Gabriele Bonci started making and selling his pizza al taglio in Rome, in 2003. The Roman style of pizza is something Chicagoans have only seen elsewhere. In 2017, Bonci opened his first location outside of Rome, in Chicago. Al taglio refers to pizza by the slice (literally “by the cut”) as they are baked in sturdy rectangular trays and then cut to-order and weighed.
161 N Sangamon St, Chicago, IL 60607 | 312.243.4016
1566 N Damen St, Chicago, IL 60622 | 872.829.3144
Everything at Craft Pizza screams “farm-to-table,” and they attempt to highlight ingredients, like the fact their sausage is made locally by Anichini Brothers. No need for a wood-burning oven here, because the dough gets a two to three-day cold rise fermentation, allowing it to bake in just eight or nine minutes. Inspired by classic New York-style pizzas at Lombardi’s, John’s and Patsy’s (who have Neapolitan roots) they call their pies “Neapolitan American East Coast,” which implies there is a wide lip, some puffy blistering, and a thin interior.
1252 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 | 773.442.7238
You can’t miss the “cash only” sign directly behind the cashier at this legendary West Town bakery. Generations have come here for the fantastic, crusty loaves baked in their coal-fired oven (grandfathered in after city regulations changed). Look further down the case for the blackened rectangular sheet pans and you’ll find a treasure trove of Sicilian gold: large rectangular slices of colorful pizzas, topped with all manner of onions, tomatoes or pepperoni. The sausage slices are clearly the most popular, as they consume most of the real estate.
1124 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642 | 312.733.5456
Dante’s offers both enormous 20-inch specialty pies and gigantic, Fred Flintstone-sized NYC-style slices. These mammoth pieces dwarf most Midwestern slices, and in many ways are superior to them. Let’s begin with the heel, which is at least an inch wide and brushed with garlic butter, parmesan, and herbs, packing a lot more flavor than you’ll find at ninety-nine percent of the by-the-slice joints in Chicago. A well-charred undercarriage and an excellent dough-to-topping ratio make this chewy, blistered mega-slice great any time of the day.
2825 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 | 773.342.0002
With both locations in bar-dense areas (Wicker Park and Wrigleyville) and signs out front advertising their PBR Tall Boy nights along with delivery until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. on weekends, Dimo’s typical demographic tends to skew young. Buffalo chicken? Macaroni and cheese? Sriracha-marinated tofu tucked into a creamy peanut sauce anyone? This isn’t exactly an NYC-style slice, but it’s a Midwestern slice rooted in that East Coast tradition.
1615 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 | 773.525.4580
Nick Nitti has been a student of Neapolitan pizza for some time. He’s visited the Neapolitan gurus around the country for inspiration, like Chris Bianco, in Phoenix, before deciding to open his own place in the Dunning neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side. (His newer location, on West Randolph, is much more convenient for Neapolitan-loving pizza fans near downtown, and thus, is on our tour). The cornicione here is majestic: slightly charred from the heat of his wood-burning, beehive brick oven, it arrives amply blistered, covered in generous blobs of fresh mozzarella and a half dozen fresh basil leaves. Take a look inside that crust and you’ll see air pockets, revealing a decent amount of fermentation. This is a crust you want to finish off.
1048 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 | 312.243.6000
Rich Labriola’s downtown location, just off Michigan Avenue is well within the tourist sweet spot, which means deep-dish is a must. His family recipe (the Russo Sausage, laced with fennel and Calabrian chiles, is a modern Chicago classic) emphasizes a dough that remains impossibly crispy beneath, while offering up some of the best tomato sauce on a deep-dish anywhere in town.
535 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611 | 312.955.3100
Lou Malnati worked at Pizzeria Uno in the ’60s and left to open his namesake along a stretch of Lincoln Avenue in Lincolnwood in 1971. In the decades since, his offspring have stretched the brand into nearly every Chicagoland nook and cranny. They’ve also set up a nationwide shipping apparatus, so your homesick cousins in California can get their deep-dish fix anytime, thanks to FedEx. They offer both the standard deep-dish plus a pizza featuring Malnati’s trademarked Buttercrust™ for an extra charge. Both versions arrive with a crispy-edged crust about two inches high on the outside and a tad shorter on the interior. That crust is sturdy, holding up a layer of Wisconsin mozzarella, lean sausage, and chunky sauce harvested from California tomatoes—but it’s not overkill.
1235 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 | 312.243.4000
MY PI PIZZA
Since 1971, My Pi has been serving deep-dish pizzas. Now sharing a space with Lil’ Guys Sandwiches in a Bucktown strip mall featuring an L.A. Tan salon, My Pi serves thin or deep slices as well as whole pies. The construction of the deep is a bit different than normal: the dough is an even thickness across the bottom and then rises up on the sides a good one to one-and-a-half inches. Cheese covers the bottom layer, insulating the crust from becoming soggy as a result of rendered sausage fat or tomato juices. Then comes the sausage or pepperoni, and finally, the tomatoes. But unlike the thin tomato sauces elsewhere, this topping is a forest of tomato chunks, roasted and slightly blistered, that release their sweetness as they combine with oregano and a hint of garlic.
2010 N Damen Avenue, Unit E, Chicago, IL 60647 | 773.394.6900
NONNA’S PIZZA & SANDWICHES
Chef Todd Stein had been to the East Coast plenty of times. He’d tasted the Sicilian style slice at D’Amato’s in West Town, and yet, he still found himself craving something a little bit different once he took the helm at Formento’s in the West Loop, along with its casual sibling, Nonna’s, a sandwich shop on the side of the building. He spent at least a year working out his recipe – which calls for adding a bit of the previous day’s dough to the mix, then letting it rest overnight. Unlike other Sicilians, he doesn’t add any cheese or toppings before the proofing of the dough is finished. He prefers to let it rise, then he’ll add his whole milk mozzarella slices and the Margherita brand pepperoni discs. His sauce is quite a bit spicier than most, as he just adds some chili flakes, but they’re potent. The bottom has the crispy, lacy undercarriage you’d expect, from frying in the olive oil while baking in the sturdy pans.
925 W Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607 | 312.690.7323
PAT’S PIZZA & RISTORANTE
The legend that is Pat’s has always been about its thin crust. When the pie arrives at your table on a stainless-steel, dimpled disc, you can tell immediately how thin it is. Almost caramelized on the edge, the pizza is nicely browned and blackened all over its undercarriage. The sauce goes all the way to the edge, but the crust is where Pat’s excels: so perfectly crispy, almost like eating a salty cracker dipped in cheesy tomato sauce. You can actually hear when you bite into the crust, which is rare among thin crust competitors.
2679 N Lincoln Avenue, Unit E, Chicago, IL 60614 | 773.248.0168
Chef/Owner Tony Priolo sticks to tradition: 00 Caputo flour, San Marzano tomatoes and fior di latte cheese. He uses a biga, or bread dough starter, that’s about nine years old (they add flour to it each day, “feeding” it to keep it going). Once the dough is made, it rests overnight. The ultra-thin center is not typically Neapolitan, in that it’s not all wet. This is an “Italian-style” pizza as Priolo calls it, and it does its country of origin proud.
464 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60642 | 312.421.0077
A veteran of the Gold Coast’s Nico Osteria, Zach Smith and his partner, Jeff Lutzow, created a hidden gem among the caverns of unidentifiable apartment and light industrial buildings just south of North Avenue, near a massive Whole Foods store. The restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside. Tucked into a long, narrow room at the base of a micro-apartment building with floor-to-ceiling windows, it could just as well be a furniture store. The Margherita is a Midwestern gem: five large basil leaves top off the pie, along with a half-dozen amorphous blobs of fresh mozzarella. Unlike those of many shops in town, Pizzeria Bebu’s tomato sauce is more generous (I guess when you know that your bottom crust can hold its own—and hold things up—you feel more confident adding liquid or sauce on top of the crust).
1521 N Fremont St, Chicago, IL 60642 | 312.280.6000
SALERNO’S PIZZA OF CHICAGO
This family-friendly restaurant in West Town has been around since 1966—they have a few other locations in the suburbs, too, including Oak Park and Lyons. The crust here differs from many of the usual tavern-style pizzas in that it has dimension and some cracker-like qualities. The pizza is prepared in a rotating 500-degree gas oven. The dough ferments for 24 hours and is made fresh each day. They also prepare and season their sausage and sauce and shred whole milk mozzarella cheese daily.
1201 W Grand Ave Chicago, IL 60622 | 312.666.3444
UNION FULL BOARD
Union Squared started in Evanston (itself, an off-shoot of Union Pizza’s wood-fired pies) as one of the first true Detroit-style pizzas in Chicago. They have since expanded to the Revival Food Hall in the Loop and now here, at the Wheelhouse Hotel, just a block South of Wrigley Field. The pies are made in the same blue steel pans they use in Detroit, baked in the same Middleby Marshall conveyor belt ovens they use at Buddy’s, the place where it all started in 1946. The pizzas we typically get here arrive with Ezzo Sausage’s “cup-and-char” pepperoni, pickled jalapeños and Mike’s Hot Honey. The contrast between the soft, spongy interior and the lacy, crispy brick cheese & mozzarella perimeter make it one of the most unique pizzas in town.
3473 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60657 | 224.322-0100