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DeRusha Eats: The Best Pizzas In Chicago (Well, 4 Of Them)

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Chicago is a pizza town, no doubt about it, and who better to lead a tour through the region's best pizza places than the guy who wrote the book on the subject?

Steve Dolinsky is a 13-time James Beard Award-winning food reporter who's lived in Chicago for more than 25 years. I recently interviewed him about his book, "Pizza City USA 101: Reasons Why Chicago Is America's Greatest Pizza Town."

The premise of the book is that Chicago is in fact Pizza City USA, partially because of the tremendous variety of pizza in the city. He tried 185 pizzas there, breaking them into 10 distinct styles.

Every Saturday and Sunday, there's a tour of four different spots, and Dolinsky brings in pizza history, plus Chicago history and trivia. So it's a great thing for people who are on a vacation to Chicago to do. Just be ready to eat a lot of pizza.

My started at Forno Rosso, and their Neapolitan Pizza. It won an international competition in Naples. The Dotterino has bufala mozzarella, piennolo tomatoes, basil olive oil, and that small sphere of fresh mozzarella. They make the dough in house, and let the yeast work overnight, so so good. It's similar in style to Pizza Nea or Punch here in the Twin Cities.

Next was a style of pizza less common here: Roman-style. Bonci is a restaurant based in Rome, with its first American spot in Chicago. The pizza I tried was like a foccacia bread, topped with smoked salmon. There's also potato and mozzarella or a fantastic blend of ricotta cheese/lemon zest/eggplant. You pick what you want, and they slice it with a scissors, you pay by weight. Mucci's in St. Paul does roman-style pizza when they sell donuts on weekend mornings.

Dolinsky argues Chicago-style pizza isn't really deep dish -- it's tavern style. Thin crust, square-cut, lots of cheese. Salerno's is old-school, and we had sausage and giardinaira. The toppings were under the cheese.

Long-time Minnesotans will remember that before Good Day Cafe was on Interstate 394 in Golden Valley, a deep dish pizza spot called My Pi was there. It started in Chicago, and might have been better than the deep dish I grew up on, which was Lou Malnati's. Mi Pi created a spice packet based on the flavors in a good sausage, and they mix that with the tomato sauce. You can see the herbs. Bonus: it's not a giant cheese bomb.


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