The 18 Best Pizzas In Chicago
By Lisa White in Food on Sep 17, 2014 4:15PM
Here's the blessing and curse with writing "best of" lists: they're arbitrary. Even with knowledge, the outpouring of emotions whenever we publish a list never ceases to amaze me.
The best example I can offer is last year's list of the 20 best pizza joints in Chicago. We felt it was a good list, encompassing a mix of old neighborhood joints and newer hotspots that showcased the depth and variety of pizza in Chicago.
But this is pizza and we live in Chicago. People here take their pies more seriously than political corruption, and we reaped a whirlwind from readers, centered on the overall list itself, and a lack of South Side picks.
Knowing we would be revisiting best pizzas this year, I approached the staff with a challenge. First, this year's list must contain no repeats from the 2013 article. So no Marie's. No Vito & Nick's. No Apart, Burt's Place, Pequod's, Coalfire, or Da Nella. That list has been trapped in amber.
Second: I wanted more balance between picks on the North and South sides. We know there is a Chicago south of Madison Street. We want you to discover it along with us. (One day, we'll look west of Cicero Avenue, I promise.) The result is another list sure to incite emotions on what we missed. That's okay. We hope this list encourages respectful discussion and that you share your favorites along with us. —Chuck Sudo
The only way to order pizza in Roger’s Park is an all cheese 24” pie from JB Alberto’s. It’s nothing fancy: just a simple formula of crunchy crust, salty tomato sauce and cheese that stretches from pie to your mouth for days. I recommend easy toppings and either deep dish or thin crust. You can go stuffed, if you like, but JB’s is known to suffocate their stuffed pies with mozzarella. I say it’s too much - and coming from me, that means something. — Erika Kubick
JB Alberto’s is located at 1326 W Morse Ave.
I’ll go to my grave defending Phil’s Pizza as the best pie in Bridgeport. Here’s the second-best. Lina’s sauce is on a par with Pizza Castle for sweetness, and their cheese pull on a pie fresh out of the oven is almost record setting. Lina’s makes both thin crust and “deep dish,” which is actually closer to a pan pizza in thickness. I love both, but the extra large thin crust is one of the best deals in town. —Chuck Sudo
Lina’s Pizza is located at 3132 S. Morgan St.
Ceres Table uses their pizza as a showcase for Italy’s fantastic tradition of cured meats. My favorite is the Calabrese, which is a palette of fresh-made cow’s milk mozzarella (called flor di latte), Calabrian chili and caramelized onions made for nduja, a spicy sausage so gloriously fatty that it literally melts into the pizza. Balance it out with a selection from their excellent wine list. —Melissa McEwen
Ceres Table is located at 3124 N Broadway.
Michael Gebert, writing for Serious Eats Chicago in February, asked if Pizza Castle was the second-best pizza joint on the South Side. (Vito & Nick’s being the top dog, obviously.) I’m not ready to rank this West Lawn pizzeria that high, but it is on a very short list of my faves. The sauce is the boss here, sweet as the height of tomato season and topped with some of the nuttiest Parmesan cheese I’ve had the pleasure of burning the roof of my mouth. That’s another thing: the cheese pull here is phenomenal and the pie is baked so well it hides chunks of Italian sausage like gold in the California Hills. All of Pizza Castle’s pies are baked in a Fauld’s rotary oven that may be worth more than the space housing it; they’re no longer made. If Pizza Castle isn’t the second best pizzeria on the South Side, it’s certainly one of the most old school joints on either side of Madison Street. —Chuck Sudo
Pizza Castle is located at 3256 W. 55th St.
Confession of a degenerate diner: once I scavenged a stranger’s leftover pizza crusts from an uncleared table next to mine at The Boiler Room. I could blame the free shot of Jameson that comes with each ATM withdrawal, but really it’s just that The Boiler Room’s crust has the perfect crunch—puffy without being doughy—and it calls to me. Vegans and lactose-intolerant folk can recreate any of The Boiler Room’s quirky pizzas with daiya mozzarella. I always get the BBQ pizza (barbecue sauce, cheddar, pineapple, and pulled pork or chicken) but if a Southwestern pizza is on the table I’ll eat a whole pie of that too. — Lauren Larson
Boiler Room is located at 2210 N. California Ave.
When Coalfire is just too crowded, head to the lower-key Macello’s, which also makes coal-fired pizzas. Their pizza's are simpler than Coalfire’s, but you can’t go wrong with a basic Pizza Margherita with molten mozzarella, tomato sauce, and just lightly wilted basil leaves. They also deliver. —Melissa Mcewen
Macello’s is located at 1235 West Lake Street.
One of the latest outposts from Lettuce Entertain You, Stella Barra offers pizzas similar to Neapolitan pizza yet a little more substantial in terms of crust, which better stands up to their excellent toppings. Stella Barra offers the stalwarts of the genre, like Margherita and Four Cheese while their excellent sausage will win over even the most traditional, old school pizza fan. But some of their white pizzas are the true standouts. Their shaved mushroom pizza includes black truffle, caramelized onions and gruyere cheese to make this an incredibly rich pie. The star of their menu is the Prosciutto and Farm Egg pizza. As the name suggests, it includes shaved cured ham, and a sunny side up egg cooked right into the center. A dusting of pecorino cheese and chili flakes provide that wonderful burnt cheese umami and some kick, while the gooey egg yolk is perfect for dipping the crust. This may be my new favorite pizza in all of Chicago. And while the weather is still warm enough, enjoy Stella Barra’s intimate patio out back.— Benjy Lipsman
Stella Barra is located at 1954 N Halsted.
I’ve lived on the South Side for over 15 years and I swear there are little differences to how a pie is made on the North, South, Southeast, West, Northwest and Southwest Sides of the city. This Chicago Lawn staple reminds me of the pizzas I ate growing up at places like La Villa, Marie’s, Mama Luna’s and Da Vita. For me, that means double down on the fennel in the sausage, which Geneo’s does in spades. Their thin crust isn’t as thin as orthodox eaters of the style will prefer, but I’m okay with a little extra crust to bite through. But then, maybe that’s me being old school. Any pizza that has me wistful for the Northwest Side is worth the oven in which it’s baked. —Chuck Sudo
Geneo’s is located at 2945 W. 59th St.
Pizza Art Cafe
Not to be confused with the Chicago pizza institution Art of Pizza, Pizza Art Cafe is just as good but flies under the radar. Located right off the charming Rockwell Brown Line stop, the tiny neighborhood cafe serves up a mean Neapolitan thin crust plus it’s BYOB. Pair your favorite bottle of red with a simple, but delicious, Rucola pie made of sauce, mozzarella, arugula and cherry tomatoes, or go for something more adventurous with the Calabrese, topped with tuna, anchovies and olives. — Allison Kelley
Pizza Art Cafe is located at 4658 N. Rockwell St.
If you like your thin crust well done, head to this joint in Brighton Park, located across the street from Kelly High School. The pizzas here have that crispy cracker crust that defines the best Chicago-style thin crusts, while the cheese is baked to a golden brown to conceal the savory sauce and other ingredients underneath. Fans of the “cheese pull” won’t find it on Falco’s pies unless you ask for your pizza to be baked regular. But a well-baked pie has its fans and Falco’s is a great reason to trek to the Southwest Side. —Chuck Sudo
Falco’s Pizza is located at 2806 W. 40th Pl.
Medici on 57th
You can’t have a good pizza without a good crust, and if you want good crust, heading to a bakery is a no-brainer. Medici on 57th is a Hyde Park staple and after more than fifty years in the business, they know what they’re doing. When selecting your crust, you have options. They offer a thick and a thin crust as well as a gluten-free option. As a restaurant with a varied menu, they also have lots of fun and funky offerings for pizza toppings. Just look at the Hans’ Smoked German Ham which features, along with the ham, granny smith apples, red onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Definitely worth your time if you find yourself in this neck of the woods. — Sophie Day
Medici on 57th is located at 1327 E. 57th St.
Cleo’s neighborhood bar in West Town isn’t a designated pizza stop. However, in the interest of trying to get away from the more routinely sought after Chicago tourist destinations, it’s worth mentioning that their Carnivore pizza (topped with the vegan nightmare foursome of sausage, pepperoni, chorizo and bacon) is a damn good pie. Typically, I would assume it’s just the grease that attracts me to this thin crust creation, but all of their other (much lighter) creations that I’ve tried are almost equally as tasty. I’m also granting bonus points to the kitchen for having never been served a pizza that’s too crispy or undercooked. The magic always lies in that perfect golden-brown crust. — Katie Karpowicz
Cleo's is located at 1935 W. Chicago Ave.
Most people know Floriole for their amazing pastries, but on Friday nights they put their massive super-hot ovens to use for making perfectly crispy pizza crust. Their selections include a featured red pizza, a featured white pizza and a simple red pizza. The toppings for the featured pizzas vary, but may include such delectables as West Loop salumi, raw milk cheddar, fresh mozzarella and roasted local vegetables. —Melissa McEwen
Floriole is located at 1220 W Webster Ave.
Fox’s Beverly Pub
The video on Fox’s website informs you they’re a classic Italian restaurant, but that most people come for the pizza. You should go there for the pies, initially. Beautiful, made from fresh ingredients and served piping hot, Fox’s Beverly Pub heaps the toppings like few other South Side pizzerias outside of Vito & Nick’s. Given Beverly’s status as one of the more out of the way neighborhoods in Chicago, they also do brisk business with the locals. —Chuck Sudo
Fox’s Beverly Pub is located at 9956 S. Western Ave.
Santullo’s Eatery offers large, sweet-sauced New York style slices for a mere $3.75 each, along with a small but solid beer selection if you want something harder than a soft drink. The thin and foldable crust is also crisp, making it a successful New York slice. As far as atmosphere, it has an edginess that is shown in the worn-in booths and the loud playlists, often of the metal variety. They offer seitan sausage, pepperoni, and chicken that you can add to slices or substitute on full pies for vegan and vegetarian friends. Each day, there are two different specialty pizzas to choose from, still delivering that crispy and chewy crust regulars have come to love. Open till 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, it is a great place to stop in after a night of exploring the bar-lined Milwaukee and North Avenues, taking a breather for a slice and some engaging people watching from their window seating. — Carrie McGath
Santullo’s is located at 1943 W. North Ave.
Flo & Santos
This South Loop restaurant continues to impress me and people I suggest it to, four years after I first reviewed it for Chicagoist. The pizzas here are the foundation and Santos’ menu and perfectly encapsulates Flo & Santos’ Polish/Italian mélange. The Polish pizza, topped with house made kielbasa, sauerkraut and crumbled bacon, is a gut buster, while Santo’s Margherita pizza is a stellar, light pie. Fans of Canadian bacon and pineapple can’t go wrong with the Kai’s Hawaiian pizza. My favorite is still the Buffalo Bill’s pizza, a tangy, zesty eating experience with grilled chicken breast, bleu cheese, green onions and Buffalo sauce. Diners would do well to give the rotating farmers market-inspired pizzas a look, as well. —Chuck Sudo
Flo & Santos is located at 1310 S. Wabash Ave.
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.
I’ve eaten at the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. at least a hundred times and still don’t know what an oven grinder is. But no need—the pizza pot pie will more than suffice. Once a putative lookout post for henchmen of the gunmen at the St. Valentine’s Massacre just across the street, this now cozy restaurant is essentially a one-trick pony, but what a trick it is. Your options are few but glorious. Homemade crust comes in either white or wheat with sauce with or without sausage or whole mushrooms. I used to stretch one pie out for two meals or try to share, but I now eat one all at once. Such is the wisdom of experience and the goodness of pizza you eat with a spoon. —Melissa Wiley
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. is located at 2121 N. Clark St.
Exchequer was a place I stumbled upon years ago when trudging through a January afternoon so cold it could easily have fit into this year’s Polar Vortex. My face was frozen, my stomach was empty and myself and my companion were having none of it. The promise of pizza drew us in, and I’m glad it did. I love Chicago pizza in all its incarnations. I love the cracker thin variety, the double dough and yes, the deep dish. Exchequer does a wonderful deep dish. It has the proper foreboding thud of something that could possibly end you, but the surprising lightness of crust that deep dishes I like best have. The vegetables taste fresh and the cheese is both generous and gooey, as it should be. I usually reserve my deep dish delving for when out of towners are in town, so it’s always a treat coming to Exchequer. It’s less crowded with a fun atmosphere and nearby to Union Station so everyone can toddle on home after some time for digestion. Exchequer may not be the inventor of the pie, but it certainly produces a great one—one that won't have you waiting in the cold. —Marielle Shaw
Exchequer is located at 226 S. Wabash Ave.