Some of Chicago’s best neighborhood pizza joints are coming to the Loop. Beginning March 18, I’m proud to announce a new pop-up series at Revival Food Hall, inspired by my book, “Pizza City, USA.”
When the folks at Revival told me they were looking for a unique way to highlight local pizzerias born and bred in Chicago, they asked if I’d curate the space. Since Revival focuses on the best of the neighborhoods, it was a fun challenge. I immediately thought of all those times I’ve been asked, “where can you get tavern-style downtown?” It’s much easier to recommend a deep-dish near the Loop than tavern or thin, and I felt that should be the priority. I also thought about all of the people who have taken our pizza tours the past 10 months, and remarked how amazing the one-offs were: Pat’s (tavern), My Pi (deep), Dante’s (NYC slice) among them. These are neighborhood joints that have a devoted following among their neighbors, but are rarely visited by folks from other neighborhoods, let alone tourists.
That’s about to change.
But first, some background.
For the past three years, I’ve been on a quest that has quickly turned into a full-time side hustle. When I initially read a post about the “7 Hottest Pizza Places in Chicago,” I didn’t think much of it, mostly because it seemed like another crowd-sourced attempt at providing content on the cheap. In this case, I was highly dubious the author of the listicle had actually been to the seven places they featured. Thus, I began a #ChicagoPizzaCrawl that hasn’t ever really stopped. 76 places led to a book deal. Another 109 places visited led to “Pizza City USA” (Northwestern University Press) late last year. While we waited for publication, we launched a companion tour business, a line of merch, and a series of speaking engagements which have consumed pretty much every week for me since last May, including the occasional weekday private tour. Did I mention we also launched a podcast every other Friday?
One of the big lessons I’ve learned along the way is that Chicago, while being a major pizza city in its own right, has so much more to offer than the usual clichés. Sure, stuffed pizza was created here in 1974 by Giordano’s. Yes, deep-dish has been a tasty tourist attraction since 1943 (although I’d argue it didn’t become popular until the late 60s and early 70s with the birth of Gino’s and Lou’s). The biggest takeaway? Chicago’s preferred style of pizza is tavern-style, as in thin, crispy and always cut into squares. 25% of my book is about this style, and that wasn’t by design. When I called up the places I was visiting, I’d ask them what they’re known for, then order that style (half sausage, half pepperoni).
The other takeaway: not only do we have these three styles that were born here, but pizza lovers in Chicago have another seven styles to choose from: thin, Neapolitan, artisan, NYC slice, Roman al taglio, Sicilian and Detroit. We are Pizza City, by virtue of our diversity. I know you’ll say New York City has so many more pizzerias than we do, but after I embarked on a face-saving, street cred-earning series of five trips there to tackle 60 places last year, I only came away with five styles in NYC: slice, Neapolitan, artisan, Sicilian and grandma. True, there are two places doing Roman al taglio and another two doing Detroit, but those seem more like outliers than established styles.
All of this is to say that beginning March 18, My Pi (since 1971) takes over the space at Revival, where it begins a three-month residency. Then in mid-June, the venerable Pat’s (since 1950) begins offering its über-thin tavern-style. Mid-September brings Dante’s (now with four locations in the city) and its enormous 20” pies yielding NYC-style foldable slices. Finally, in mid-winter, South Side/Oak Lawn favorite Palermo’s 95th (since 1961) brings its thin pizzas with their slightly sweeter sauce to the Loop. If you’ve never had a pizza on the South Side, you’re in for a treat.
During this rotating pop-up, you’ll see our Pizza City, USA signage, be able to buy the book and on the third Thursday of each month, we’ll offer a three-stop pizza crawl by bus, beginning at Revival, then moving on to a few other styles of pizza (alcohol included). We’ll have more info there at the stall, as well as on our website, www.pizzacityusa.com.
Hope you get a chance to check out some of the truly wonderful pizzas we have in Chicago. They may not be the “hottest” in town, but I’d argue they’re among the best.