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Chicago Pizza: Windy City Serves More Than Its Signature Deep Dish

Veronica Werhane |
May 24, 2011 | 1:12 p.m. PDT


New York Style Thin Crust Pizza.  Photo by Flickr.
New York Style Thin Crust Pizza. Photo by Flickr.
There is a long-standing debate among avid pizza eaters about New York versus Chicago style pizza.  New York-style pizza is typically a gargantuan slice of thin crust pizza, covered with a thin layer of tomato sauce and topped with greasy, melted shredded cheese.  It’s generally folded in half and eaten with one hand, perfect for New Yorkers on the go.

Chicago style deep-dish pizza, on the other hand, is famous for its dense and buttery crust—thick enough to serve as a foundation to support the numerous layers of sliced and melted mozzarella cheese above it.  Fresh red tomato sauce covers the gooey cheese to finish off Chicago’s signature pizza pie, which requires the use of a fork and knife to eat it.  

Many people view the rich and hefty Chicago deep-dish pizza as an abomination—seeing it as having an excessive amount of crust and cheese.  While I will admit that Chicago pizza is certainly not on the lighter end of the food spectrum, I believe that the extra cheese is necessary to stand up to the crust.  This crust, in my opinion, is the secret to really good deep-dish pizza.  Without exceptional crust, there is little-to-no hope for a quality slice of Chicago deep-dish.  

Chicago Style Deep-Dish Pizza.  Photo by Flickr.
Chicago Style Deep-Dish Pizza. Photo by Flickr.

Additionally, one slice of Chicago pizza is enough to fill a person up—If someone tried eating as many pieces of deep-dish pizza as they would thin crust, the deep-dish certainly could feel very heavy on the stomach.

As a native to the Chicago area, I am a huge fan of deep-dish pizza.  There is something about the perfect amount of mozzarella cheese oozing over the famous buttery crust that brings me a ridiculous amount of satisfaction while eating it.  In fact, it was the first thing I wanted to eat when I came home from college in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.  

Despite my love and loyalty to Chicago deep-dish, I equally enjoy a cracker-thin crust pizza.  My only condition is that it has to be high quality thin crust pizza—impeccable crust and adequate sauce-to-cheese ratio is a must.  It just so happened that I had some amazing thin crust pizza this past Sunday—in Chicago, of all places.

My mom and I have a mission this summer to try a new restaurant every week.  This week we ate at Vito and Nick’s, a Chicago Southside pizza joint that was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives—a show that visits small restaurants that are known by its locals to have amazing food.  When I saw Vito and Nick’s on this show, and knew I had to try it for myself.

Vito and Nick's Italian Beef Pizza.  Photo by Flickr.
Vito and Nick's Italian Beef Pizza. Photo by Flickr.

First off, let me just put out a disclaimer that there are no words to describe how pristine this pizza was.  The crust on the pizza was so cracker-thin that you could hear it snap with every bite.  The sauce-to-cheese-ratio was spot-on.  

We ordered half of our pizza Italian beef style—another signature food in Chicago.  It’s made just like the cheese pizza, except with freshly shaved roast beef and hot giardiniera tucked under the cheese.  

It was phenomenal, to say the least.  My only regret is that I only ordered half of the pizza Italian beef style, instead of the whole thing. Never did I ever expect to fall in love with thin crust pizza in Chicago, nor did I expect to find a pizza that combined two of my favorite Chicago staples: pizza and Italian beef.

I learned two valuable lessons this weekend: 1) Order the whole pizza Italian beef style at Vito and Nick's.  2) Thin or thick, eaten with a fork and knife or folded in half with one hand, pizza is a beautiful and delicious part of life.  Whether you like deep dish from the Windy City, or the thin and foldable pizza from the Big Apple, always keep your mind and stomach open to trying different styles.

This July I will be in Rome on a study abroad trip, and I cannot wait to get my hands on some authentic Roman pizza.  If there is one place that pizza is guaranteed to be divine, it’s Italy.  I’ll be sure to report back.




Send your food questions/suggestions (recipe ideas, restaurant recommendations, food questions, cooking tips, anything food related) to Veronica.  Your questions and comments might be featured in next week’s column!



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