The 20 Best Pizzas In The Chicago Area

By Staff in Food on Sep 18, 2013 4:00PM

A few years back we posted "The Great Chicagoist Pizza Joint Debate," an exhaustive and entertaining discussion on our favorite pizzas in Chicago and the suburbs. Chicagoans take their pizza seriously, almost too serious. Blood (and pizza sauce) has been spilled over arguing the city's best pies, families have fractured over insulting a neighborhood pizza joint and much ink and terabytes of server space has been filled debating the merits of deep dish over thin crust.

We decided to revisit the pizza joint debate and offer an updated list of the best pizzas in Chicago. As with all these "best of" lists, this is neither definitive nor complete. But it is long and informative. Leave your favorites in the comments

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Pizzeria da Nella's funghi pizza. (Photo credit: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist)

Pizzeria Da Nella
Nella Grassano has been a game changer for how Chicagoans view pizza ever since she pulled her first magherita pizza out of the oven at Spacca Napoli years ago. After years wandering the restaurant wilderness Grassano and husband Franco look to have finally found a permanent home with their Lincoln Park restaurant and the third-generation pizzaiola from Naples is the star of the operation from her vantage point in front of a hand-tiled wood burning oven crafted from Italian volcanic ash and Vesuvian stone. Mondays are $7 magherita pizza nights but any of Grassano's pizzas are worth the list price, especially the funghi with portobello mushrooms, garlic, mozzarella and mushroom puree. The crust, bubbling and browned from the heat on top with a chewy texture throughout, proves you don't need a passport to travel to Naples when you put yourself in Grassano's hands. —Chuck Sudo

Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana is located at 1443 W. Fullerton Avenue.


Apart Pizza Company
Chicago-style is fine, but sometimes you don’t want to fall into a coma after eating half a slice of pizza. A thin, crisp crust is a hard thing to find, and when I find a place that gets it right, they go right to the top of my list. Apart Pizza Company is my latest go-to for thin crust delivery. I credit my newfound appreciation to our former weekend editor Amy Cavanaugh, who insisted that I order from Apart during a night of gin-fueled gluttony. I’ve never looked back. A particular favorite: their Quattro Formaggi, which isn’t topped with mixed cheese but arranged in quarters, so you and your friends can argue over who wants goat and who wants bleu. Apart has a huge selection of Italian meats, so if you’re up for a night of carnivory that goes beyond sausage and Canadian bacon, they’re perfect. Allow plenty of time for delivery; sometimes good things are worth the wait. —Anthony Todd

Apart Pizza Company is located at 2205 W. Montrose Ave. and 5624 N. Broadway Ave.


Pequod’s
Some consider it blasphemy, but I’ve never been a fan of Chicago-style pizza. I’m more of a razor thin, crisp crust kind of girl, but there's one place I'll make an exception for: Pequod's. A friend lured me there on a miserably snowy day with their $4.95 beer and a 7" pizza lunch special and now it's my go-to for deep dish. The thing that sets Pequod's apart is the beautifully crispy, thick carmelized crust. It isn't weighed down with too much sauce or cheese so it's never soggy and it’s cooked in cast iron, making the crunch consistent from edges to center. I also love their appetizer combo - everything you could possibly want deep fried: mushrooms, mozzarella, zucchini and jalapeno poppers. Perfect for while you wait for your pizza to be cooked to crispy perfection. —Julia Weeman

Pequod's is located at 2207 N. Clybourn Ave


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Barnaby's of Northbrook (Photo credit: Benjy Lipsman/Chicagoist)
Barnaby's of Northbrook
When I was a toddler, it was among the few places our parents took me out to eat... all the way back in the Jimmy Carter era. Today, it's my traditional must-stop lunch after visiting my dentist in Northbrook, as well as any other time I find myself in the area. The ambiance hasn't changed much since my earliest memories of the place, and thankfully neither has the pizza. With a crunchy, scalloped dough edge and a cornmeal dusted, cracker thin bottom Barnaby's is the pinnacle of thin crust pizza crust. They top it with just the right amount of their zesty sauce, and finish it with toppings of your choice. I usually order mine with fennel-laced sausage, pepperoni and some onions to make it healthy. They then cut it into squares, which is the far superior way to eat thin crust. There are other Barnaby's besides the Northbrook location, but trust me, don't waste your time. The Northbrook location is the one that slings the region's best thin crust pizza. —Benjy Lipsman

Barnaby's of Northbrook is located at 960 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook


Mista Pizza
My favorite pizza in Chicago is hardly deep. More like hopelessly shallow—making Neapolitan crust look meaty in comparison—but so good we like to allot one all to ourselves and then fantasize about having another. Mista offers a variety of signature super-thin pizzas, with our go-to being the Napolitano, topped with roasted organic plum tomatoes, garlic, arugula, mozzarella, oregano, sea salt, and EVOO. One of the few ways we can get ourselves to swallow cloves of garlic whole, this is probably your tastiest best bet for warding off vampires. —Melissa Wiley

Mista is located at 2921 N Broadway Ave.


Father and Son Pizzeria
Hey mom and dad, if you're itching to get out of the house and can't find a last-minute sitter, pack up the youngsters and head over to Father and Son. The spacious dining room is a fine place to bring the kids, as the tables are well spread out and you're not sitting on top of your neighbors. It's loud enough in there, too, so you're kids won't be much of a bother to others. It's especially nice for large families and gatherings. And the pizza's good. The thin and crispy crust is highly recommended. The cracker crisp crust is topped with a thin layer of a sweet, yet zesty sauce, and cheese and whatever else you like. The kids will eat it, too. Unless they're a little weird, which is OK. —Casey Moffitt

Father and Son is located at 2475 N. Milwaukee Ave.


Art of Pizza
As Art of Pizza has become more popular over the years, the restaurant has slowly taken over the entire strip mall where it's located, which is now appropriately known as Art of Pizza Plaza. The reputation of the establishment firmly rests on its pan pizza. It's a pie so perfect, so solidly crafted, I've yet to taste its superior. It begins with an exceptionally sturdy crust, crispy on the bottom and sides but possessing a wonderfully chewy interior. Eating it also doesn't require a knife and fork; you can perfectly balance your slice on three fingers: thumb, index, ring. Above the crust is a zesty sauce that’s neither watery nor overly chunky, making the ideal backdrop to Art of Pizza’s superior toppings, among them thinly-sliced discs of spicy pepperoni and juicy black olives packed with flavor. (I'm especially partial to a combination of sausage and spinach, both rustic and hearty.) And then the cheese, oh yes the cheese, usually a shade of toasty brown with a scattering of oregano on top. This is pan pizza offered up with an attention to fundamentals, offered up, well, artfully. Get yourself a 14-inch so that you have leftovers. If you don't eat it all at once, that is. —Rob Christopher

Art of PIzza is located at 3033 N Ashland Ave.


2013_9_17_Maries_pizza.jpg Marie’s Pizza & Liquors
I feel weird using a cell phone at Marie’s because it’s always the only thing in there that doesn’t feel straight out of the mid-’70s. The etched mirrors, rounded red-vinyl booths, dropped ceiling and weekend lounge singers give the illusion that the place has existed in stasis for the last several decades. Even the cheerful, middle-aged waitresses sport feathered hair and drop “sweetheart” and “honey” like they’re your best friend’s mom offering you an after school snack. But enough about the fantastic atmosphere, let’s discuss the pizza—it’s thin crust, square-cut and loaded with a zesty, sweet sauce and plenty of fresh toppings. Ordering the crust “crispy” yields my favorite result—a cracker-crisp bottom that still has satisfying chew and stands up perfectly to the salty, hot and spicy greeziness that explodes with each bite. Big bonus for the attached liquor store, where you can purchase your dinner beverages and enjoy no corkage fee. —Lizz Kannenberg

Marie’s Pizza & Liquors is located at 4129 W. Lawrence Ave.


Café Luigi
I happened upon Cafe Luigi by chance, simply because it was the closest pizza-by-the-slice joint to home. But I stumbled upon what many consider the best version of New York style pizza in Chicago. I'll be honest and admit I've never had real New York pizza and thus won't attempt to vouch for its authenticity. All I know is they offer a damn fine (giant) slice of thin crust pizza. Their crust is crisp with just a tiny bit of chewiness in the edge. Their sauce and cheese are what you'd expect on a good slice of pizza. And the definite topping to go for is their crumbled sausage, a finer texture and crispier than you'll find elsewhere. You could almost miss the tiny, no-frills storefront, but it's worth keeping your eyes open for it on Clark just south of Wrightwood. They deliver, too, but my couple experiences resulted in multiple-hour waits (they're a short walking distance!) so your best bet is to stop in for a slice. Would New Yorkers eat it any other way? —Benjy Lipsman

Café Luigi is located at 2548 N Clark St.


Burt’s Place
If you love Pequod’s, it’s worth the drive to Morton Grove to experience what Pequod’s founder Burt Katz is doing with his no-frills, his-way-or-the-highway neighborhood joint. The first thing to know is that you can’t just show up—Burt’s require reservations at least 24 hours in advance and you must be prepared to place your entire order when you make the reservation. That’s because Burt and his wife, Sharon, source all of their ingredients locally and don’t buy your pizza’s toppings until the day you’re coming in to eat it. The good news is that even though Burt’s signature caramelized crust and super fresh ingredients are worth just about any wait, if you have a 6pm reservation, your pie will hit the table at 6:05pm. Once it’s in front of you, good luck not eating the whole thing - it’s pan style, meaning that the crust is a fluffy bed for the zippy sauce and plentiful, fresh toppings. Order the homemade sausage and tri-colored bell peppers or a pepperoni and fresh garlic, and wear your fat pants. --Lizz Kannenberg

Burt’s Place is located at 8541 Ferris Ave. in Morton Grove


La Villa
For those of us on the Northwest Side, there is no better option when you’re too lazy to cook than La Villa delivery. The thin-crust, square-cut classic pies always arrive roof-of-mouth-burning hot and every conceivable combination of toppings (and I’ve tried some weird ones) seems equally satisfying. One of my favorite La Villa touches is that they apply a second layer of cheese after the toppings are added, so each bite is a little like treasure hunting because you don’t know where the sausage bits or fresh mushrooms are hiding. The extra cheese also makes reheated leftovers extra gooey and satisfying, so be sure to order one size larger than you’ll eat in one sitting. —Lizz Kannenberg

La Villa is located at 3632 N. Pulaski Rd.

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An "Around the World" pizza from Vito & Nicks. (Photo credit: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist)

Vito & Nick’s
No list of the best pizza in Chicago is complete without including this Ashburn outpost that’s home to arguably the best thin crust pizza in the city. Since 1949, Vito & Nick’s has been serving up pies piping hot to neighborhood residents and a growing number of visitors as the Internet has made keeping the place a secret next to impossible The crust, dusted with cornmeal, has that ideal cracker crispness that should be standard to thin crust. The sausage at Vito & Nick’s is made in house and contains liberal chunks of fennel. For my money, the “Around the World” pizza is the way to go here but you can top your with egg, Chicago-style Italian beef and your choice of hot or mild giardinera. —Chuck Sudo

Vito & Nick’s is located at 8433 S. Pulaski Rd.


Dante’s Pizzeria
I'm a huge fan of Dante's gigantic slices of New York-style specialty pizza. Their focus on creative, unique ingredients with a satanic twist sometimes makes for some bizarre concoctions (like the Charon, which is decked out with shrip, prosciutto, pineapple, and jalapeƱo) reminiscent of certain other Satan-friendly purveyors of elevated fast food. My favorite is the mighty Minotaur specialty pie, which is topped with Italian beef, giardiniera, peppers, garlic, provolone, and mozzarella; it's an aggressive, delicious onslaught of strong flavors. What Dante's lacks in options (pizza is available by the slice or as a 20" extra large pie), it more than makes up for in memorable flavor combinations and overall quality. The extra-thin crust is as good as any you'll find in the city; it's crispy enough to keep the titanic piles of toppings contained, but flexible enough to handle being folded in half. Their audacious, over-the-top pizza is one of my go-to recommendations for those looking for something outside the Chicago staples.—Matt Byrne

Dante’s Pizzeria is located at 3028 W. Armitage Ave.


Spacca Napoli
With pizza, crust is key. After all, the crust holds the whole flavor enterprise together in the way string basses do an orchestra. Without the crust, pizza-lovers have nothing. And so, the crust at Ravenswood mainstay Spacca Napoli serves as a soft but strong foundation for more delicate, refined ingredients like arugula and prosciutto to do their thing. Spacca Napoli, which in May celebrated its tenth anniversary, always has fresh, unique pizza stylings that pay tribute to the original Neapolitan style from which all pizza is ultimately derived. If all that sounds too stuffy and fancy-pants, don't worry: order a Salsiccia e Broccoletti (sausage and broccoli, natch), compliment it with an argula and prosciutto salad, and let your taste buds tell you what's what. Upscale or no, flavor speaks for itself, and Spacca Napoli is a symphony for the taste buds. — Jon Graef

Spacca Napoli is located at 1769 W. Sunnyside Ave.

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Piece
We don’t all live for deep dish just because we live in Chicago. I’m a fan of the thinner, crispier pie at Piece Brewery & Pizzeria in Wicker Park. It’s called New Haven style, and you can get it red (tomato sauce and mozzarella), plain (red sauce with parmesan instead of mozzarella--the traditional New Haven way) or white (olive oil, garlic and mozzarella only). They’ve got a multitude of toppings to choose from, or load up on, including some unusual ones like mashed potatoes, broccoli and clams. I usually order red with friends, but sometimes I’ll go on my own and get a lunch size (available before 5pm) white and add goat or feta cheese. And you read that name correctly, they’re also a small-shop brewery with their own award winning beers that you can also take home by the growler. Right now they’ve got one on tap called Surrender that we can only assume is named for co-owner Rick Nielsen’s band Cheap Trick. Dine in and you’ll get to take a look at his famous five-necked guitar.--Michelle Meywes

Piece is located at 1927 W. North Ave.


John's Pizzeria Ristorante and Lounge
John’s is old school in all the best ways. While they do deliver, in my opinion the best way to consume their pizza is at their actual location in one of the three rooms; a more traditional diner, a nicer dining room, or a more basic bar area. (Personally, my favorite is the dining room though be warned that many families decide to host rather large group dinners back there. Whether you decide to eat on site or at home, my recommendation is to order whichever pizza you choose with their double dough crust. I am not a deep dish person, but I am very much a lover of all things crust, so this double dose of goodness hits the spot every time. It’s not your typical Chicago pizza, but it’s one of my favorites in the city. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

John's Pizzeria Ristorante and Lounge is located at 2104 N. Western Ave.


Jimmy's Pizza Cafe
For an unexpected slice of New York in the heart of Chicago's Far North Side, look no further than Jimmy's Pizza Cafe. An unusual, but absolutely undeniable, mix of New York-style thin crust, New Orleans beignets and piping hot coffee, Jimmy's can ensnare you for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you aren't careful. Try the White Pizza—it's like pizza and garlic bread made sweet, tender love in your mouth. —Jon Graef

Jimmy's Pizza Café is located at 5159 N. Lincoln Ave.

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Coalfire
This West Town spot has nearly done as much for introducing Chicago to high-quality Neapolitan style pizza as Nella Grassano, with every pie baked in an oven fired by domestic clean burning coal. Coalfire focuses on the freshest dough and ingredients making their margherita and Fiorentino pizzas among the best in the city, but their mortadella pie is the must-eat. —Chuck Sudo

Coalfire is located at 1321 W. Grand Ave.

Mama Luna's

This Northwest side landmark has remained relatively unchanged for over 50 years. Some of that is bad, some of it is good, including the pizza. Mama Luna's bakes their pies to that cracker crisp firmness, with a pizza sauce that's one of the sweeter ones in the city. Sizes range from a personal size 10 inch pizza to the "Megaball," a 16-inch by 32-inch behemoth of a pie. This would be ideal for the large group that isn't fussy about toppings. If you're in a smaller dinner party that wants to have multiple toppings and can't agree on one, opt for a couple of extra large or family-sized pizzas. —Chuck Sudo

Mama Luna's is located at 5109 W. Fullerton Ave.


Phil's Pizza
When you've lived in a neighborhood long enough for the employees of a pizza joint to know your name, address and order every time you call, you shouldn't be worried and just call your neighborhood home. This Bridgeport staple is cash only and sometimes overestimates the time they'll deliver a pizza to you. But that's because everyone in the neighborhood orders from Phil's. They're usually apologetic about it and never fail to deliver a piping hot pizza to you. The crust is crisp, the cheese so hot it should be measured in degrees Kelvin and the toppings never lack. —Chuck Sudo

Phil's Pizza is located at 1102 W. 35th St.


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