As a person who is alive, I consider pizza to be very important to me. As a person who was born and raised in Chicago, and who is currently living in New York City, I find myself invested in the Pizza Discourse™️. And I know this has been said before, but I need to add my voice to the chorus.
Chicago pizza is not just deep dish. In fact, it is mostly not deep dish. And yet that is famously all we’re known for. I lived in the Chicago suburbs for 24 years. I didn’t eat a deep dish pizza until I was 23 years old. And I ate a hell of a lot of Chicago Pizza before that.
Chicago does thin crust. Yes. It’s true. I know, it’s hard to believe. Not only does Chicago do thin crust, they do a damn good thin crust. They do a thin crust that gives New York a run for its money eight days a week.
To reduce Chicago’s pizza identity to deep dish is to erase the hard and delicious work of classic Chicago pie-slingers like Aurelio’s, Ledo’s, Papa Joe’s, Chesdan’s, Barraco’s, and countless others giving their blood, sweat, and tears to the art that is Chicago thin crust pizza.
Having eaten deep dish pizza exactly once in my life, at a little place north of the city, whose name I cannot remember, I can honestly say I like it. It is delicious. But it is not what I mean when I say, “Chicago pizza.” Deep dish is not the Friday night delivery experience for most, if any, Chicago families. Deep dish is not even the most common night out, family-reunion-at-a-restaurant pizza experience in Chicago. 10 times out of 10, the pizza is thin. Deep dish pizza is an 11th time out of 10 experience. It’s an, “oh, so that’s deep dish!” experience. It is absolutely pizza. But it is absolutely not our only pizza.
So, okay, how would I differentiate Chicago thin crust from any other thin crust? It varies, but there is certainly one attribute that remains constant: you must cut the pizza into squares. Circular pie, yes. Square pieces. The first time I ate a “slice” of triangular pizza was in New York City.
New York, I love you, I get what you’re going for, but square pieces are better than triangles. They serve different functions, I know, but taken at face value, square is clearly king.
Now, I recognize that I have only mentioned Chicago and New York in my pizza dissertation while many other places in this wide nation have their own pizzas. Let me assure you: I am not mentioning them on purpose. There are but two titans of pizza in this country worth mentioning at all, and I have mentioned them. I have been to California. I have not eaten their pizza, because I respect myself. I have been to St. Louis. I have not eaten their pizza either. Because I have a brain.
Alright. That’s all I got. Just needed to get all that off my pizza chest.
If you’re ever in the Chicago area, do yourself a favor, ride out to Orland Park, pop over to Papa Joe’s. Get their pizza. If you can’t do that, stop over in Tinley Park and go to Ed & Joe’s. They’ll do you up right. Lotta Joe’s in the pizza game out in Chicago. Not sure what’s up with that.
Chicago does more than just deep dish, okay? Okay.
2 thoughts on “Yes, Chicago thin crust”
As a New Yorker who lived in Cicero and worked in the Loop for 4 years, the company I worked at always ordered Deep Dish (typical tech company show-off flex) for after-work office parties. This thick-tomato-soup-in-a-bad-bread-bowl style was underwhelming to say the least!
The first time a friend ordered a thin-cornmeal-dusted-crust-square-cut pizza in my presence, it was a REVELATION. From then on, I would rush home early from office parties, having called in an order for SEVERAL sausage & onion pies and experience true joy upon arriving home.
Thanks potent hit of sense memory! (saves image to desktop with aplomb)
My favorite NY slice is the Sicillian at Pizza Park (1233 1st Ave between 66th & 67th St) – but Chicago wins this battle.
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Oh man yeah, the cornmeal! How could I not mention the cornmeal! Counting the days until I can eat a Chicago pie again.
I do love a Sicilian though! And a full pan Grandma has been our Friday go-to since shortly after moving here. Good stuff.