13 Perfect Chicago Pizzas We Are Crazy About Right Now
Pizza is my ride or die. I’ve been obsessed with it pretty much since birth.
It is, after all, the perfect marriage of bread and cheese, with the freewheeling ability to morph styles and flavor profiles, happily incorporating nearly any ingredient in its path (I am not now, nor will I ever be, down with pineapple on my pizza — some things are just beyond the pale). But shrimp and pesto? Sure. Gorgonzola and fig? Yes, please. Bacon/pancetta/prosciutto/sausage/pepperoni? Do you even need to ask? Better living through pork products, I always say. I’m not a snob or a purist about pizza (I will, on occasion, dip it in ranch dressing!), but I do require a few things: real cheese, fresh ingredients, and a calorie-worthy crust, preferably blistered and a little charred, with a substantial chew, able to support the aforementioned ingredients.
I’m an eternal fan of Piece Brewery & Pizzeria — that’s the New Haven college girl in me talking — and I especially love their collabs with local chefs like Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp of Honey Butter Fried Chicken or Doug Sohn of Hot Doug fame. Likewise Coalfire (the Pepperoni and Whipped Ricotta is a must), and the deep-dish wonders of Burt’s Place, Pequod’s, and The Art of Pizza. Looking for tavern-style pizza? Get yourself immediately to Vito and Nick’s Pizzeria, now in its 70th year of serving true Chicago-style thin crust. If true Neapolitan pizza is your weakness, Spacca Napoli is the cure.
But this year’s list visits some newer places worth discovering, because there’s no end to the variety of pizza in this town. As long as there’s a pizzaiolo with a paddle standing at the ready near a searingly hot oven, you’ll find me waiting in line or at a table for that first whiff of pizza, whether it’s topped with tomato sauce or béchamel, mozzarella or feta. I’m an equal-opportunity pizza consumer and proud of it.
317 N. Clark St., Chicago
Hand-stretched, thin-crust wood-fired pizzas are the name of the game here, and the vibe is definitely beachy Italian Riviera. It might be the Chicago River just outside the expansive windows and patio, but inside it’s pure Italian sunshine. The pizzas are perfection, but the real star of the show was the Focaccia di Stefano, which is a Ligurian specialty of thin, crispy sheets of dough stuffed with Stracchino cheese, which we topped with prosciutto. That’s one to write home about.
1954 N. Halsted, Chicago
Chef Jeff Mahin uses only organic, sustainably farmed produce, flour, cheeses, and meats in his delectable pies. This is my favorite stop before a show at Steppenwolf, especially when I can order the Butternut Squash pizza ($17.95). Taleggio, a slightly funkier cheese, combines with shaved squash, candied bacon, and Fresno chiles, dusted with fresh parmesan and torn basil leaves. Such a lovely balance of sweet, hot, herbal, and salty flavors! Haven’t tired of this one yet.