Chicago pizza is a unique style of pizza that originated in the city of Chicago. With its thick, hearty crust and generous layers of cheese, sauce, and toppings, Chicago-style deep dish pizza has a very distinctive taste.
Chicago pizza tastes like a savory pie with a crunchy, buttery crust that resembles a biscuit. The thick layer of gooey, molten mozzarella cheese provides a rich, creamy flavor, while the chunky tomato sauce offers tangy freshness. Hearty toppings like Italian sausage and bell peppers add spicy and savory notes to each bite.
How Does a Slice of Authentic Chicago Pizza Taste Like?
A slice of authentic deep dish Chicago pizza looks almost like a pie rather than a flatbread. The thick crust forms a bowl that is filled with cheese, sauce, and toppings.
When you take a bite, the first thing you’ll notice is the crunchy texture of the buttery crust. It has a crispiness on the edges from being pressed up against the oiled pan as it bakes. But the best part of the crust is the flavor – it tastes almost like a savory biscuit or shortbread. That’s because authentic Chicago pizza crust uses cornmeal or semolina flour to give it that unique soft yet crispy texture.
Underneath that top layer of crust is where you’ll find a generous heap of gooey, molten mozzarella cheese. Chicago pizza uses whole milk low moisture mozzarella, which melts into long, stretchy strings as you take a bite. The cheese provides a rich, creamy taste and texture that perfectly complements the crunchy crust.
Under all that cheese you’ll get to the chunky tomato sauce, which is usually uncooked and textured. The sauce provides bursts of tangy, bright tomato flavor but isn’t overly seasoned. It tastes like it’s made from freshly crushed canned tomatoes.
Finally, the hearty toppings like Italian sausage, pepperoni, bell peppers, and onions add little bites of spicy, savory goodness throughout each mouthful. Their flavors get locked into the hot pizza so you get the full taste in each bite.
Why Do People Love the Taste of Chicago Pizza?
There are several reasons why Chicagoans and tourists alike line up for the iconic taste of Chicago-style pizza:
- The layers of flavors – from the crunchy, flaky crust to the gooey cheese, zesty sauce, and savory toppings, every bite is an explosion of textures and flavors.
- The heartiness of the pizza makes it incredibly satisfying and filling. The thick crust and generous toppings create a meal rather than a snack.
- The buttery, cornmeal crust provides a unique flavor that you can’t get from a thin, New York-style crust. It’s almost like eating deep dish pizza and breadsticks at the same time.
- The thick, retain-heat crust means the pizza stays hot and fresh-tasting for a long time.
- The long baking time allows the flavors of the cheeses and toppings to really meld together into a cohesive medley.
- Chicagoans are proud of their iconic food tradition and feel a strong nostalgia when biting into a slice of Chicago-style pizza.
Where Can You Get the Best Tasting Chicago Pizza?
While you can find Chicago-style pizza all over the country now, nothing beats sinking your teeth into an authentic slice in Chicago. Here are some legendary spots to get the true, originial taste of Chicago pizza:
- Pizzeria Uno – The original home of Chicago-style deep dish pizza since 1943. Their signature pizza is loaded with cheese, sausage, and onions.
- Gino’s East – Chicago pizza royalty since 1966, Gino’s handmade crust and secret spice mix creates a loyal following.
- Lou Malnati’s – Famous for its buttery, flaky crust, Lou Malnati’s has perfected the art of Chicago pizza over decades.
- Pequod’s Pizza – Known for caramelizing the cheese right onto the crust, Pequod’s offers a unique, crispy-edged deep dish.
- Giordano’s – Giordano’s stuffed pizza variation loads the cheese in between two layers of crust for an extra cheesy indulgence.
What Makes Chicago Pizza Different from Other Pizzas?
There are a few key differences that set Chicago-style pizza apart from New York-style or Neapolitan pizza:
1. The Crust of Chicago Pizza
The thick, crunchy crust of Chicago pizza is its most distinctive feature. It gets its flaky texture from incorporating cornmeal or semolina flour into the dough. And it’s baked in a cast iron pan that has been seasoned by years of use, which gives the crust a unique buttery flavor.
2. The Sauce of Chicago Pizza
Chicago pizza sauce is chunkier and fuller-flavored than typical pizza sauce. It’s uncooked and almost stewed, with visible tomato chunks rather than a thin, herby sauce.
3. The Toppings on a Chicago Pizza
Chicago pizzas are absolutely loaded with toppings. You’ll find thick layers of cheese along with hearty meats like sausage or pepperoni and veggies like onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers.
4. The Cheese in a Chicago Pizza
Whole milk low-moisture mozzarella is used to allow that gooey, stretchy cheese pull you expect from Chicago pizza. The cheese softens but doesn’t weep moisture during baking.
5. The Baking Process of a Chicago Pizza
Chicago deep dish pizzas get baked for over 45 minutes to crisp the crustand meld the flavors. The extended bake time sets it apart from a quickly baked thin crust pizza.
How to Make Your Own Delicious Homemade Chicago-Style Pizza?
To recreate the iconic taste of Chicago pizza at home, here’s what you’ll need:
- A cast iron or steel pan to mimic the deep dish pans originally used. Be sure to oil it thoroughly first.
- Make the thick, crunchy dough with bread flour, cornmeal, yeast, salt, sugar, olive oil, and water. Let it rise before pressing into the pan.
- Load on the cheese first. Whole milk mozzarella is a must but you can add Parmesan, provolone, or cheddar too.
- Pack on meats like sausage, pepperoni, bacon, or meatballs and veggies like onions, mushrooms, peppers, and olives.
- Top with chunky, uncooked tomato sauce. Crushed canned tomatoesseasoned with garlic, basil, and oregano works perfectly.
- Bake for 45+ minutes at 400-425°F until the crust and cheese are golden brown.
- Let the pizza cool for a few minutes before slicing so everything sets up.
- Dig in and enjoy your homemade taste of Chicago!
What Are Some Famous Variations of the Classic Chicago-Style Deep Dish?
While the original Chicago-style pizza is a deep dish, some other variations have become popular in Chicago pizzerias:
- Stuffed pizza takes it a step further with two layers of crustsandwiching the cheese and toppings. Giordano’s perfected and popularized this version.
- Cast iron pizza is baked in a seasoned cast iron skillet to give the crust a fried edge for a caramelized crunch.
- Double decker pizza stacks two thin crusts layered with sauce and toppings for a deep dish effect.
- Upside down pizza bakes with the sauce on the bottom instead of the top for a unique twist.
- Thin crust pizza uses the same cornmeal dough but gets stretched thinner for a crispy, tavern-cut style.
Is There Any Healthier Version Of A Traditional Deep-Dish Style?
Deep dish pizza is definitely an indulgent, high-calorie meal. But a few tweaks can make it a bit more nutritious:
- Use a whole wheat dough for more fiber and nutrients.
- Opt for part-skim mozzarella to cut some fat.
- Load up on veggie toppings like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and onions.
- Go easy on the meat and choose lean proteins like chicken or shrimpinstead of sausage or bacon.
- Ask for less cheese or half the normal amount.
- Choose thin crust instead of deep dish.
- Opt for individual size instead of large slices so portions stay reasonable.
What Drinks Pair Well with a Slice of Savory, Cheesy, and Hearty Chicago-Style Deep Dish?
With all of its bold flavors, Chicago pizza demands an equally flavorful beverage pairing. Here are some perfect matches:
- Ice-cold beer like lager or Pilsner helps cut through the fat and cleanse the palate.
- Dry red wine like Chianti or Cabernet stands up to the hearty toppings and balances out the richness.
- Sparkling wines like Prosecco or Champagne provide bubbly acidityto contrast the richness.
- Unsweetened iced tea or lemonade offer bright, refreshing flavors between bites.
- A robust Caesar salad with a creamy dressing compliments the pizza’s savory flavor.
- For dessert, a cold glass of milk is the perfect way to cool the heat and temper the robust flavors.
Chicago-style pizza is truly one of a kind when it comes to taste. With each bite of the crunchy, buttery crust, gooey cheese, zesty sauce, and hearty toppings, you’ll taste why Chicago pizza has reached iconic status. Though deep dish began in Illinois, you can try your hand at making the decadent original or some unique variations at home for a taste of Chicago any time. Just be sure to pair it with a cold, crisp beverage to balance out the indulgence!