Pizza War: Chicago Deep Dish
The Best There Is At What I Do… and what I do best is eat pizza. Simply put, I love pizza. It is the most ingeniously devised, deliciously appealing comfort food in the world, hands down. My craving for it is continuous and I could gorge on it for every meal of the day. I fancy myself something of an amateur pizza connoisseur, so when Nikki and I had occasion to visit the Chicago area to speak at a church during our deputation in November, I could not resist sampling some authentic deep dish pizza.
Close Encounters Of The Deep Dish Kind The two that are always highly spoken of in Chicago are Giordano’s and Malnati’s. I decided on the latter and found a location it had near our hotel. We saved it for our final lunch before leaving town. On our way to Malnati’s though, we discovered that Giordano’s had a location around the corner as well. It seemed too good to pass up. So Nikki pitched me on a wild idea: why not eat at Giordano’s and pick up Malnati’s to go and sample them both? Um… YES PLEASE!!!!! That is why I love her so much; what a great wife I have.
Pizza Face-Off! So I ordered a personal pizza at both restaurants. I purposefully ate only part of the first pizza to save room to sample the second one right off the bat while it was fresh for a more accurate comparison between the two. So what follows is a breakdown of how they stacked up against each other and my final verdict. I judged each pizza based on four merits: cheese, sauce, toppings, & crust. I then chose a final winner, based both on a composite of the wins from the four categories as well as my overall impression as I savored both pies.
1) Sauce When you bite into a Chicago deep dish pizza, the first characteristic that you can’t helped but be engulfed by is the flavor of the sauce. It is a staple feature of this style of pizza to have the sauce piled on top like there’s no tomorrow. With both Malnati’s and Giordano’s, the sauce was dominant and excellent, but I can’t say that one really edged out the other in tomatoey goodness. This may sound cheap, but it was pretty much a draw. Both were delicious and neither stood out distinctly from the other.
2) Cheese The cheese is such an important component of the pizza. With Giordano’s, the cheese was the perfect complement to the sauce. It was a good sharp flavor without being overbearing or too gooey. On the other hand, Malnati’s had good flavor but was almost like eating a wad of cheese in your mouth. Suffice to say, it became more of a distraction from the overall taste of the pizza.
3) Crust Many people denounce and decry the pizza crust as their least favorite part of the pizza. Some even leave scraps of crust behind to throw away. To those people, all I can say is you are twisted and perverse. For the true pizza lover, the crust is like a goodnight kiss, that final lingering memory of what has come before that can either make or break a pizza. Malnati’s crust was crispy and thin, functioning mostly as a natural barrier, giving the pizza its form and preventing its contents from overflowing in a flood of tomato sauce. Giordano’s had a good thickness that was very doughy and full of buttery flavor. It was probably one of my favorite pizza crusts I’ve ever enjoyed.
4) Toppings With both pizzas I went with a simple pepperoni for comparative purposes (and because it is always my topping of choice). With the Giordano’s, the pepperoni was overpowered by the incredible combination of crust, sauce & cheese, to such an extent that I don’t know if I could have told the difference if it had just been a plain cheese pizza. Although the Malnati’s pizza didn’t impress as strongly with crust and cheese, this allowed for the flavor of the pepperoni slices to exude more dominance in the overall taste of the meal, and it was clearly very fine quality meat.
And The Winner Is… In the end, it was an easy decision as to which pizza pie to award my prestigious accolades. Although both pizzas were delightfully delectable and distinctly gratifying, Malnati’s just did not grab my fancy nearly as much as Giordano’s. Please do not get me wrong. On its own merits any day of the week, Malnati’s would sweep just about any other pizzeria and is a must try for any visiting the Chicago area. But Giordano’s so far outpaced Malnati’s in overall enjoyment that there is no comparison. It was a heavenly meal and I painfully regret that I have no clue when the next opportunity will come for me to again partake of its mouthwatering savory goodness. But don’t take my word for it. If you ever visit the Chicago area, try Giordano’s & Malnati’s and let me know which one you think deserves the praise of best deep dish pizza.