ChicagoPizzaQuest Wrap Up, Lessons Learned, Suggestions


Typical Sicilian pan-style from Freddy’s Pizza in Cicero


Aside from the usual name-calling I get, this #ChicagoPizzaQuest turned out to be pretty tame. I guess by “tame” I mean somewhat respectful. Naturally, there are some disagreements, and despite my thoroughness – tackling 76 joints in two months – I still have that nagging feeling that I’ve missed a gem.

If I would have had more time, I would have liked to have tried Pi-Hi on Western Avenue, across the street from Lane Tech High School, Phil’s Pizza D’Oro on north Milwaukee Avenue, the slices at Jimmy’s and Santullo’s (a different Quest perhaps, or at least an Amended Quest/Sidebar); Home Run Inn on 31st (rather than from my local frozen food aisle) and a few others, including Phil’s in Oak Lawn, Joe’s Italian Villa in Palos Heights, Villa Rosa near Midway, Rosangela’s in Evergreen Park, Italian Fiesta (3 locations) and Chesdan’s in Homer Glen. I will make it my mission, at some point in the next few months (when pizza fatigue has faded) and hit most of these, along with Phil’s in Bridgeport (different than the Oak Lawn location?)

And certainly, I wish Burt’s Place hadn’t closed for good last week. That might have changed the final outcome of the #ChicagoPizzaQuestThick standings (here’s wishing them a peaceful retirement). I also wish I could have included all of those restaurants that happen to have pizza ovens (Piccolo Sogno, Balena, Quartino, Labriola Ristorante) as I know they produce tasty artisan pies. I feel like that category – Italian Restaurant Pizza – should be a sidebar along with By-the-Slice Pizza (Jimmy’s, Santullo’s, et al), so maybe I’ll do those two next time.

I’ve learned that childhood pizza bias and PIGUE Syndrome are hard to change. I respect those businesses that have been dishing out pies for decades, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to rush back there the next time I’m craving a pizza. I think if anything, I’ve shined a light on some places that probably deserved more media attention than they typically get. More importantly, I wanted to once-and-for-all set a standard for Quests, Crawls and other assorted “Best of” lists that always seem to consume web editors and bloggers, with the promise of more clicks. At least from now on, whenever someone attempts to tackle a subject, they’ll have to begin by acknowledging “it’s not exactly a Dolinsky deep-dive” but it’s a start. I truly believe the only way to cover these sorts of Top 5s or Top 10s is to do them methodically, honestly, in-person and anonymously. Anything else just seems lazy. This all started after I read a “7 Hottest Pizza Places in Chicago” post, with one of those designated “hot spots” a place in my neighborhood I happened to eat at the night before, and found the pizza sorely lacking. This Pizza Quest was my response, and my antidote. An attempt to set the record straight, and straighten out the beguiling categories that go over most tourist’s (and out-of-town writer’s) heads.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Is there one, glaring omission here? Did I completely miss the boat by not including _____ in the tavern-style or deep dish categories? Let me know here, and tell me why it’s worth the trek. If I see a pattern develop, I’ll make sure to give it a fair shake, and if it’s truly transcendent, I’ll update my Top 5 list.

Thanks so much for all of your input and understanding, and most of all, for reading the results of my work, and sharing it with someone you care about.


  1. Lenny Rago

    November 6, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Great job but you focused only on our Neapolitan and not our thin crust, Deep Dish or Stuffed, we also do East coast and new Haven Style Pie, we make our sausage home made. I believe we are the only pizza place around that does every style of pizza listed below.

    Thin Crust
    East Coast
    New Haven

    I invite you to sit down with us and let us make you some of these other pies that you might not be familiar with that is served around the globe. I am not talking about updating your top five list, but you share the same passion as we do when it comes to pizza and were here to help.

    Let us Know

    Lenny Rago

  2. Joel

    November 6, 2015 at 8:40 am

    I’d be curious to get your take on Pizza Art cafe, a funky little place on Rockwell in west Lincoln Swuare. It’s got an Eastern European bent and they smoke their own meats, so it might be worth a trip.

  3. Titus

    November 6, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Nice work Steve. I might not have your following but as someone who’s taking it upon himself to try a taco or two or three from every spot in town, after doing so with Italian beef, I like your effort. I think you need to try Pudgy’s in Hegewisch. Why? Bc it’s pretty damn good and I was the one who announced before the scoring began that Pats, V&N, Villa Nova, Barnaby’s would end up in top 5. And while I’m sure others rec’d it, I was the one insistent on you trying the Original Mr. Beef in Homer Glen. So we like similar things. Also as I mentioned before the best tavern thin pizza anywhere is at Wells Brothers in Racine, WI. As a born and bred Chicagoan it can be tough to admit that but it’s so damn good. Remember always order well done when getting a tavern thin pizza, anywhere.


    • Steve Dolinsky

      November 7, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Hey, thanks so much. I think you should come out with me to work on the Taco Quest. We obviously have similar palates.

  4. Chuck Jamieson

    November 6, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    I think you did a great job on your Chicago Pizza Quest and thank you for discovering Pizza Barra. We eat deep dish maybe 2-4 times a year, as opposed to thin every weelk, and our go to spot was Lou Malnati’s in Naperville. Barra blows them away and it is much closer. You are correct that you got punked with DeLeo’s Pizzeria in Elmhurst. Depsite their name the only thing worth getting there is the broasted chicken. Many people swear Roberto’s is the best in the western ‘burbs and it is very good. Worth a try. But the true best is Cassano’s. Family owned small joint and outstanding thin crust pizza. They started in Naperville and opened another location in Downers Grove about a year ago. A true hidden gem. Thanks again for eating all those pies!

  5. Don

    November 6, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Fasanos in Justice. Joe’s Italian Villa falls into PIGUE. Fasonos is carryout or delivery only. I feel they might have the “ratio” you speak about. Looking forward to trying some places you called out (villa nova) and I agree with most you liked (Palermos, Vito). And love the pics Thanks!!

  6. Titus

    November 7, 2015 at 8:04 am

    Was my comment too vulgar? Or did you not want suggestions LOL. Whatever. Food people in this town are downright weird.

  7. Robbie

    November 7, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Yes Phil’s in Bridgeport is different from Phil’s in Oak lawn. Phil’s Bridgeport wildly popular for its sausage thin – I dunno if it’s considered tavern or thin.

  8. Steve D

    November 7, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Steve, I think you did a great job and can’t wait until you do “part 2”
    I’ve been to quite a few of your listed places and now I’m going to hit up a couple that you’ve listed to check out for myself.
    I wonder how many pizzerias Chicago and the outlying area actually out there. Has to be in the hundreds.

  9. Dale Hamblin

    November 7, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Bills Pub, Emil’s, both in Mundelein, Pizza Factory in Barrington

  10. madopal

    November 8, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Quonset Hut in Waukegan is also worth a visit, in same class as Villa Nova, IMHO.

  11. Ashley W

    November 9, 2015 at 9:23 am

    ORD Pizzeria off Montrose and Ashland is one of my FAVORITE thin crust/NYC-style pizzas I’ve discovered in the city. They have a lot of super delicious specialty pies and many ingredients to make you own. One of my favorite parts about the pizza is the perfectly crunchy, yet chewy crust. Go check it out, you won’t regret it!

    (It also doesn’t hurt that I now live across the street from this heavenly joint.)

  12. Alejandro Rodriguez

    November 9, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I would suggest two spots for your next outing:

    Paula and Monica’s on Chicago and Ashland. Huge NY style thin crust slices, and when they are stretching the dough properly, it’s perfect. Sometimes they get a bit too thin, which makes it tough to eat because it can fall apart, but the flavor is still right there.

    Gigio’s in Uptown on Broadway and Wilson. This is a bare bones, divey spot that you should have delivered, but their 14″ one topping is all I crave after a night out. Their sausage is well seasoned, and they do a crispy yet chewy crust that also heats up well when you have leftovers.

    Thanks for doing all the work of heading out and creating these lists. I look forward to trying some of your favorites.

  13. Art Wozniczka

    November 9, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I was disappointed you didn’t hit Mama Luna’s on Fullerton by Laramie. Great thin crust, home made sausage and nice sauce, make the trip and I’m sure you won’t regret it.

  14. Lauren

    November 10, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Waldo Cooney’s in Lansing is definitely a hidden gem. It tends to get overshadowed by nearby Aurelio’s and Beggars but hopefully if you do another suburban quest you can stop by. It’s also across the street from another popular pizza restaurant in the area, Rico’s.

  15. Dan S

    November 12, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Loved reading your quest. Gave me a number of new places to try ( and a few to avoid). I am in the western burbs and highly recommend you look at Robertos in Elmhurst. Not sure if it is considered thin or tavern but it is great. Another good spot is Gioacchinos in Bellwood. Looking forward to your next quest.

  16. Jerry

    November 13, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Kaiser’s Pizza in Gurnee is worth the drive.
    Excellent thing crust pizza.

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