What is Chicago-style pizza?
We're glad you asked. Pull up a chair and grab a slice (or a square), because we're about to dig in.
It's no secret that Chicagoans are some of the most avid pizza connoisseurs in America. Everybody in the Windy City seems to have an opinion about which pizzeria is the best and what restaurant uses the best ingredients.
You don't have to be a professional pizza chef to appreciate the many different styles and the variety of flavours piled high on every crust across the city.
Add a pizza parlour to your list of things to see and do in Chicago before you hit the road with us on Route 66.
A note on toppings
First up, let's talk about toppings. Even before we explore the different varieties of pizza Chicago has to offer, we have to cover what this region likes on its pizza.
If you're looking for avocado, we respectfully recommend you wait until you step off the trail in Los Angeles to grab a slice of California 'za. And we won't even bother wading into the debate about pineapple.
We just want to let you know that Chicago is a meaty city, and that carnivorous attitude shows up in how their pizza is topped. Of course we're talking about pepperoni, but sausage is second to none.
Italian sausage, perfectly browned on top of a flavourful pie? Now that's heaven. Here, unlike some places, you can get a deep-dish pie where one layer is basically just a big, flat sausage patty. But now we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Don't forget to try tossing some giardiniera on your pizza while you're in town. For those who aren't in the know, giardiniera is a locally beloved condiment that consists of pickled garden vegetables packed in olive oil. Watch out, because the peppers in this concoction can get pretty hot!
Tavern-style thin-crust pizza
First up on our pizza tour, Chicago-style thin crust.
This kind of pizza might be the best kept secret in the Chicago culinary tradition. While stuffed and deep-dish pizza are world-famous standouts, Chicagoans prefer a thinner crust for everyday eating.
When it's first cooked, this pie initially appears similar to the classic New York variety. It's got a flat appearance, an ultra-thin crust, a thin layer of red sauce and then the cheese with toppings poking through.
So what's the secret? Tavern-style sauce is slightly sweet and salty, and notably, it's cut into squares. Don't try folding this one, and be careful not to splash that sauce on your shirt.
Like we said, this is the true Chicagoan's day-to-day pizza. It hits all the right notes without leaving you weighed down like their other signature pies. So ask a local for their favourite neighbourhood spot and you'll probably get some interesting recommendations.
OK, you may have to walk it off, but we promise you, stuffed pizza is totally worth the experience.
How does a stuffed pizza work? Just consult the name. You start with a thick layer of dough, pile on the cheese, which is sometimes mixed with spinach, then add another layer of dough. After that second layer, you add tomato sauce and whatever toppings you desire. A thick crust runs all the way up the side, holding the whole thing together.
So what's a freshly baked stuffed pizza like? Imagine biting into a thick, buttery crust and oozing cheese smothered in rich tomato sauce. Sounds pretty good right?
You may be asking yourself, "How do I even eat this monstrosity?" Good question. Don't worry, Chicagoans know that this kind of pie is way more than a handful, so eating your slice with a knife and fork is perfectly acceptable.
In this case, we actually did save the best for last.
Deep-dish pizza is the culinary contribution from Chicago that's known and beloved around the world, though some New Yorkers choose to pretend they don't like it.
How heavy is it, compared to the thin-crust and stuffed varieties we've just discussed? We'd say it's somewhere in between. Like stuffed pizza, a thick crust goes all the way up to the top, but for deep-dish pizza, there's no extra layer of dough in the middle. Tomato sauce and toppings are added right on top of the cheese, making the whole pie a little more stable.
Still, using cutlery is a good idea for this hefty pizza.
You may want to know which restaurants are baking up the best deep-dish pizza. This topic is a source of heated debate locally. Some folks say Gino's East, while others say Lou Malnati's, Pequod's, Pizzeria Uno or Giordano's make the quintessential Chicago pie. You may not have the stomach to sample them all, but we say you can't go wrong wherever you choose!
Is your mouth watering yet? Sampling American food is just one of the many things that gives Route 66 Tours its unique appeal. Learn more about our upcoming tours today.