosmopolitan vibe and a communal pizza bar (there’s also a crudo bar for fresh fish and a whole “mozzarella bar,” too). Settle in and watch the chefs work as they assemble pizzas with interesting ingredients like roasted garlic cream, shaved fingerling potatoes and white truffle oil. An added bonus is getting fresh truffles shaved tableside upon one of the thin-crust pizzas. The pizzas are made in a custom-designed stone oven inspired by one in Italy. That helps churn out the crispiest crusts with bubbling ingredients on top. Other highlights of the menu are an oversized Wagyu beef meatball that’s easily share-able, a number of house-made pastas (try the short rib ravioli topped with roasted porcini mushroom) and brick chicken diavolo that’s an ode to a favorite on old-school Italian restaurant menus. Siena Tavern’s cocktail and wine menus are also highly regarded.
51 W. Kinzie St., 312-595-1322