Part of this is due to cooks getting creative and breaking out of the usual tavern-style or deep-dish Chicago has always embraced. These days, there's Sicilian, artisan, neo-Neapolitan and even Roman style. Our Hungry Hound is on the case with a pair of new options this weekend.
Wood-fired pizzas are nothing new in Chicago, but you don't see a lot of all-natural starters using wild yeast. At Roebuck Pizza in Lakeview, they've been working on their recipe for months, launching pies into their mammoth brick-red Pavesi oven, until they emerge with blistered edges.
"We bring to pizza-making a philosophy that brewers bring to beer, which is yeast can have a really big impact on the flavor of the finished meal, so we wanted to do that with pizza," owner Greg Shuff said.
It's sopressatta instead of pepperoni here; added to handfuls of fresh mozzarella, the pies bake directly on the stone hearth, a few inches from the fire. Post-bake, the sopressatta gets some pickled jalapenos and a drizzle of hot honey. Purists might opt for the sausage, pinched and pressed Chicago style of course, with red onions. And they're not necessarily going for traditional Neapolitan heat levels, which require faster baking, and thus, wet middles. These beauties are baked a bit lower and a bit longer. The end product is leopard-spotted without the soupiness.
"You get a lot of that softness that you'd expect, but then you get a little bit of crispiness on the bottom that we think people really like," Shuff said.
Over in Avondale, Ludlow Liquors recently started doing a Pizza Night every Monday. Here, it's strictly Sicilian-style.
EXTRA COURSE: Visit Ludlow Liquors for Pizza Monday or try some vegan options
"The oven we have necessitates doing a Sicilian-style. It's lower heat, longer bake, bigger rise in the dough," said Mickey Neely, the cook at Ludlow. "I want that bottom layer to be crispy, crunchy, fried."
He offers four flavors every Monday: cheese, pepperoni, a vegan option, plus a wild card, where he gets creative. The highlight is that undercarriage, which has a much crispier texture than any Sicilian-style in town.
"It's ultimately baked three times: it's par-baked once, then topped, baked again, comes out, cut, baked a third time before the guest eats it," Neely said.
So it is Pizza Night every Monday at Ludlow Liquors, and those four flavors are always on hand. The Wild Card flavor will change each week.
3159 N. Broadway St.
2959 N. California Ave.