Jon Stewart, Chicago Has More Pizza Than Just Deep Dish
This week, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart canceled the armistice between forever warring cities Chicago and New York when he referred to the Windy City’s beloved deep-dish pizza as “an above-ground marinara swimming pool for rats.”
Not only did the fighting words cause a swift rebuttal from Mayor Rahm Emanuel—who sent the comedy news show a deep-dish pie with dead fish on top—but his impassioned diss on what he called “Chicago-style pizza” exposed Stewart’s ignorance as well as most of the country’s. Why?
Because Chicago-style pizza isn’t just deep dish.
I don’t want to argue deep-dish pizza versus New York–style thin crust—that’s like comparing lasagna to spaghetti. Plus, former Chicagoan and Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman already said it best when he told Bon Appétit last November that eating New York–style pizza is “like eating a Slim Jim compared with a filet mignon.” However, the real pizza difference between New York and Chicago is that in Chicago you can have it both ways.
Being sensible Midwesterners, Chicagoans know that deep-dish pizza isn’t a realistic snack to serve at taverns and parties. Instead, we bake a very thin, circular crust that is cut into squares after surfacing from the oven. It’s as simple as a New York slice but actually fits on a cocktail napkin––without any folding. Many locals are unaware of the city’s delicacy, and Chicago-style thin-crust deniers crop up all over the country from time to time. But they are wrong.
Don’t be like them. Instead, enjoy some of the best Chicago-style pizza around at the following thin-crust outposts.
Italian Fiesta Pizzeria
Original location: 1919 E. 71st St. in South Shore
You don’t have to take our word for it that this multilocation South Side staple sells a mean pie: President Obama already endorsed it as his favorite pizza in the country. DC’s Ritz-Carlton even asked the family of founder Phillip DeCarlo to fly their signature recipe to Washington, DC, for an event ahead of his 2009 inauguration. According to DeCarlo’s granddaughter, Patti Harris-Tubbs, it was South Side native Michelle Obama who introduced the commander in chief to the pizza, since she grew up eating it as a reward for good grades.
Original location: 3751 W. 63rd St. in West Lawn
The two-story “Eye Can See Now” Indian isn’t the only landmark is this southwest community. The sweet sauce topping these paper-thin pies caused Restaurant Hospitality to deem Palermo’s a “miracle on 63rd” in 1981. Since then, the positive reviews have only increased, with accolades from the Tribune and Sun-Times over the years. South Siders who have been dining in or taking their pizzas to go for the last 52 years highly recommend ordering sausage as a topping and marveling at the light crust’s ability to hold up the ample amount of meat.
Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta
Original location: 864 N. State St. in the Loop
The 22-year-old eatery’s greatest claim to fame is perhaps being founded by Rudy Malnati Jr., otherwise known as the son of Rudy Malnati: considered by some to be the creator of Chicago deep dish when he was working with Pizzeria Uno in 1943. No matter the truth behind the city’s murky history of deep dish, Pizano’s stands out among the many Italian restaurants owned by members of the Malnati family in that its thin crust is Oprah's favorite. It’s so good, in fact, that the talk-show host’s BFF Gayle King mistakenly ate a slice of the precooked prop pie during the show’s taping.
Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria
Original location: 8433 S. Pulaski Rd. in Ashburn
When the Barraco family opened this Italian joint in 1943, they served thick Sicilian-style pies but eventually developed their own recipe for thin crust. Vito & Nick’s went on to become a local legend in 1965 when owner Nick Barraco declared that they would never deliver, claiming that “if [customers] want a truly great pizza, they will come in for it.”
Turns out he was right. In 2009, Guy Fieri came all the way from California with Food Network cameras in tow. During the taping of his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, one loyal patron made a declaration: “Deep dish—that's for those North Side people up in Wrigley Field.” Fieri himself seemed quite taken by the pizza topped with italian beef, saying “anyone who would come to Chicago and not come here and try this should be arrested.”
Explore more Chicago pizza places and Italian restaurants.