CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicagoans have been eating mainly three styles of pizza over the past century: tavern-style, deep-dish and stuffed.
But it seems the pandemic has unleashed a new wave of pizzerias in the city, with many finding inspiration from the East Coast and giving pizza lovers a chance to try some new slices.
It's a long way from Michelin stars to pizza, but Noah Sandoval was up to the task. The Chef-Owner of Oriole, which recently re-opened, has helped turn around the former Bite Café in Ukrainian Village by creating Pizza Friendly Pizza -- where Sicilian slices are on the menu.
"It's actually a lot harder than most people would think, just to get everything right, get the dough right," Sandoval said.
He ferments his dough for five days, par-baking it, then tops it with a zesty sauce. He then pipes on fresh ricotta, tossing on plenty of cup-and-char pepperoni, and possibly even olives. After those are baked, he finishes with some Calabrian chile oil, a load of fresh basil and grates on Parmiggiano-Reggiano.
The slices look heavy, but eat lighter than almost anything in town.
"It's the hardest thing I've done in the culinary world for sure. It's a whole new respect I have for baking in general," said Sandoval.
Over at the Envision Unlimited shared kitchen space in Logan Square, Robert Maleski took his 16 years of kitchen experience and taught himself how to make a deep pan pizza. He said he was inspired by the one he had at Burt's in Morton Grove a couple years ago, leading him to create Milly's Pizza in the Pan.
"It's got a frico crust around the edge; it's salty, it's crispy, it's crunchy," Maleski said.
Mozzarella is blanketed over his dough, sauced, then baked in a convection oven. After a few minutes, he removes it, tops it - in this case with peppers and mushrooms, then bakes it again. Finally, the pepperoni goes on and it gets a third and final bake. The result, after 25 minutes, total is a darkened "frico" cheese crust along the upper perimeter.
"It's not as thick as Detroit, it's not as deep as deep dish, it's kind of somewhere in the middle," said Maleski.
Less than a mile away, on the corner of Fullerton and Sacramento, Pizza Lobo is going for a completely different vibe.
"I would definitely call it a New York style, New York-inspired," said Chef Daniel Snowden. "Three-day ferment on a 70% hydration dough."
There are three sauce options, including one with a pinkish vodka sauce. The pie is then topped with slices of provolone and dollops of Tempesta Salumi's 'nduja, which is a spicy, spreadable Calabrian sausage. After only six or seven minutes, he applies dollops of ricotta and fresh parsley.
"I love the super-thin, but super-crispy crust; but also a nice, big bubbly chewy crust with nice char on it as well," he said.
In Back of the Yards on the South Side, The Plant is an incubator of sorts for several food companies. Chad Anderson works under the "Le Pizza" moniker inside the Whiner Beer Company there.
"I'm doing kind of a classic take on a New York-style slice but using sourdough. It's nice and crunchy," Anderson said.
His "Bee Sting" has lovely pepperoni with thick handfuls of fresh mozzarella, baked for just five minutes on a stone deck, then post-bake with a drizzle of hot honey. It's a cheesy, crunchy, chewy pleasure, all the way through the slice.
"The goal is, I always see people throwing away their crust at the end and I wanted to make a pizza that you actually ate the crust," said Anderson.
So four fantastic new pizzas to try in Chicago, and not a tavern-style or a stuffed or a traditional deep-dish among them. How's that for progress Chicago?
And to add a fifth to the mix, right around the corner from Pizza Lobo in Logan Square, Paulie Gee's is also selling New York-style slices right out the front window.
Since many of the places have hours that will be changing as the weather gets cooler, it's best to call ahead or look online before visiting.
Pizza Friendly Pizza (Sicilian)
1039 N. Western Ave.
Milly's Pizza in the Pan (Deep Pan)
1801 N. Spaulding Ave.
Wed - Sun pickup or delivery only
Pizza Lobo (NYC style)
3000 W. Fullerton Ave.
Le Pizza at Whiner Beer Co. (NYC style)
1400 W. 46th St.
Wed - Sun but must book a reservation due to distancing rules indoors
Paulie Gee's Logan Square (NYC slices)
2451 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Stuffed on deep-dish? Chicago pizza lovers have more options than ever at these noteworthy spots