Saturday, December 3, 2011

Who's Got the Best Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago? Pizzeria UNO, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, or Giordano's?

On my last trip to Chicago I decided to try to find out who had the city's best deep dish pizza. I became inspired to take on this challenge after watching a rundown on Chicago pizza on the Travel Channel. I decided to hit up the same restaurants as the Travel Channel reviewed: Pizzeria UNO, Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, and Giordano's. The only difference is that in my rundown there are going to be some winners and losers.

So here's how the story went...

I arrived in Chicagoland for a short three day trip. I knew I couldn't eat at all four pizzerias in such a short stay, but luckily I could get a couple of these wonderful pies delivered right to my hotel room. First on the list was Giordano's:


My first night in town I ordered pizza delivered to my hotel from Giordano'sI was pretty excited about this pizza since it was going to be my first deep dish of the trip. The thing about Giordano's is that their pizza comes with a slight twist. It is a stuffed crust pizza with a whole layer of cheese on the bottom. I wasn't sure if this extra layer of cheese was going to make it better or worse than the other pizzas, but I went ahead and ordered a small pepperoni and sausage stuffed pizza to give it a try. 

One hour later this work of art show up at my hotel room:

(Side note: These pizzas take a long time to cook so one hour delivery is the norm.)

I ate as much as I could, which wasn't a whole lot. This is a very filling pizza. Everything was good, the cheese, the sauce, the bread, everything. And while everything tasted good, it wasn't great or phenomenal. I wanted a deep dish pizza that was going to make me say, "Holy Crap! This is amazing!" This was not that pizza.

My other complaint was the stuffed crust. Yeah I know its what they are known for but here's my problem: It makes the pizza feel unbalanced. There's too much cheese and it just makes the pizza too rich to enjoy. Overall though I thought it was a good, but not great, pizza.

Pizzeria UNO

The next day for lunch I was off to Pizzeria UNO. This is like the deep dish pizza mecca. This is the place that deep dish pizza got started way back in 1943. Eating here is like being a part of history. However, just because they were the first deep dish pizza place didn't mean they were still going to be the best deep dish pizza.

I ordered the individual pepperoni lunch special, which I just want to add comes with a soup and a drink for less than $12 - how great is that!

I can't even begin to explain how great the crust was! Out of all the pizza on this adventure UNO's crust was by far the best. (A little side note: The water from Lake Michigan is rich in minerals making it great water for bread making. This is why the deep dish pizzas here in Chicago are better than anywhere else in the country.)

Overall the sauce, cheese, bread, pepperoni - they all blended so well together. My only complaint, and it really is a minor one, was that I wish the sauce was a bit saltier and more flavorful. However, as good as this pizza was I still felt something was lacking.

Gino's East

The next day for lunch I went to Gino's East. The build up to this meal was monumental. I had heard a stranger raving about it to her friends at the mall a day earlier. As soon as we walked in you could see thousands of names marked on the walls from all the satisfied pizza eaters that had been there before.

Even as soon as we sat down a group of girls at the table next to me had just finished eating and was having the waiter take their picture. These were all good signs.

I ordered a half sausage, half pepperoni pizza. One hour and a couple beers later this magnificent pizza was presented to me:

This was one incredible tasting pizza. It was salty, flavorful, well-balanced. It was everything I could want in a pizza. The only downside to this pizza was that UNO's still had them beat on crust. Other than that little complaint this pizza is the best in Chicagoland, hands down.

I finished and walked back out onto the street. A girl was walking by and pointed at Gino's. "Is this a good place for pizza?", she said. I busted out laughing. Gino's is better than good, Gino's is phenomenal. I could have been hit by a car after that meal and died a happy man.

Lou Malnati's

It was my last night in Chicago, and I had one more deep dish pizza left to eat. Lou Malnati's was calling my name, and I was hoping that maybe this last pizza might just be better than all the rest.

I ordered an individual pepperoni with their famous deep dish buttercrust. I started to eat with the best intentions, but I was disappointed. This was a very average pizza. The ingredients seemed to conflict with each other. There were very unbalanced flavors in this pizza. So unfortunately the last night of my deep dish pizza adventure in Chicago ended with disappointment.

My Overall Ratings:

So if you are looking for an overall great pizza experience in Chicago I definitely recommend going to both Pizzeria UNO and Gino's East. I actually think Pizzeria UNO is the best if you take into account the ambiance, side dishes, and service. (I can't speak for Giordano's or Lou Malnati's since I didn't eat at their restaurant.)

Based on pizza taste only Gino's East was my favorite, closely followed by Pizzeria UNO. Third place was Giordano's followed lastly by Lou Malnati's.

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