Chicago style pizza is an iconic food item that originated in the city of Chicago. The gooey cheese, steaming hot sauce, and crispy crust makes this pizza absolutely delicious and different from the original, flatbread pizza.
What makes this pizza different from other styles? Read below to find out everything you need to know about Chicago deep dish pizza.
Deep Dish Pizza: A Unique Chicago Staple
Pizza in the United States is a long standing tradition amongst Italian-Americans. From thin New York style pizza, to wood fired pizza in San Francisco, all the way to the deep dish iconic pizza from Chicago, pizza is a popular and tasty treat for all Americans to enjoy.
The city of Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza, which is prepared in many different styles. Most Chicago style pizzas are cooked in a deep dish, which gives it an alternate name and its iconic, high edge crust.
The deep dish that the pizza is cooked in gives the pizza enough space to hold a ton of extra cheese and chunky tomato sauce, which makes this pizza unique. Other styles of Chicago pizza feature a stuffed crust with cheese.
History and Origin of Chicago Pizza
Pizza first came from the Italian city of Naples. The word “pizza” actually originates from the Italian word “pinsere” which can be translated in English to “stamp”. It was named this because the way the flat dough resembled a stamp.
In Naples, there were many working class residents looking for something quick and cheap to eat, so pizza was born as an easy meal for the residents here. It was cooked outdoors in giant ovens and sold on the streets, where residents enjoyed the traditionally super thin dough covered with authentic Italian tomato sauce. Occasionally pizza would be topped with cheese, anchovies or garlic.
Since the origins of pizza in Italy, it has moved on to the United States by immigrants. In the 1800s and 1900s, immigrants moved to major American cities like New York and Chicago looking for factory jobs.
While the origins of exactly when the Chicago style pizza that is popular today was first created, researchers believe that deep dish pizza was first made way back in the 1920s. The first documented Chicago style pizza was not until 20 years later though.
Many believe that in 1943, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, the owners of the famous Pizzeria Uno in Chicago created the recipe for deep dish pizza. This pizza was different from the traditional Naples style paper-thin crust, it featured a much deeper dish, crunchy crust, and inverted layers.
As you slice through Chicago style pizza, it resembles more like a cake than a thin pizza. The owners of Pizzeria Uno, Sewell and Riccardo, completely revolutionized pizza and created their own style which is now famous all over the world, not just in Chicago.
What Makes a Pizza Chicago Style?
For a pizza to be considered Chicago style, it must follow some rules. First, it must be layered correctly. It must have crust, cheese, and then sauce, in that order.
Second the pizza must be baked and served in a round, deep dish pan, with a lot of grease. The uniquely deep pizza with a crispy crust is the staple of Chicago style pizza.
Lastly the pizza must have so much cheese that it may seem excessive. The super cheesy, cake like structure of the Chicago deep dish pizza is essential. If a pizza meets these three criteria, it is most likely a Chicago style pizza.
Traditionally, Chicago style pizza is filled with everything from meat to vegetables, inside a super cheesy and saucy middle. The tomato sauce for deep dish pizza is chunky, and it is placed on top of a dense layer of mozzarella cheese.
The dough for Chicago pizza is made in a deep dish, which is prepped with olive oil. The dough is then placed inside of the deep dish, it is then coated with semolina flour mixture to make it extra crispy. It is pressed into the deep dish, creating the iconic, crunchy crust that holds all of the fillings.
The olive oil fries the crust, making it crispy and able to hold the huge amount of sauce, cheese, and toppings that will go inside.
Style of Dough
The style of this dough is very different from traditional pizza dough. It is made with lots of olive oil, which basically fries the crust to make it crispy. Traditional pizza dough is a flat bread, which cooks into a thin layer on just the bottom. With Chicago pizza, the dough is unique and forms around the round deep dish pan. It is a thicker crust than normal pizza so that it can hold all of the toppings.
Chicago style pizza can be filled with a variety of toppings. Most commonly, Chicago pizza is first filled with sliced mozzarella cheese, which is then covered with different vegetables and meats. Common vegetables are onions, mushrooms, and peppers. Common meat toppings include the most popular Italian sausage or pepperoni.
Sweet crushed tomatoes are then layers on top of the toppings. The reason Chicago pizza is inverted, with the cheese on the bottom and the sauce on the top, is because they want to avoid the cheese burning on top while the thick, cake-like pizza cooks all the way through.
The pizza is so thick that it usually takes about 25 minutes or more to cook all the way through. The sauce protects the cheese making it not get burnt from being in the oven for so long, and keeps it soft.
Serving Chicago Style Pizza
This style of pizza is always served right out of the pan super hot. It is served in a pan with clamps, similar to one that you would bake a cheesecake in, that keeps the edge of the pizza intact.
Large pieces of pizza are served from the pan, and the cheese pull on this pizza is incredible! Long strands of cheese will ooze out of the side, inviting whoever will be eating it in for a super delicious and rich treat.
Thick Crust Variations
A thicker crusted, Silician style pizza was also created in Chicago as a variation of the original Chicago style pizza. This variation of the original has a focaccia-like crust and texture that makes it a little different.
In this variation, the cheese is pushed all the way to the corners of the crust, instead of being encased in the sauce like the original Chicago style pizza. The cheesy edge becomes caramelized and it is very different from the original Chicago style pizza.
What Makes Chicago Style Pizza Different from Other Pizzas?
Chicago style pizza is very different from normal pizza. Normal, traditional pizza, like Neapolitan pizza, usually offers a thin crust that can only hold so many toppings before it gets soggy or collapses. Chicago pizza is uniquely identifiable because it has a deep dish that can hold many more toppings than a regular pizza.
The crust is sturdy on a Chicago style pizza, and it is meant to be eaten with a fork and knife instead of with your hands like a normal slice of pizza. A deep dish piece is far bigger and thicker than a regular slice, and it is filled with lots of amazing ingredients.
The Best Deep Dish Pizza Restaurants in Chicago
For the original Chicago pizza, visit where it all began at Uno Pizzeria. This restaurant is now a chain and is available all over the United States. It now goes by the name of Uno’s Pizzeria & Grill.
For deep dish pizza that is the most popular in Chicago, visit Giordanios. They specialize in stuffed pies that are also accompanied by a top layer of crust on the top. This variation creates a huge stuffed pizza pie that is unlike another.
Opened in 1971, Lou Malnati’s is credited as one of the original makers of Chicago pizza. Visit Lou Malnati’s for a sausage, cheese, and sauce on a delicious butter crust.
This establishment serves up original Chicago style pizza that is loaded with lots of cheese and sauce on a crispy crust. It is very popular and has over 5 locations in Chicago.
The Chicago style pizza at this restaurant has been compared to a cross between Chicago style and Detroit style.
This restaurant serves the thicker crust variation of deep dish pizza. It is loaded with lots of toppings like mushrooms, garlic, and has that signature caramelized cheese at the bottom.
Best Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza Recipes
If you are looking to make some amazing Chicago style pizza at home, follow these delicious recipes!
This recipe by Sallys Baking Addiction is great for making a homemade authentic-tasting deep dish.
Another favorite is Recipe Girl’s Chicago style deep dish pizza recipe. Check out their recipe here.