Foodbuzz 24x24: Chicago's Deep Dish Pizza Showdown!

It's been confirmed, we love Chicago. We really, really do and what solidified it for us was being away from this wonderful city for nearly a year. Just before our son was born, we said goodbye to Chicago's downtown highrise living and headed up north to the suburbs, just on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin. While living there, we missed the energy of the city, the diversity and most of all, the food! Fast forward to 10 months later, we returned back to Chicago and have settled in again. This city is truly home for us and we're so happy to be back.

To celebrate, we've invited our foodie friends over for a special night with one of Chicago's famous foods - deep dish pizza. But this was not your regular pizza party... we hosted our very own Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Showdown! To make our event even more special, FoodBuzz is featuring our Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Showdown for their March 24x24 Food Event. The FoodBuzz's 24x24 Food Event showcases food blog posts from 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers of 24 unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period. I was thrilled to be featured this month!

What exactly is Chicago Deep Dish Pizza? For one, this pizza is unlike the traditional pizzas. In fact, it's more like a savory pie. The pizza's crust is usually three inches high, is thick and much more doughy. Another distinction is how the toppings are layered into it. Cheese is the first layer on top of the crust, followed by your favorite toppings, and is finished off with a layer of sauce. Our personal favorite is the traditional cheese and sausage where some places make an entire disk of sausage the size of the pizza pan to put in the pizza!

So, why pizza?! Finding good pizza in the suburbs where we used to live was a challenge. We were surrounded by several national pizza chains and very few independent pizzerias really knew how to make a true Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. When we moved back to Chicago, it was a great feeling to know there were several places to get our Chicago Deep Dish Pizza fix. With that in mind, the idea of having pizza from all the popular Chicago spots led us to hosting our very own Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Showdown. We had quite a pizza spread with a homemade deep dish pizza and 4 popular places represented including...

Aside from pizza, I also prepared a few accompaniments including...

Spinach & Artichoke Cheeseball
with crackers and vegetable crudites

Pepperoni Pinwheels & Pesto Pinwheels
Italian Chopped Salad

Zesty Italian Chicken Wings

To end on a sweet note, I also had fun preparing a special dessert table! Friends enjoyed the 'Cannoli Corner' I set up, complete with homemade cannoli shells, two different cannoli fillings (Sweet Ricotta and Chocolate Mousse) and a variety of garnishes to coat the ends in (pistachios, pecans, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, butterscotch caramel sauce, and mint chocolate glaze.)

With so much food to indulge in, we washed things down with sodas("pop"), beer, sweet tea and sangria...

Our friends are big Chicago foodies that know all about Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. In fact, some have strong opinions on which Chicago deep dish pizza is the best. But to put things to the test, we offered up the pizzas as a blind tasting where they weren't told where the pizzas came from... and that one was a homemade version. We gave each pizza a letter and provided our friends with a pizza scoring card. They were asked to rate each pizza by appearance, flavor, texture and overall rating on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being "awful" and 10 being "awesome."

It took awhile to tally up the totals. We determined the winner of each category for appearance, flavor and texture, along with the overall rating. It was so close between 2 specific pizzas that we had to calculate the averages between the two to come up with the one true winner. (But this was no surprise... us Chicagoans are serious about our pizzas!)

Just before the party ended, the pizzas were identified and results were announced:
  • Winner for appearance category - the homemade pizza
  • Winner for the flavor category - Lou Malnati's pizza
  • Winner for the texture category - Giordano's pizza

So who is the overall winner and where is the best Chicago Deep Dish Pizza from?! Well, if you ever find your way to Chicago (or are currently a resident), based on our blind tasting, our recommendation for the best place to go for your Chicago Deep Dish Pizza is....

And in second place, just but by  fraction of a point, the runner up Chicago Deep Dish Pizza winner is...

Stay tuned as all recipes I prepared for our Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Showdown spread will be featured here everyday this week!


  1. All those pictures and I'm lucky enough not to be in any of them :)
    Had a great time, everything was always!

  2. I don't live in Chicago (4 hours away) so i'm probably haven't tried as many variations as you have but from my experience i prefer Giordano and don't like Ginos at all. Ginos has way way to much cornmeal in the crust. Of course i've not tried some of the other popular chicago style pizza joints like Lou Malnati, Nancy's, ect.....

  3. Aw~I wish I could have gone! Looks like so much fun! :)

  4. Lou's will always be my favorite!!!!

  5. I was born in Chicago, and my entire family is still there. I can't go back without getting my Portillos or luke's hotdogs or my deep dish from Lou Maltanis. This is a fabulous idea for 24x24!

  6. What a fun event! Wish I live near there to give some real deep dish a try! The cannoli station is too cute!

  7. Amazing pizza battle...looks like you had a blast!!

  8. YUM!!! Makes me want to hop in the car and head to Chi-town!

    Have you ever tried The Art of Pizza's deep dish? My friends lived in the neighborhood and swore by it... It is SOOOO good, and I'm a big Giordano's fan...and Gino's....and Lou's....

    Give the Art of Pizza a whirl sometime and see whatcha think!

  9. That cannoli station is genius! I might steal that idea for my next dinner party...

  10. Great idea! Now to go to Chicago to sample this myself!

  11. Oh how I miss Chicago and Giordano's. I know some people blast it for being a chain, but I my favorite is my favorite. I love the buttery crust. Stuffed spinach and sausage is my favorite.

    I've never tried Lou Malnati's. But Giordano's trumps Gino's, Uno's, and Carmen's for me.

  12. Sounds like fun. I miss Chicago food too ... although I grew up in that land in Illinois close to the Wisconsin border, and there was mighty fine food there. The Quonset in Waukegan is still my all-time favorite pizza, bar none. But that's not deep dish. For that, I loooove Lou Malnati's. Gino's East is a close second.

  13. @Tracy - what a small world... I grew up in that same land (Waukegan) and know *exactly* the Quonset deliciousness you speak of! :)

  14. OMG! What a fun theme! And I love the idea of a cannoli corner!

  15. While the personal and family favorite for me will always be Lou Malnati's, it's true that often times Chicago deep dish decisions come down to just a fraction of a point! Congrats on taking on this enormous task to really find out the "best of the best" in such a fun manner.

  16. I'm from Palatine, just outside Chicago so I am familiar with all the contestants. My wife and I believe that Lou Malnati's is second to no one. We get a large pepperoni and garlic about 2 x's per month and never get tired. Great article, looks like you had a blast!