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Yelp says Chicago isn't the best pizza city. Its chefs beg to differ

Yelp released a new list of the Top 100 pizza spots across North America, and Chicago barely cracked the top 50. Some chefs explain why it's wrong.
Posted at 9:53 PM, Mar 02, 2023

Few cities take their pizza as seriously as Chicago, so when in the Windy City, avoid saying the words "New York" and "pizza" in the same sentence.

"It's pizza, it's Chicago. It has to be good," one customer at Lou Malnati's said.

"I'm not a New York guy, and I could eat that flimsy s*** that they sell, but pizza in Chicago — nobody does it exactly like us," Rick Malnati said.

Lou Malnati's is a longtime Chi-town favorite for deep-dish pizza, with some customers claiming the best, or only, way to eat it is with a fork and knife.

Rick Malnati, who co-owns the pizzeria chain, learned from the best.

"An old family recipe that's gone back all the way to my grandpa," he said.

Malnati agreed to show Scripps News all his time-tested tricks: First is the dough, pushing it down all the way to the sides. Then comes the cheese, sausage, and tomato sauce all topped off with a blend of parmesan and oregano. Finally, it takes two ovens set to different temperatures to churn out the indulgent deep-dish pizza.

Another favorite is Milly's Pizza In The Pan.

At No. 43, the small shop is the top-ranked Chicago pizzeria on the Yelp 100 ranking. Only two other Chicago spots made the list, which Yelp compiled "using a number of factors including the total volume and ratings of reviews." 

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Milly's owner Robert Maleski was furloughed during the pandemic after waiting tables for 16 years.

"I spent a year at home dedicated to learning how to make pizza, developing my recipes," Maleski said.

Initially working from a shared kitchen, Maleski opened Milly's as a brick-and-mortar restaurant just a year ago, and it's been widely successful.

"Pizza changed my life in every way," Maleski said. 

Maleski's pizza is all about caramelizing the cheese around the edges.

"It kind of tastes like cheesy bread," he said. "It's really, really good."

The Chicago native says his pan pizza is different from Chicago deep-dish, but it is still unique to the city.

For Chicago Tribune food critic Louisa Chu, that's what's so special about Chicago pizza. Chu, who tries to remain anonymous as part of her job, says Chicago rivals New York and Detroit.

"Not only for our own styles of pizzas — you know, the Chicago deep-dish and the thin crust — but also we have a lot of other great pizza from around the world that is made amazingly well here," Chu said.

Whether it's pan pizza or deep-dish pizza or tavern-style pizza or countless other variations, it turns out Chicago has a lot more to offer than you might think.

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