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America's Best Cities for Pizza

America's Best Cities for Pizza: Chicago

Courtesy of Coalfire Pizza

There are some things that exist only in New York, but the city’s traditional foldable, thin-crust pizza is no longer one of them.

“These days, you can find decent, or even excellent, New York–style pizza in almost any medium-sized to large city in America,” says Brooklyn-based writer Jeff Turrentine. “But finding even passable Chicago-style pizza outside of Chicago—that still poses a challenge.”

That only-in-Chicago factor helps explain why the Windy City once again won the No. 1 spot for best pizza city, according to Travel + Leisure readers. This year’s America’s Favorite Cities survey—in which readers rank 35 cities for such enticements as luxury stores, live music, and good-looking locals—revealed voters’ reverence for Chicago’s deep-dish magic.

That said, the top-ranking cities also reflect an increasing passion for authentic, Neapolitan-style pizza—as well as a flair for quirky, local renditions, such as brisket pizza in San Antonio, TX, lobster pizza in Boston, or even Fritos-as-toppings in Houston. (The survey focuses on large metro areas, so voters didn’t have the option to rate some smaller cities with outsize pizza reputations, such as New Haven, CT, and Trenton, NJ.)

Even in Chicago, it’s not hard to find Neapolitan-style pizzerias that show off their Verace Pizza Napoletana certification—proof that they use the appropriate gear, ingredients, and techniques to create pizza like that you’d find in Naples. Take Lincoln Park’s Pizzeria da Nella, for instance, where the owner comes from a long line of Italian pizzaioli.  

Traditional Chicago-style, on the other hand, may not have such strict standards, which may be why it doesn’t translate elsewhere. “When I’m traveling, I’ll see a restaurant that says ‘Chicago-style pizza,’ and because it’s me, I have to try it,” says Jonathan Porter, founder of Chicago Pizza Tours, where you can sample five Windy City pizzas in roughly three hours.

Such pretenders, he says, are often serving deep-dish’s cousin, the double-crusted “stuffed pizza”—or they’ve just gone overboard.

“It’s usually a real letdown,” he says. “Pizza is best kept simple. When you add tons of ingredients and cheese, you tend to ruin it.”

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