For nearly 50 years spent at four different pizzerias, Burt Katz has been putting out some of the best pizza in Chicago. Since 1989, he's been putting out pies that have made Burt's Place a local favorite and must-try for visiting pizza freaks.
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I could spend weeks putting together a list of Chicago pizzerias that I could describe with the phrase, "I'd be happy eating there regularly." But a much shorter list is one of pizzas that are truly crave-worthy; pies that make my mouth water whenever I think of them. Pequod's is one of those places.
I had my doubts before I headed into SoNo Wood Fired. I knew virtually nothing of the pizza, but the name, which refers to a neighborhood that only exists in a real estate developer's imagination, screamed that the place was trying way too hard.
East Rogers Park is not exactly overrun with pizzerias and Gruppo Di Amici is the only restaurant in the area that attempts a higher end pie. The dimly lit restaurant has a welcoming feel and the service is great. But the pizza came up short.
D'Amato's has existed under its current name and ownership since 1971, but the location has been home to a bakery with same massive coal-burning oven since 1880. In the years since the D'Amato family started selling pizza, Chicago has seen an explosion in its pizza scene. Through it all, D'Amato's has held its ground and still puts out what are, dollar for dollar, among the best slices in town.
The toppings and sauces on pizzas at Revolution Brewing tilt heavily towards nontraditional, but they're too good to be written off as gimmicky. The beer will always be the top draw at the year-old hipster haven, but the pizza is definitely worth checking out.
You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but a good cover may get you to open a book. If I see an old school pizzeria with a big neon sign, worn pleather seats, and pictures of restaurant-sponsored Little League teams, I'm going to dive in with high hopes. Pete's Pizzeria #2 has all the signs of a classically delicious pizza joint, but unfortunately the pizza comes up woefully short.
Suparossa may be known for its stuffed pizza, but it's the thin crust (topped with excellent fennel-packed homemade sausage) that steals the show.
one sixtyblue in Chicago offers a Margherita pizza with a twist; the sauce is made from smoked tomatoes. The idea sounds like a good one and there is surely room for it in the pizza universe. However, in this particular version, the smokiness proves too much for the rest of the pizza to handle.
With a crisp cracker-thin crust, slightly sweet sauce, and some good browned commercial mozzarella, Joe's Italian Villa in Bridgeview, Illinois, puts out a good tavern-cut pie. But if you order their house-made fennel and pepper-packed sausage on top, you are in for a real treat.
While it would be nice if every little-known pizzeria in a distant nook of Chicago turned out to be a hidden gem, all too often places are not widely known simply because they are not particularly good. And that was the case with my bakery pizza from House of Cakes in Norwood Park.
It may not be traditional Tuscan food, but Coco Pazzo's deviation from the norm is everyone's win as the longtime River North Italian restaurant turns out some creative and extremely well-executed pies.
The fried panzerotti at Caponie's is quite good, but homemade deep fried pockets of cheese, sausage and sauce pretty much always are. Unfortunately, the pizza itself is not worth the hike to the western edge of Chicago.
When a certain Food Lab writer called me out last week for not presenting strong Chicago pizza options, I had a couple of reactions. First, I had to point out that, in fact, the week prior to last week's monstrosity was actually an excellent pie. But second, knowing that I was being watched left me hoping more than usual to find a good one this week. I grew up on stuffed pizza and the style almost never disappoints, so I headed up to Evanston to try out Carmen's Pizza. I was able to scratch my stuffed pizza craving itch, but it was not the most satisfying experience.
Typically a visit to a dimly lit square cut pizzeria that's been around for more than four decades means you're in a neighborhood that either is or once was an Italian stronghold. That is definitely not the case at Barnaby's of Northbrook, an institution just off I-94, a multigenerational favorite on Chicago's North Shore.
I opted for a giardiniera and sausage pizza, a combination I've been loving more and more lately. I was happy with the pizza, but it didn't blow me away. That's not to say the pizza was bad at all. In fact, for people who have never had a classic Chicago thin crust pizza, I imagine Traverso's would seem pretty excellent.
If you know anyone who grew up in the southern suburbs of Chicago at any point in the last 50 years, the chances are good they have a deep love for pizza at Aurelio's. Opened as a restaurant that would star beef sandwiches by 26-year-old Joe Aurelio Sr. in Homewood in 1959, the popularity of the pizza quickly redefined the place as a pizzeria.
Louisa DeGenero, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Italy in 1918, spent a couple of decades working as a cook at Pizzeria Due (review of Uno's here) before opening her own place in 1981 with the help of her adult daughter. Today, Louisa's is serving pies that are better than anything her former employer puts out.
There's not a whole lot to say about the actual pizza at Noli's New York Style Pizza. If you're craving that magical orange grease and are on the lookout for a mediocre New York slice, Noli's will fill your need. If you're craving a great example of New York –style pizza, fuhgeddaboudit.