Rating Chicago’s Pizza Joints
I’m very lucky this year, as I got to celebrate my birthday during break week when we don’t have anything to study for (unlike blogger Michelle!). My friends came to Chicago to visit me, and we decided to try out the food that Chicago is best known for: deep dish pizza. When it comes to eating, the number-one thing anyone should do while visiting Chicago is to try the pizza. I don’t know if it’s because we’re so close to Wisconsin, but if you’re a cheese lover, our pizzerias are extremely generous with their portions of cheese.
First stop: Lou Malnati’s
The Lou Malnati’s menu–one of the few times the real thing looked better than in the pictures
We visited Lou’s first because it was on the way to the Shedd Aquarium. I guess it depends on which of the 35 locations you go to, but at the South Loop restaurant, the decor was like any other average restaurant. The atmosphere was casual and there wasn’t a line, even at the height of the lunch hour. We ordered the Malnati Chicago Classic–butter crust deep dish, with spinach, sausage and mushrooms.
My slice of pizza in its full cheesy delicious glory
I wish I could say that the pictures do it justice, but they don’t. The cook time for the pizza was 30-40 minutes, but it was worth it. The cheese was perfectly melted and stringy, topped with fresh, chunky tomato sauce. The toppings added great flavor but didn’t overpower the cheese or sauce. I’m not normally a crust-lover, but the butter crust was flaky and soft like a delicious freshly baked biscuit. It was so good that I cleaned my plate. I must note that I’ve tried Lou’s on other occasions, like ordering it for delivery when I was too lazy to go outside. It was good in the past, but not like this time. I’ve also tried on another occasion to order the classic without the butter crust, and again, it wasn’t the same. The only complaint I have is that the pizza seemed smaller than the average medium that I would get from any other pizza shop.
Second stop: Connie’s
For our second stop, we had to pick Connie’s because I live right across the street. Even though I’ve lived in my apartment for about a year, I’ve never stepped foot into the restaurant. It’s partially because Connie’s caters to ICO so often that I never bothered to order from them outside of delivery and pick-up. The pizza shop looks adorable shop on the outside, and the decor is very interesting on the inside as well. It looks like a traditional Italian family style restaurant.
We ordered Connie’s stuffed crust meat lover’s pizza (Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami and capicolla), and added spinach to it. We weren’t sure if we wanted the sauce on top, so we had it on the side. In my hometown of Toronto, stuffed crust means that the cheese is stuffed inside the crust on the edges of the pizza. If you’re not from here, you probably won’t know that stuffed crust meant this:
The pizza, which was baked with a thin layer of dough on top, took about 40 minutes. I feel like I never understood the meaning of “pizza pie” until I finally saw it in a deep pan, looking like an actual pie. I must say that the pizza is much better in the restaurant. They also serve warm bread with butter as customers wait for pizza, something neither of the other two restaurants do. I love that they do that–I had mine with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It was delicious, but we didn’t want to waste precious stomach space when we had a whole pizza that needed to be devoured.
My friends and I with our giant pizza pie.
Overall, the pizza was good. In retrospect, I wish we’d ordered it with the sauce on top, but this was delicious nonetheless. The dough on the top made this pizza all the more special compared to others that I’ve tried. The crust was on the medium side in thickness–it had some heft but wasn’t extremely thick. The sauce didn’t have the chunks of fresh tomato and was average. But it would have definitely helped the taste if we had the sauce on top. Perhaps dipping sauce would help, but I didn’t end up eating too much of the crust, since the rest of the pizza tasted so much better. The cheese was very stringy and melty, and the toppings were very good. Their sausage tasted extremely fresh, and I’m glad we got the spinach to make me feel like we are getting a little bit of vegetables in this meaty diet. Their pizza was bigger than Lou’s, but Lou’s butter crust definitely took the cake.
Third stop: Giordano’s
I always wanted to try Giordano’s, but for some odd reason, every time I set out to do it, a series of events always prevented me from doing so. The main reason is that the location I try always seem to have an extremely long line. They don’t take reservations, so it’s a first-come, first-serve basis. With that in mind, we headed to Giordano’s at approximately 5:30 p.m. to beat the dinner crowd, figuring that by the time the pizza was ready we’d be hungry. The atmosphere of the restaurant was very similar to Lou’s, with family pictures and interesting pizza photos on the walls.
We ordered the their Special pizza (sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions), and added all-beef meatballs to it. The cooking time was actually a little longer than 40 minutes, closer to an hour. When our pizza came, it looked absolutely amazing:
No special effects, or fancy lighting: This is pretty close to how the pizza actually looked in person.
Our server cut our pizza and held it there for this picture to look exactly like the one on the menu. If you can’t tell how much cheese and ingredients went into this pizza, here’s a better shot:
Like Connie’s, this is also a stuffed pizza, cooked with a little bit of dough on the top. Except this one was topped with tomato sauce. While it was good, we felt that the cheese needed to cook a little more. It wasn’t as stringy and hot as Connie’s or Lou’s, and even the green peppers weren’t totally cooked. The crust was also the thickest and toughest of the three restaurants. The best thing about this pizza was the meatballs. I normally don’t even really enjoy meatballs all that much, and I really actually loved the meatballs here!
Best Pizza: The unanimous final verdict was Lou Malnati’s. My friends and I thought that the butter crust was the best part, and the flavorful toppings and fresh tomato sauce make the pizza a must-try for anyone visiting Chicago.
Best Ambience: Connie’s–the picture inside the restaurant doesn’t do it justice. Since it’s winter, we couldn’t take good photos of the restaurant outside, but according to Google maps, the patio looks like this:
Connie’s Pizza in the summer
It was just a fun atmosphere to be in, and I can’t wait to try Connie’s again in the summertime outside on the patio.
Most Photogenic Pizza: Giordano’s takes this one. I guess not everyone takes pictures of their food, but if you ever wanted to show people photographic evidence of your trip to Chicago, Giordano’s definitely looks the best on film. And if you do go here, make sure you get the meatballs!