Once upon a time, there was a Dallas Observer food writers’ meeting. The subject turned, as it always does, to pizza. News flash: We really, really like pizza. Then I mentioned a Chicago-style restaurant that might make for a good article idea, and the mood changed in an instant.
The reaction was unanimous: Chicago pizza is an abomination. It’s horrible, disgusting, a blasphemy upon the good name of pizza. Give us, my deranged colleagues said with one voice, New York pizza any day, not the monstrous Chi-pies. It was as if I’d revealed there was a new restaurant where you could get booger burgers. The very idea of deep dish inspired not just anger but revulsion.
I’m telling you this for two reasons. First, it reminds you that even the best food writers aren’t perfect. Second, this event explains why a friend and I recently drove to Addison to try Taste of Chicago, a local deep-dish joint decorated with enough Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs and White Sox paraphernalia to start a sporting goods store. Our goal: to figure out and explain why Chicago-style deep dish is so freaking awesome.
How do I love Chicago deep dish? Let me count the ways.
1. The oozy layer of cheese at the base of the crust. Taste of Chicago folds cheese into the nook where the deep dish base meets its sides, which means you're getting a stuffed-crust pizza. And every so often, a stray topping finds itself folded into the crust, too. Putting tomato sauce on top of the cheese sounds perverse, but it’s also kinda cool.
2. The firm crust. Chicago deep dish feels like you need an architecture degree to build it. How does the crust not get soggy underneath that giant, carefully layered pile of toppings? I have no idea. It may possibly involve miracles. Oh, and speaking of ...
3. The giant, carefully layered pile of toppings. Simpler pies, like margherita, the Black Truffle at Olivella’s and the basil at Zalat certainly are delicious. But if you give me a supreme with five kinds of meat and a dozen veggies, you’ll put my taste buds in paradise. And there’s no better way to eat a zillion pizza toppings at once than in a Chicago deep dish. At Taste of Chicago, you can upgrade from three toppings to “unlimited” toppings for only $2.50. We tested the bounds of unlimited by ordering something like eight toppings, but you could try ordering a pie with every single damn thing they have. If you do, please invite us.
4. The 40-minute wait. Yes, really. The wait makes a Chicago pizza feel like a special occasion, like something to prepare for. It builds your anticipation. When a deep dish pie finally arrives at your table, its huge, bold appearance is an awe-inspiring sight. Your pizza feels like an event.
If you’re a “slow food” hipster, prove it. Embrace the deliciousness of Chicago deep dish. Good things come to those who wait.
5. The size. It’s almost impossible to eat more than two slices of Chicago pizza, which means that every meal comes with an awful lot of leftovers to take home. Our Taste of Chicago medium deep dish turned into lunch the next day for both of us. And while you might not be able to eat deep dish cold with your hands, you can throw it in the oven until the molten cheese is starting to burn into a delicious unhealthy crisp.
6. The “pie” thing. Real talk: pizza is nicknamed pie, but it’s not really a pie at all. It doesn’t even look like a pie. Unless it’s from Chicago.
7. Nostalgia. Yes, I’ll admit, part of my Chicago love is my upbringing in Indiana. When my parents thought I was old enough, they gave me a trip to Chicago as a birthday present. Between touring its great museums and visiting the top of the Sears Tower (which, in my mind, was never renamed), we ate at Gino’s East, Giordano’s and Eduardo’s. Eduardo’s accidentally served us the wrong pizza, so they gave us a second pie for free, and we ate them both. That stands as one of the happiest food memories of my entire childhood.
But most of all...
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8. Chicago deep dish is delicious. You’re still talking about a wedge of dough with cheese, tomato and your five or six favorite toppings. Every bite is stacked with goodies. Overload? Yes. Excess? Yes. But this is Texas. If we ever stop liking excessive foods, we won't be Texans anymore.
Taste of Chicago does a pretty terrific job not just with atmosphere — a Bulls game was on TV during our visit — but with the pizza, too. All the elements were there, from the tasty stuffed crust to the spicy Italian sausage crumbles. Every bite was soul-satisfying.
Yeah, haters still gonna hate. Ignore those fools. Deep dish pizza is a thing of beauty, and it’s in Dallas to stay.
Taste of Chicago, 14833 Midway Road, Addison, 972-701-0090, addisontasteofchicago.com.