Not many foods champion almost universal high regard equal to pizza. Just as its many fans, the dish carries almost as many states of matter.
Neapolitan, Neo-Neapolitan, Roman, New York, St. Louis, New Haven, Sicilian, Detroit, New Jersey… Californian *shudders in East Coast* Et al.
One of its many forms, however, has carried some historically maligned hate. I’m talking deep dish.
The fabled Chicago concoction was birthed in 1943, and has yet to be taken seriously as a quality regional delicacy, in my opinion.
Deep dish pizza has garnered critique ranging from “it’s not a pizza, it’s a casserole,” to that it’s not delicious, which is just outright libel.
First things first. Yes, deep dish is “pizza.”
Unless we’re letting some arbitrary pizza gestapo (Hello, Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana) thinly outline what constitutes what a “pizza” is, let’s agree that “pizza” is many things.
I don’t want to get into an existential argument of what the fuck a pizza is, but the reality is that it takes many forms.
For those wielding index-fingers poised to accost me, I point to deep dish’s foreign cousin; the one hounding you for gelato con brioche on his little vespa cruiser, the Sicilian one.
Sicilian pies are thicker than conventional pizzas, with cheese sometimes as a base and sauce ladled atop. I wouldn’t call deep dish “Sicilian-adjacent” but they’re fun-house mirrors of one another.
If one is widely considered pizza, I can hardly find a reason why the other is dismissed from similar species classification. They share such similarities and have the base components of what pizza entails.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, I rest my case.
Now to address the matter of deep dish not being delicious. Okay you got me, I will concede whether a food ‘tastes good’ is a matter of subjectivity but I would press whether that’s how you really feel or a matter of what you think you should feel.
To understand the context of deep dish’s composition, you have to remember that Chicago is cold almost 4 months out of the year. The thick crust compatriot was created as an act of pragmatism.
I believe some of the animosity towards deep dish is due to its scarce national representation, while being impractical to eat daily — unless you live in seasonal sub -40 degree areas.
Such contrarianism flies in the face of orthodox coastal elites. (I’m mostly guilty)
On its own merit though, Chicago style pizza bucks convention and offers a shake-up when a quarter-inch slice just isn’t cutting it.
If traditional pizza is a balancing act (ratios, sauce-to-cheese, chewiness-to-crispness), deep dish is an act of comfort.
The crust — its standout identifiable feature — boasts a buttery, fragrant base. Cheese flows in ribbons above, oozing with stringy mellow mozzarella. It would hardly be a Chicago pie without sausage, which offers a fatty, peppery note in each bite. Lastly, the sauce; it comes rather simply and sweetly to offset the robustness of its former counterparts.
In tandem, those ingredients inspire a warm Midwest mother’s hug during a frigid Chicago winter.
Oh — almost forgot, Pequod’s. That’s my Windy City champion. The caramelized crust is phenomenal, topped with sausage, garlic, and basil.