The great pizza debate. Who has the best pies and slices? New York versus Chicago? This is pretty heady stuff to sort out. Tempers flare. Heels dig in. Battle lines get drawn. The truth is that pizza preference is a highly individualistic thing. I am a New Yorker of Italian heritage, so, naturally, I prefer Neapolitan pizza with its generous use of extra virgin olive oil rather than other variations like Chicago deep dish (gasp!) While I appreciate the creative otherness of the deep dish stuff, it is certainly not pizza. I have been living in Chicago for twelve years and I have never met any locals who admitted to liking the deep dish thing. Not out loud, anyway. Thankfully, a number of great thin crust pizza joints have popped up in Chicago. They don’t beat out the Italian pizza found in my native New York City but they definitely make my tongue sing. Below are the best Neapolitan pizza places in Chicago:
Forno Rosso Pizzeria Napoletana
Forno Rosso Pizzeria Napoletana in Chicago’s West Loop scores major points for
importing most, if not all, of its ingredients from Italy. They also make their pizza pies using a high heat, wood-burning oven that cooks the pies in a matter of minutes. The crust is perfectly thin and crunchy without succumbing to the ingredients it holds. I went nuts for the white pistachio pizza with sausage, mozzarella, and basil, as well as the “Caputo Cup Winning Pizza,” made with tomato sauce, tomatoes two types of mozzarella and olive oil from the Chianti hills.
You can really taste the quality of the meats, cheese and olive oil which is why Forno Rosso makes the cut for the most authentic and best Neapolitan pizza in Chicago.
PRO TIP: Ask your server for the spicy olive oil to drizzle on top of your pizza!
Don’t miss out on Forno Rosso’s great wine list and cocktails!
1048 W. Randolph St. (Two blocks west of the Morgan ‘L’ stop on the CTA Green and Pink Lines).
Spacca Napoli has “Napoli” right in the name so you know it has to be one of the best Neapolitan pizza places in Chicago. The family that owns and runs this stalwart pizzeria in Ravenswood is doing Naples proud with its fantastic pizza pies made with fresh ingredients. Here, too, a wood-burning oven is the order of the day to ensure a true Neapolitan pizza experience.
All of the Neapolitan pizza at Spacca Napoli is delicious but I really love the Capriciosa made with prosciutto, mushrooms, black olives and Sardinian artichokes. All of the mushroom pies are delicious, too.
1769 W. Sunnyside Ave ( A few blocks north of the Irving Park ‘L’ stop on the CTA Brown Line).
Craft Pizza is an adorable spot in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. It’s owned by Scott Toth who has studied authentic Neapolitan pizza very carefully. He is committed to perfecting a balance between his specially proofed dough and ingredients and I believe he is succeeding. Mr. Toth describes his pizza as “NeapolAmerican” but it can also be described as fantastic. Get the spicy “Devil in the White City” pizza made with mozzarella, pecorino romano, hot capicola, spicy peppers, pepperoncini, red onions, black pepper, fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
PRO TIP: Craft Pizza is BYOB!
1252 N. Damen Ave. ( A few blocks south of the Damen ‘L’ stop on the CTA Blue line. The #50 Damen bus stops here.)
I have been eating Neapolitan pizza from Pauly’s Pizzeria in Chicago’s South Loop for over twelve years! It has never once let me down. Even their Greek salad is wonderful.
The owners of Pauly’s Pizzeria are from New Jersey and so they totally get the very necessary olive oil to oregano ratio that is a hallmark of authentic Neapolitan pizza. I am in love with the crust on their pies which reminds me of the typical crusts found in New York City pizzerias. Their sauce is not too sweet but it’s packed with flavor and it’s consistently delicious. I love the plain cheese pizza best. Why mess with a good thing?!
719 S. State St. (One block south of the Harrison ‘L’ stop on the CTA Red Line. The #29 State St. bus stops here).
Piece Brewery & Pizzeria
Piece Brewery & Pizzeria was the very first pizza joint I ate at when I moved to Chicago in 2005. It’s located in Wicker Park on the north side and its thin crust pizza is delightful. I am especially fond of their white pizza made with clams, fresh garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.
PRO TIP: Piece Brewery & Pizzeria has live band karaoke on Saturday nights starting at 11 pm.
1927 North Ave. (Two blocks east of the Damen ‘L’ stop on the CTA Blue Line.)
Macello Ristorante is an Italian restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop. It specializes in Pugliese cuisine. Puglia is a southern region in Italy which is east of Naples so it is not surprising that Macello makes really good Neapolitan pizza. I love the atmosphere and entrees at Macello but the pizza is no slouch either! I recommend the Pizza Barese made with mozzarella, artichokes, and black olives, as well as the Pizza Macello, made with burrata, cerignola olives, and Barese sausage.
1235 W. Lake St. (Five blocks west of the Morgan ‘L stop or five blocks east of the Ashland ‘L’ stop on the CTA Green and Pink Lines).
Ditch the car and ride the rails to experience the Best Neapolitan Pizza in Chicago. Let me know how it all goes down. I would love to hear all about it. Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA trains and buses to the Best Neapolitan Pizza in Chicago. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!