Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Native's Guide to Chicago Deep Dish

My wife has on many occasions, called me an elitist. I prefer to think that I'm just assertive in the things I like. If I want a burrito it means I want a barbacoa beef, black beans, and pico de gallo. If I want a cold one it means grab me a Boston Lager. When I want a pizza- a real pizza, I'm talking about Chicago deep dish. If your travels have you headed through my old stoping grounds here's a guide to help you find the ideal pie- and I'm not talking about anything with apples, try to keep up.

Where it All Started
The deep dish pizzas of Chicago are unlike any other style of pizza around the globe. Initially created in 1943 by Pizzeria Uno, this soon to be famous slice of heaven on a plate became the standard for pizza served in Chi-town. The deep, heavy crust is topped with pizza sauce, plenty of mozzarella cheese, and the toppings of your choice. Expect to wait at least 40 minutes for a table, the seating area is tightly cramped- it is an old restaurant after all. If you're a purist and want to experience where the magic started, then this is for you. You'll be just a few blocks away from Navy Pier and Millennium Park where you can take an obligatory photo by "the bean." Plenty of Uno's chain stores have popped up over the US but I can't say I'm impressed with the authenticity of their pizzas. They just aren't as good as what you'll get at the original.

Gino's East is another landmark in the Windy City pizza industry. Several locations exist, but the original is on Superior St. just a few blocks northeast of Pizzeria Uno's. Feel free to scribble or carve your name into the wall or profess your undying love to your sweetheart, but don't expect any originality points from the locals- they've already done it. This location is probably my favorite eat at while I'm downtown, there's a reason you can order their frozen pizzas to be shipped to you overnight- it's just that good. After your dinner, hop on the red line subway on to the Addison stop and catch the Cubbies play a night game at Wrigley (spoiler alert: they probably won't win- but we love 'em anyway).

Lou Malnati's was a relative latecomer to the deep dish party, but nevertheless we're glad they're in the game. The original location is in Lincolnwood, north of the city, but several other locations exist if you're looking to grab a  bite downtown. Don't be afraid of the spinach pizza, the chefs in the back know what they're doing and you'll like it. Plus spinach is a vegetable so it's a healthier option... right? They still offer a great "sasage" pie as well if you cant get over the whole spinach deal.

Last, but not least, my personal favorite: Giordano's. They took the deep dish and made it perfect. It's a stuffed pizza 300 years in the making with a recipe passed down from the old country. This unique pizza has a pie type upper and lower shell made from their decadent butter-garlic crust and its filled with a hot mess of cheese and meat (pictured left). Two slices and you've about had it (double if you're a male between the ages of 16-20). I always opt to buy a pizza much larger than I actually need so I can take home leftovers. If you're in the Chicago area you shouldn't have a problem finding one of their 30+ chains nearby. I'm often sorely tempted to have one shipped down to Texas. But I'm still trying to recreate their masterpiece at home, I'll be sure to let you know if I master the art.

So put my suggestions to the test, and let me know what you think! I have a feeling you'll be singing like Sinatra- that is unless you've lost your better judgement and ate too much, but that's what cabs are for.

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  1. An excellent guide through the Chicago Deep Dish experience! Though I think it's worth mentioning that there are two different sausage pizzas offered at Gino's East. You can have your sausage "crumbled" (which is what most people are used to) or you can get the "sausage patty" pizza. The second option involves a manhole cover of sausage that covers the entire pizza and creates a uniform layer throughout every bite.

  2. You had me at "manhole cover of sausage." Don't think I've had that one, but it's definitely on my short list for next time I'm up there...