Chicago, Illinois is known to be a city full of great food, one of which is their famous pizza. When you think of Chicago, you probably think of their Chicago-style deep dish pizza which is baked in a round pan that is similar to a cake or pie pan versus the typical pizza pan. By making pizza in this deeper pan, the pizza has a thicker crust and layer of toppings. But deep dish pizza isn’t the only pizza that’s good in this city, Chicago has thousands of pizzerias, each making their pizzas in a variety of different ways from deep-dish to thin crust, to even cooking their pies in a fire fueled by coal.
When I visited Chicago this past weekend, I was eager to try some of their pizza, so I was excited when my friend, Steph, over at Twenty-Something Travel, recommended the Chicago Pizza Tour. This tour brings you beyond the touristy neighbourhoods, and big names, and helps you discover some of those pizzerias that only the locals know. The tour makes four stops across the city by bus, and the guides are well versed on everything related to the city and their culinary favourite, the pizza.
Here were some of the yummy stops we made along the way on our adventure to find our favourite Chicago pizza.
Our first stop of the day, and my favourite of all the stops. Pizano’s is located in the downtown core, in The Loop neighbourhood and was created by Rudy Malnati Jr., the son of Rudy Malnati Sr., who opened, Pizzeria Uno in 1943, aka the pizzeria that is said to have potentially invented the deep-dish pizza. Pizano’s opened in 1991 and features yummy pizza pies made with only the freshest ingredients.
At this stop we tried their famous deep dish pizza—my first taste of this Chicago tradition, and I was blown away at how delicious and fresh the ingredients tasted. I expected deep dish to be dripping with grease and leave me with a pizza belly ache, but I was pleasantly surprised when this slice only left me wanting more. We also tried some of their sausage thin crust pizza, as we were told Pizano’s only gets the best of the best sausage for their pizzas. I liked the thin crust, but as a crust lover, the deep-dish was the winner in my books at this stop.
This spot is located in the South Loop neighbourhood and is known for its Polish and Italian fusion food. Although we tried the regular thin crust pizza, we also tried a very unique pie which was Flo’s Polish, a thin crust pizza topped with Polska kielbasa, sauerkraut, and apple wood smoke bacon. I definitely enjoyed trying out some unique and different combinations of pizza, especially since I’ve never even heard of Polish-Italian fusion food, but this wasn’t my favourite stop along the way!
Our second attempt at deep dish pizza, and one that was hard to follow from Pizano’s. Pequods is located in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood and serves up a unique twist on the deep dish pizza which involved a caramelized crust that many people mistake as being burnt. Pequods has been around since the 70s, with its Lincoln Park location opening in 1992 due to the demand. Some of the people on our tour loved this crust, and some hated it. I loved it because it was chewy and delicious. Although I liked this deep dish pizza, I think Pizano’s still won over my heart in this category.
Coalfire has literally been featured in every major media outlet that features food—from the New York Post, to the Food Network, and was even named Chicago’s best pizza by Chicago Magazine. Coalfire has two locations, but we visited their West Loop location. Coalfire is all about breaking the traditional pizza rules with their unique topping combinations, and their pizzas being cooked in a 800 degree oven fueled by clean burning coal, versus your typical wood-fired pizza. We tried their pesto pizza which included pesto, sausage, stracciatella and honey. I found this pizza sweet, but delicious. We also tried their pepperoni and whipped ricotta pizza too, which probably seconded as my favourite pizza on the whole tour.
Overall the tour was great! I had originally thought it was a walking tour, but was happy that we ended up having a bus to take us from location to location as it allowed us to visit new neighbourhoods and a wider variety of pizzerias. Our guides were fun, and were filled with interesting information about the city and of course, pizza! I usually get bored when tour guides yap about things for hours, but I was actually incredibly entertained. If you’re visiting Chicago, and looking to try out different pizzerias, join one of the Chicago Pizza Tours, and the best part is, they work with a variety of restaurants, so it’s not guaranteed that each tour will be the same!
Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets from Chicago Pizza Tours to conduct a review. I only recommend things that I enjoyed, and think other travellers would also enjoy. All opinions in this piece are my own and 110% honest.