Stuffed deer antlers, a large canoe suspended from the ceiling, and carvings of bears surround diners at Bill's Pizza & Pub. The northwoods seeps indoors at the venerable pizza place, which exhibits the idiosyncratic decor of a lodge. The wood-grained eatery first established its novel dining room more than 50 years ago, when its founder and namesake converted a garage into a roadside pizza joint. There, Bill and his wife, Pat, devised the double-decker pizza that still emerges piping hot from the kitchens at two locations. Both locales exhibit the same relaxed setting, in which families can scarf double-decker slices and freely toss peanut shells to the floor or out windows at mounted policemen.
In the mind's eye, pizza is always round, but Eugene and John Jetts imagined a different kind of pie. Thinking outside the box led them to square pans, which could be easily lined with dough to create crispy, deep-dish pizzas. They started churning out their hearty creations under the moniker Jett's Pizza, and while they have lost a 't' throughout the years, they haven't sacrificed their original passion for great pie. According to Eugene, “"There are a lot of ways out there to make cheaper pizza. Jet's is about better pizza. That's why we have never skimped on the product or the ingredients, and never will." They also still use their now codified original crust recipe in more than 200 different kitchens across the United States, a feat rivaled by only a handful of other pizza companies and the Earth, whose crust recipe is displayed in every kitchen on the planet.
In 1966, taxi drivers Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli finally became fed up with their stop-and-go lives full of honking horns and rush-hour traffic. So they shut off their engines, handed in their keys, and took root. Along with pal George Loverde, they invested in property just off the bustling Magnificent Mile, but then didn’t know what to do with it. According to a 2004 profile in the Chicago Tribune, they got their direction when someone finally said, “Put pizza in it.”
Though the rest is history, it wasn’t quite easy. Bartoli and Loverde came from Italian and Sicilian backgrounds, but neither knew the key to a good pizza. It wasn’t until they hired Alice Mae Redmond, the woman responsible for the dough at Pizzeria Uno, that the Gino's East Chicagoans know and love was truly born. Although Alice Mae retired back in 1989, the recipe for her flaky, golden deep-dish pizza crust lives on.
Today, Gino’s still stands at its original spot on Michigan and Superior but has also stretched to 10 other city and suburban locations. Whether dining downtown or in St. Charles, customers find Alice Mae’s signature crust piled with mounds of cheese, sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes, and plenty of fresh toppings—from sausage and pepperoni to jalapeños and ground beef. Hot from the oven, pizzas arrive at tables snuggled inside seasoned deep-dish pans, ready to welcome a fork and knife. Thin-crust varieties are also available for those who don’t know how to work silverware, as is a bounty of sandwiches.
Carmen's Pizza first began kneading its dough in 1979, establishing itself as a destination for authentic, Chicago-style pizza. Although the chefs still bake deep-dish pies with thick, golden crusts, they also hand-toss thinner pizzas and layer ingredients between the twin crusts of their stuffed pies. The 16-topping-strong selection includes perennial pizzeria favorites, including sausage and mushrooms, along with slightly more eclectic options such as giardiniera and pine nuts. Hearty pizzas dominate the menu, but the chefs also blanket orders of pasta with housemade tomato or cream sauces and smuggle sweetened ricotta into cannoli shells.
The slice-savvy staff at Wa-Pa-Ghetti’s Pizza slather sauce made with vine ripened tomatoes atop the handcrafted crusts of thin, thick, and stuffed pies. More than 20 toppings mingle on pizzas, which are always made to order and emerge from ovens about half an hour after diners send orders via carrier kites into the kitchen. Chefs also assemble 15 kinds of sandwiches and a host of American fare to round out the menu. Barbecued ribs and chicken are slathered with the house sauce, and baked potatoes come adorned with edible topping toupees in combinations inspired by Italian and Mexican cuisines or loaded with a custom combination.
Chicago's Pizza's menu boasts thin- and stuffed-crust pizzas alongside classic Chicago–style sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Specialty pizzas boast toppings such as ham, pepperoni, bacon, and sausage or tomato, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms. Chicago–style hot dogs are piled with toppings, and calzones reveal delectable fillings.