Real Chicago Pizza

I’ll admit it: I’m a food snob about many things. I don’t buy any bacon except Benton’s, I make my own bagels, and I hate macrobrewed beer.

But as a native Chicagoan, two pieces of food snobbery have been ingrained in me since youth: Hot dogs must always be 100 percent beef and should never, ever be topped with ketchup, and anything you can pick up and fold in half is not proper pizza.

Pepperoni pizza from Lou Malnati's

Chicago pizza is deep-dish (sometimes also called stuffed) pizza, but the “deep-dish” served most places outside of northeastern Illinois is terrible. Where New York pizza is about cheese and toppings, Chicago pizza is about crust and sauce.

The crust should be thick (half an inch, maybe more), with a lip around the edge that comes up and inch or two, and should preferably be made with lard. The sauce should have big chunks of tomatoes in it, and be used in obscenely generous amounts. The proper order of ingredients is crust, then cheese, then sauce. (Toppings can either go between cheese and sauce or crust and cheese.) All the standard pizza toppings are allowed, but sausage is probably the most popular—a sheet of sausage should completely cover the bottom of the crust.

Every Chicagoan has a personal pizza hierarchy. The order may vary from person to person, but all will include the three biggies: Pizzeria Uno, Gino’s East, and Lou Malnati’s. (Please note that the chain Uno Chicago Grill locations scattered around the country are NOT representative of the original. They make terrible pizza. The only real Uno’s locations are Pizzeria Uno at 29 E. Ontario and Pizzeria Due across the street at 619 N. Wabash.)

Both Gino’s and Lou Malnati’s will ship frozen pizzas (not cheap) anywhere in the US for you to bake at home. I’ve managed to hook Alabama native Nadria on these, and my parents sent a few pizzas from Lou’s for her birthday a couple weeks back. The photo above is a Lou Malnati’s pepperoni we devoured last night.

Luckily, you can get pretty good Chicago-style pizza right here in Birmingham, without purchasing it on the Internet. Tortuga’s in Hoover is one of two places outside the Chicago metro area I’ve ever had good Chicago pizza. (The other is Papa Del’s in Champaign, Ill.)

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