Considering Chicago's claim to deep-dish pizza fame, it's no surprise that hundreds of pizza joints dot the city. In addition to classic, crowded venues like the original Pizzeria Uno and Due and the still-beloved Lou Malnati's and Pequod's, the city offers plenty of eclectic, off-the-beaten-path pizzerias that are preferred by native Chicagoans. The most passionate local pizza enthusiasts flock to these five eateries for everything from deep-dish pies to cracker-thin crusts.
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company
Since 1972, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company has satiated local appetites with its one-of-a-kind pizza pot pies, better known as pizza in a bowl. Available in a half-pound size for one and a full-pound size that is perfect for sharing, the pies contain homemade sauce, sausage, mushrooms, and a special blend of cheeses. While you wait, start with the pizzeria's popular Mediterranean thin-crust bread with spices and oil. Make sure you carry cash for this cash-only joint.
The most creative, eccentric, and tasty pizzas come out of the two Dimo's Pizza locations at Wrigleyville and Wicker Park. This pizzeria especially likes to turn other types of cuisine into pizza. Many of the unique pie options change, but unusual staples that are always available include The Mac (macaroni and cheese) and The Buff Chick (buffalo chicken). Experiment with other crazy combinations like chicken 'n waffles, steak nacho, or S'mores, a sweet treat with marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers on a mozzarella base.
If you can find this hidden pizza joint, you're in for a treat. The original Forno Rosso location is tucked into the back corner of a strip mall on Harlem Avenue near Addison Street. Owner Nick Nitti trained in Naples and is certified by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, an Italian organization that recognizes true Neapolitan pizza. Nitti's secret? He re-creates the Naples' environment by using precise temperature control methods for the dough and filtered water to keep it authentic. Chewy crusts and fresh ingredients combine with a warm, attentive staff to create a local cult following.
My Pi Pizza
For non-touristy pies at lower prices than found in downtown Chicago locations, the locals flock to the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood, a zone that is always on the cutting edge of culinary experiences. Since 1971, My Pi Pizza has used San Marzano tomatoes from California and cheese from a Wisconsin farm. Whether you order deep-dish or thin, you can expect a pizza that is crispy but not dry.
Vito & Nick's Pizzeria
In 1946, this family restaurant started making the original Sicilian-style pizzas that have made Vito & Nick's Pizzeria famous with the locals. It claims to serve the best thin-crust pizza on the South Side of Chicago. Guy Fieri, host of the TV show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," featured the restaurant on his show and gave it a thumbs up. You can't get more old-school than the unassuming storefront and cash-only policy. Rose George now runs the restaurant started by her dad and grandfather, and she says the décor and secret recipes haven't changed since the Ashburn district location opened in 1965.
If you love pizza, sample one or all of these local delights on your next trip to Chicago. Share the experience with us on Twitter and other social media.