I'm a life long Chicagoan, and have lived on both the North and South sides. Currently, live on the north side with my wife.
@FredipusRex: Don't apologize. Don't ever apologize when you're right. The problem with Ms. Achitoff-Gray (along with many others in the foodie world, and many other areas of life in general) is that they go around preaching diversity and tolerance when in fact they are ONLY TOLERANT TO THEIR OWN IDEAS, and nobody else's. That's not tolerance- that's hypocrisy and snobbery. Here's a newsflash for Ms. Achitoff-Gray- she doesn't get to define what is and what isn't pizza in America, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. And that's not being mean- that's just a fact.
Here's another fact- Ms. Achitoff-Gray, among others, lost this argument a long, long time ago. No matter what ridiculous definitions they come up with to marginalize deep dish pizza, it's one of the most popular pizzas in the world. People from all over the world love it. As I've stated before- Lou Malnati's is the most overnight shipped pizza in America, which very much speaks to its' immense and overwhelming popularity. People like Ms. Achitoff-Gray can't accept this even though it's a stone cold fact. People visit Chicago from all over the world and when they try it, they quickly discover what us native Chicagoans have been enjoying since the 1940s. And then they want a taste of it delivered to their homes in other parts of America. This is a fact, and it cannot be denied.
FredipusRex is correct when he stated that the casserole comments are "childish and churlish" and a "snobby NYC epitect." If Ms. Achitoff-Gray were to walk into any Lou Malnati's location on any given night, Pizzeria Due, Gino's East, Louisa's, or Burt's Place and tell the patrons that what they are eating is not pizza, they would rightfully tell her 1) Who are you, again?; 2) You're wrong; 3) We've been eating this for entire generations, so who the hell are you to tell us what is and isn't pizza; and 4) Please take your snotty, condescending, elitist attitude somewhere else.
I haven't been on Serious Eats in a while because I usually stick to the Chicago forums like LTHFORUM, which is where everyone should go to discuss anything food related in Chicago. But every now and then I look at Serious Eats, and this was a clear reminder why I left. And if Ms. Achitoff-Gray is offended by my very factual comments, then she shouldn't have put her nonsense out there about casserole. If she's going to insult Chicago pizza, then she's a big girl, and she should expect some blowback.
In conclusion, no matter what she and other elitist foodie types blather on about, she will never be able to marginalize Chicago deep dish pizza. It's way too popular and deep down she knows it. For whatever reason, it bothers her to the core. And there's nothing that she, or Ed Levine, or anyone else can do about it. Lou Malnati's will continue to be one of the most popular pizzas in America, along with Gino's East, Pizzeria Due, and Burt's Place. And just for the record, I was in NYC this summer, and I truly enjoyed DiFara AND Totonno's. Great pizza, especially DiFara. Loved it. The difference between myself and Ms. Achitoff-Gray is that I am truly tolerant of every type of pizza. I love it all. I don't go around insulting other people's pizza because that is, in fact, childish and churlish. And definitely not tolerant. But I am.
Good Eating As Always,
@AdamKuban: It's good to hear from you doing what you do best: exploring the wide world of pizza. Awesome. I miss our discussions. Have a great New Year.
Good Eating As Always,
This is an excellent article about an excellent, extraordinary man, who makes excellent pizza. His mark on the Neapolitan scene in Chicago is permanent, and I firmly believe Spacca Napoli's version of Neapolitan pizza would be destination pizza anywhere in America. Good stuff.
@RealMenJulienne: Anytime, buddy- anytime. You just hit all my favorite food groups!
@uberathlete: I 100% agree.
@RealMenJulienne: My brother- we could come up with a Best Chinese Chicago Non-Tony Hu Addition. I was actually at Lao Beijing a while back. Not bad, and I definitely like Lao Sze Chuan, too. Tony's Three Chili Chicken may be the best chicken dish in Chinatown. I'll definitely give the Serious Eats staff that. But that's where it ends for me. When it comes to traditional rice dishes, I definitely prefer other places in Chicago's Chinatown over any of Tony Hu's places.
@OneWallKitchen: Great points. I have the same built-in ratings scale when it comes to Filipino food. And the comparisons are ALWAYS against my mother's recipes. For better or worse, we, as Filipino's, do this much more frequently than we all realize.
@RealMenJulienne: No, I'm Filipino and Chinese, buddy. My wife is born and raised Elmwood Park Italian, as are many of my friends and family. My mom still goes "home" to Leyte every year for the town fiesta, and I go home when I can. Believe me, I stood out like a sore thumb in my old neighborhood because of my heritage. That allowed me to look at their food (Italian) from an outsider's perspective- ON TASTE ALONE.
And because of where I grew up, I have a very healthy respect for the old world Italian grocery store (Al and Joe's in Franklin Park, Alpine in Elmwood Park, Nottoli on Belmont in Chicago). The Italian community where I grew up has a lot of love for these places, along with Johnnie's Beef and Gene and Jude's. And believe me- I get it. I understand their sentiment and loyalty. I grew up on these places, too, and for all of us in the neighborhood, to eat beef or hot dogs anywhere else was strange. I can hear my wife's relatives screaming at me right now! My wife, too.
But in the end, I'm just your average, every day, blue collar, Chicago guy who likes his blue collar foods. And us city workers eat at a lot of places around the city, and we all have our favorites, especially when it comes to Italian beef, Italian subs, hot dogs, and pizza. And yes, Lou Malnati's is a huge favorite of city workers no matter how much Serious Eats tries to downplay their importance/standing/influence on the Chicago food scene.
But when it comes to Filipino and Chinese food, that's my heritage, and I'm super picky about both cuisines. I often don't agree with the Serious Eats love for all the Tony Hu joints in Chinatown, but whatever- to each his own. Many of us Filipino/Chinese guys privately laugh every time Serious Eats writes some glowing article about one of his new joints in Chinatown. But if that's where Serious Eats wants to throw all their love, then so be it. It's always great to see Chinese cuisine featured in Chicago.
And yes, I think you'd really like Isla Pilipina. Give it a try sometime if you're in the neighborhood. It gets really crowded now because of all the media attention from the Hungry Hound Steve Dolinsky, Chicago's Best, and just about every other media outlet in Chicago. But the couple that runs the place are really nice, and they very much care about your total Filipino dining experience. Good stuff.
It really is great to finally see Filipino cuisine featured on Serious Eats. I don't really like this "new" Serious Eats brand. The old Serious Eats was much better when it was focused on particular cities.
Good Eating As Always,
@mikelipino: Mike, I haven't had the opportunity to try Hong Ning yet because I'm not out in Glendale Heights that often, but I'm ALWAYS up for trying all things Filipino. Thank you for the recommendation. I love seeing our home cuisine featured on Serious Eats.
Excellent article, and it's about time Serious Eats covered traditional Filipino cuisine. Here in Chicago, we have Isla Pilipina, among a few other places, but Isla Pilipina is the best in my humble opinion. Chicken Adobo, garlic rice, and pancit were staples in my house growing up, and Isla Pilipina's versions are the closest to my mother's masterpieces. Garlic rice = breakfast in my house back in the day. Chicken Adobo and pancit were for dinner, along with my mother's Filipino pork chops. And fresh rolled lumpia with pork by my lola were for family celebrations. Delicious!
Isla's milkfish is excellent, too. I encourage everyone in the Chicago area to try Isla Pilipina sooner rather than later. Who wouldn't enjoy a nice big plate of lumpia shanghai right about now?!?!? And some leche flan, puto, or halo halo for dessert.
This recipe looks really, really good. I know it's different, but it kind of reminds me of the Italian lemon chicken at Tufano's Vernon Park Tap here in Chicago. Awesome.
@JohnCarruthers: Great article on one of my favorite places in Chicago- the Vienna Beef Factory. Next to Gene and Jude's in River Grove, and Jimmy's at Grand and Pulaski, the Vienna Beef Factory makes the best Chicago style hot dog in the city. It's great bringing the kids to the café in the summer, too. I'd love to have that above pictured Vienna Beef glowing neon sign hanging above the bar in my basement.
There are few things in life better than a Chicago style Vienna beef, all natural casing hot dog- whether it's "dragged through the garden" a la the Vienna Beef Factory Café, or "minimalist style" a la Gene and Jude's and Jimmy's. It's all good to me.
I still like McDonald's Chicken McNuggets with tangy BBQ sauce. I find myself eating my kids' leftovers. I can't help it- I'm still a sucker for Mickey D's.
@monitorhead: If you can pull it off with actual cornmeal, the more power to you. All I meant was that the use of actual cornmeal here in Chicago is truly a myth. It really is all about corn oil, rather than cornmeal, and people that have been previously employed (and still employed) by the traditional deep dish powerhouses very much know this to be true.
On another note, I'm envious of you- one of my all time favorite thin crust pizzas is in Minnesota. I wish I were having it right now. I don't get to the Land of 10,000 Lakes nearly enough. I love your state.
@monitorhead: There is no debate. The original Gino's East, Pizzeria Uno/Due, Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, Louisa's, and Burt's Place all have one thing in common- None of them use corn meal in any of their recipes. If one franchise Gino's East does (and I think I know the specific Gino's East franchise restaurant you're talking about), then they have wandered way off the path of the original recipe, and that particular Gino's East restaurant gets a lot of complaints about their pizza. And for good reason- actual corn meal ruins the crust. Similarly, everybody who's actually worked in any of these above mentioned kitchens knows that corn meal is not used.
Please don't take this as being contrary, but the corn meal myth needs to be put to rest. And the only people that can adequately put it to rest are people who have actually worked in these kitchens or personally know family members who have worked in these kitchens. Sadly, the person who most famously put the corn meal myth in the public eye is someone I admired very much as a food writer (RIP), but he was flat out wrong about this.
And the Gino's on Rush was not related to Gino's East.
The classic Chicago style minimalist dog from Gene and Jude's- onions, relish, mustard, and sport peppers, with some homemade fresh cut fries on top. This is Vienna Beef at its' finest. Nothing compares.
@FredipusRex: Right on, brother. If you ever want to talk pizza, hit me up on LTHforum (I'm "deepdish" over there). We can always do Bartoli's, buddy.
I can't believe Slice was a perpetual loser. Slice was by far the best of the Serious Eats websites. I always thought it had a very strong pizza following, especially on the East Coast. There weren't many Chicagaons on it for obvious reasons, but I always enjoyed Slice for being able to explore pizza from other parts of America. As a Chicagoan, I already know what I have here, and what I grew up on, so Slice was always an interesting foray into pizza from everywhere else.
It will definitely be missed.
@illone: Considering the fact that I've been eating here in Chicago my entire life, I think it's fair to say that I'm a pretty accurate barometer of what Chicagoans have been eating in terms of pizza for the last 60 to 70 years. I don't know the reasoning why people from other parts of America like deep dish pizza, but many people do. It's not just Chicagoans. And if I had to guess why people from other parts of America like deep dish pizza, I'd guess that they like it for the same reasons us Chicagoans like it- it tastes good.
As for me, it really is just the taste and the taste alone. And I'm pretty confidant if you were to actually walk into any given Lou Malnati's and ask a family of 4 why they like Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza, they would most certainly tell you they like how it tastes. And their kids like how it tastes. And their parents before them (i.e. the grandparents) liked how it tasted and still like how it tastes. Nobody would tell you they like it because it's "Chicago style pizza." People generally like certain foods because it just tastes good. Many times, things are just that simple.
Similarly, I can personally guarantee you that if you were to ask anybody in my personal or professional life what their motivation is for eating Lou Malnati's, Burt's Place, or Louisa's, they would look at you kind of strange and then they'd just tell you they like how it tastes. In addition, they'd tell you very specific reasons why certain deep dish recipes at the various restaurants taste better than the other places. They would give you their favorites, and their favorites are based on the fact that whichever place happens to be their favorite tastes better than the other places.
BOTTOM LINE: There's a lot of people here in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs eating deep dish pizza because it tastes good. Malnati's has 37 locations and their sit down locations are packed to the gills on any given night with local Chicagoans and suburbanites, not to mention their very successful carry out business. Giordano's also has many locations, along with Gino's East. And then you have the mom and pops like Louisa's and Burt's Place. In the end, that's a lot of people eating deep dish pizza. And every single person who eats it likes how it tastes. There may be other reasons people eat deep dish pizza, but the main reason will always be the taste, and everybody has their favorites based on taste.
It's obvious you don't like how it tastes, and that's fine. You've got D'Agostino's to fall back on, and a boatload of other types of pizza here in Chicago to enjoy at a moments notice. Maybe I'll see you at the opening of Paulie Gee's Chicago, so we can enjoy a great East Coast style pizza together. Sometimes (actually all the time for me), it's just fun eating pizza with other people who really love pizza in all its' various forms.
@mfrapp: The next time you're near Midway Airport, check out Villa Nova in nearby Stickney, IL. It was reviewed here on Serious Eats a couple years ago, and they just recently won Best Thin Crust Pizza in Chicagoland on CBS2 Chicago News. It's my personal favorite when it comes to thin crust pizza with homemade Italian sausage. Speaking of homemade Italian sausage, Villa Nova's homemade sausage is as good as it gets. It's a hole in the wall with a small dining area and a jukebox, but it's an institution in these parts with a very interesting "Chicago" history that we all knew about growing up. Regardless, it's the best thin crust pizza I've ever had, and the pictures from the Serious Eats review are EXACTLY what a thin crust pizza with homemade sausage should look like here in the Midwest. I think you'll like it- give it a shot. A simple cheese and sausage will do.
Interestingly enough, Serious Eats Chicago is one of two places I go to when I want to find people who dislike deep dish pizza. As much as many of these snotty food writers look down on deep dish pizza (and the very people who eat it), it's immensely popular here, especially Lou Malnati's. They have at least 37 locations, and those locations are packed to the gills on any given night with families, friends, and just about every other local Chicagoan and suburbanite you can think of. Their popularity cannot be understated. That's a lot of people eating deep dish pizza in sit down settings, not to mention their very successful carry out business. And then you also have places like stuffed pizza giant Giordano's, with their multiple locations. And mom and pop places like my personal favorite, Louisa's, and Burt's Place in Morton Grove. BOTTOM LINE: Many Chicagoans love deep dish pizza. Do some Chicagoans hate it? Yes, and the second place I go to witness people who dislike it is right in my own city- the South Side of Chicago.
There are more than a few South Siders who consider deep dish pizza "North Side pizza," or "tourist pizza." They are wrong, because more than a few South Siders like deep dish pizza, too, but some of my South Side co-workers are stubborn and only consider true Chicago pizza as thin crust, cut into squares, with homemade Italian sausage as pizza. South Side thin crust institutions like Vito and Nick's, Villa Nova in Stickney, Aurelio's in Homewood, Pizza Castle, Barraco's on 95th, Fox's at 100th and Western, and Chesdan's are their definitions of "Chicago pizza" and they will not have it any other way. But they are wrong because most of Lou Malnati's locations are in the suburbs far away from downtown tourist Chicago, and those locations are packed on a nightly basis with local Chicagoans and suburbanites who grew up eating deep pizza. And with that many locations, in addition to their many carry out stores, there are more people eating deep dish pizza than they could possibly imagine.
As for me- I like it all.
Like I said, give Villa Nova in Stickney a shot, and take a look at the pictures of their pizza from the Serious Eats review a couple of years ago. That's exactly how a Chicago style thin crust pizza with homemade Italian sausage should look.
Hope This Helps,
@illone: Actually, entire generations of Chicagoans really do love deep dish pizza. It's not just the ideal. The vast majority of us love deep dish pizza because we think it tastes good. It's really that simple. It has NOTHING to do with nostalgia, either. Our native thin crust, cut into squares, with homemade Italian sausage is more popular because it's served in more restaurants, and it's much cheaper to produce. Very few places actually have the know how to do deep dish pizza right. But the very few places that do are excellent in every way, shape, and form. It may not be your thing, but many of us love it for exactly what it is.
FredipusRex is 100% correct- there is no corn meal in deep dish pizza crusts. Instead, very heavy doses of corn oil produce that distinct "corn flavor." For whatever reason, whenever I'm at the original Pizzeria Uno or Uno's second location, Pizzeria Due, the corn flavor is very strong and very obvious. You can actually smell the corn flavor as soon as the server drops the pizza onto your plate. This is not the case at places like Lou Malnati's, Louisa's, or Pizano's because those places all use butter, rather than corn oil.
@FredipusRex: My man- you've got to try Bartoli's. I had you specifically in mind when I posted about Bartoli's in the community talk section a few months ago. As the Gino's East guy that I know you are, I think you'd like the place. I could be wrong, but give it a try.
@derricktung: I'm waiting, Derrick- I'm waiting! The anticipation is killing me. Just let me know, and I'll start spreading the word about Paulie Gee's Chicago. I specifically mentioned Paulie Gee's Chicago in my above post. I'm all ready, buddy!
Great article, Nick. And thank you for admitting your animosity toward deep dish pizza right up front. We may disagree about pizza and subs, but I always appreciate your honesty. Actually, I just appreciate the fact that your open minded enough to try different things. Many of these other Chicago food writers do not share your open minded sentiment. More on that later in this commentary. Growing up here, if I had to pick a top 2, it would be:
1) Louisa's; and
2) Lou Malnati's.
That said, you can NEVER go wrong with Burt's Place or Pizano's. Burt's Place, along with Louisa's, both feature incredible garlic sausage recipes, something Pequod's got very far away from when Burt sold the place to its' current owner. However, Louisa's has been my personal favorite for many, many years, but if this article were put to the test of the general Chicago and Chicagoland public, Lou Malnati's would win hands down, and the margin would not even be close. For Pete's sake, I think Lou Malnati's even had the most votes on the Serious Eats Chicago poll from a couple months ago, and that's quite the accomplishment considering the fact that Lou Malnati's isn't that popular here on Serious Eats Chicago. Yet, they still had the most votes. The one thing Lou Malnati's offers that none of the other places offer is their signature creamy lemon garlic dressing. Lou Malnati regulars (i.e. people that have been eating Lou's for decades) will often have a bowl of their creamy lemon garlic in the middle of the table to dip the pizza into. It's decadent, and for whatever reason, it goes really well with Lou's tomato sauce and garlic sausage recipe.
But for me, you can never go wrong with a place that grows its' own Italian herbs and spices behind the restaurant, and that honor goes to Louisa's. In my humble opinion, it's the best, but Lou Malnati's is really hard to beat, and it's consumed by literally every single person I know in both my personal life and my professional life. Office parties? Lou Malnati's. Going away parties? Lou Malnati's. Anniversary parties? Lou Malnati's. Pizza after our bowling league? Lou Malnati's. Friends and relatives first stop for pizza when coming home to Chicago? Lou Malnati's. They are the elephant in the room that every food writer always wants to ignore, but that task will prove impossible. They are permanently ingrained in Chicago culture, and with 37 some odd locations (and NONE of them franchised), more people are eating Lou Malnati's than ever before. And no food writers will ever be able to deny this or redefine the Chicago pizza scene here in Chicago.
What many of these food writers don't understand is that we already had great pizza here in Chicago long before these food writers ever showed up on scene to "educate" us provincial rubes here in Chicago about what they consider "true" pizza. And that goes for both our deep dish and our native thin crust pizza, cut into squares, with homemade Italian sausage. Our deep dish places like Lou Malnati's, Louisa's, Pizzeria Due, Pizano's and our thin crust places like Villa Nova in Stickney, Q's in Hillside, Bill's in Mundelein, Armand's, Vito and Nick's, Pat's on Lincoln Ave., and Pizano's will always be the real game here in town, long after all the trendy, hipster, artisanal pizza places are long gone. These are the Chicago classics, and they will always stand the test of time, when all the other places go bye-bye.
As for me, I'm eagerly awaiting the grand opening of Paulie Gee's Chicago. As I've said before, I love the diversity of pizza in Chicago. The Chicago classics will always be my favorite, but it's great having awesome East Coast options here in Chicago. This city is big enough for it all, and we are all lucky to have such diverse options. I could never be a food snob because I truly like it all. I've had great pizza all over this country, especially out East. They should all be celebrated for their various virtues.
But many of these food writers do not share the same sentiment. Many of them are food snobs, and snobs in general. Every time they put down deep dish pizza their arrogance, elitism, and condescension are on full display. Many of them go around touting tolerance, but in reality they are only tolerant to their own ideas about food, or even life in general. They are not tolerant what-so-ever when to comes to anybody who disagrees with them. It's like they want to pick and choose what they are tolerant of. That's not tolerance. They are hypocrites of the highest order. And it may not be popular here, but I will call them out on their arrogance, elitism, hypocrisy, and condescension every time.
Like I said, these food writers will never be able to redefine the Chicago pizza scene to conform to what they consider true pizza because we already had great pizza here long before they ever showed up in town to tell us what constitutes "great pizza." They will lose this battle no matter how hard they try. Our pizza culture is wayyyyyyyyyyyyy to ingrained and deep rooted, whether it's thin crust or deep dish.
But what we do have here in Chicago are a lot of open minded people like myself who truly love pizza in all of its' various regional forms. Sometimes, it's just great to love whatever food is in front of you, no matter where it came from.
Let the haters tee off on me, but I know I'm right, and growing up here, I think I'm a pretty fairly accurate barometer of what we've been eating here in terms of pizza for the last 60 or 70 years.
Good Eating As Always,
@jessyjess04: I'm with you on Portillo's chopped salad- it's been the star of many catered family party's over the years, along with Portillo's Italian beef and hot dogs. You can NEVER go wrong with Portillo's. Good stuff.