Why Chicago's Best Pizza Isn't What You Think

March 19, 2024

Chicago Tavern Style Pizza by Homemade Pizza Club

If you ask most people which countries they associate most with pizza, you’ll find two common answers. These are of course Italy and America.

Italy’s history with pizza is well known, having been eaten there for centuries. It is of course the birthplace of the famous Pizza Margherita which was created in honour of Queen Margherita in 1889.

But our friends across the pond have similarly become famous not only for their love of pizza, but also the many different styles of it that have been created across the country. Italian immigrants were more than likely responsible for bringing pizza to the US originally, with these regional styles subsequently developing over the last century.

Some of these pizza styles are well known to us, but others less so.

Chicago is of course famous for its deep-dish pizza, but did you know that deep-dish isn’t the authentic Chicago pizza at all? If you’re ever lucky enough to visit the windy city then you’ll find there’s a type of pizza served in restaurants across the Illinois capital that’s very different from what we associate with Chicago.

It’s called Chicago Tavern style and it has a very interesting history.

Chicago Tavern style pizza was invented during the Great Depression era by Tavern owners who wanted to encourage their clientele to drink more beer, so they needed a way to make them thirsty. Chicago Tavern style pizza was the solution! It was sometimes given away for free, to entice more customers to come in and drink away the sorrows that the Great Depression brought for many Chicagoans at the time.

What makes Chicago Tavern style unique is that it’s thin. Like really thin! And it’s not rolled by hand, but by using a rolling pin, something that would probably get you deported from Italy if you tried doing it there.  This method removes a lot of air from the dough. For more raised crusts this isn’t desirable, but for Chicago Tavern style, it’s exactly how to create the delicious crispy texture that makes it what it is.

There’s an interesting trick employed by Chicago Tavern style pizza makers that’s used to get the dough even crispier, which is known as ‘curing’ the dough. This involves storing the pinned out flat pizza base between parchment paper for between a few hours and up to as much as 24 hours! This curing of the dough is unique to Chicago Tavern style and further dehydrates the dough, which adds even more to the delicious crispiness that makes it hard to resist.

Famous toppings for Tavern style are Pepperoni sausage and an interesting topping called Giardinera, a delicious combination of pickled vegetables including peppers, cucumber, chillies, carrot and cauliflower. The combination of the meaty sausage and the pickled vegetables is both unique and deliciously balanced. Chicago Tavern style is very generous with its toppings, with plenty of sauce, cheese and toppings being applied to the pizza. After all, the aim was to get people to drink more!

Pizzas are often held up for the quality of their crusts, which the Italians refer to as the ‘Cornicione’ but Chicago Tavern style differs again here as the sauce and toppings are applied right to the edge of the pizza, leaving little to no crust at all. It’s a distinctive look that makes it visually different to other pizzas.

Finally, once served, there’s a golden rule of Chicago Tavern style which must never be broken. And that is that it must NEVER be cut into slices, but instead into squares. The reason for this is that it was designed to be shared among the Tavern’s customers and cutting into slices enabled smaller bites to be taken, helping the pizza to go round more people. It’s the perfect sharing food for friends and family, with the crispy crust making it easy to pick up the squares with your fingers to eat.

For the home pizza maker, Chicago Tavern style pizza has several benefits.

  1. You don’t need any dough rolling skills. Chicago Tavern style is prepared using a rolling pin. Anybody (even the kids) can prepare it, making it the easiest way to make your own pizza.
  2. You don’t need any expensive equipment. Pizza ovens aren’t cheap, but Chicago Tavern style doesn’t need an outside pizza oven to cook in as it cooks superbly well in your domestic oven due to the curing process drying out the dough, which means it can bake for longer at a lower heat, giving it a unique texture.
  3. It looks amazing! The toppings being spread right to the edge creates great looking crispy edges which caramelise the surrounding sauce and cheese, which just makes it look sexy!
  4. It’s made for sharing. Cutting the pizza into squares not only looks great but makes it the ultimate sharing food. For a party or gathering, serve it onto a platter in the middle of the table and you’ll struggle to count to 10 before it’s all gone.
  5. The crunch. Oh, the crunch! You’ve never experienced a sound like Chicago Tavern style crunch as you cut it into delicious little squares. The combination of a longer baking time, cured dough and the unique recipe used gives a texture like no other pizza you’ve tried. The only negative is that it’s somewhat addictive and you may find yourself making pizzas just to slice them and feel the crunch as you run the wheel up and down them!


We’ve saved the best news until last which is that our obsession with Chicago Tavern style pizza means that we just had to develop a Chicago Tavern style pizza dough ball for you to experience this pizza sensation for yourself. Not only that, but we’ve also developed a unique Chicago Tavern style pizza sauce, which has the hallmark zingy flavour that Chicago Tavern style pizza is famous for. You’ll receive full instructions on how to make it with your order but for more information on how to make Tavern style, check out our Youtube video here which shows you everything you need to know.

Whether you’re a newbie to pizza making or a seasoned pro, you’re about to experience a completely new way of making pizza that we guarantee you’ll be delighted with.

To order your Chicago Tavern style pizza dough and sauce, go to our collections page and get your order delivered straight to your door.

Have fun with your Chicago Tavern style pizza making and don’t forget to send us photos of your results!

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