Tupac versus Biggie, Alien versus Predator, thin crust versus deep dish: All are age-old debates that often draw ire and tears from their respective backers. We wonâ€™t even touch the first two, but the thin-thick argument is something we felt we could settle once and for all.
We gathered four thin-crust and four deep-dish aficionados to debate the merits of each in a weapon-free zone (a.k.a. the TOC offices) and ordered three deep-dish pies from Lou Malnatiâ€™s (439 N Wells St, 312-828-9800) and three thin-crust pies from Pizanoâ€™s (61 E Madison St, 312-236-1777). Each defender took a slice of both kinds of pizza for comparison. This set off some early trash-talking, so we egged them on and watched the food fight ensue.
Ruthann Gagnon, the restaurant veteran Sheâ€™s worked in restaurants for 13 years and is attending culinary school in the fall. â€œ[Eating deep dish is] like eating pizza in a Crock-Pot.â€
Matthew Dean, the pizza professor Dean is an active pizza poster on local online food forum LTH (lthforum.com). â€œI like the ratio of ingredients in thin crust; thereâ€™s much more honesty in what youâ€™re eating.â€
Marla Seidell, the purist â€œI think you miss out on the essence of the sauce, crust and cheese when you eat stuffed pizza.â€
David Weintrop, the peacemaker â€œWhile Iâ€™m definitely a thin-crust fan, Lou Malnatiâ€™s has the â€˜Lou,â€™ a deep-dish pie full of veggies and cheese, and thatâ€™s spectacular.â€
Dan Morgridge, the birthright traitor â€œMy mother went into labor with me at Aurelioâ€™s [which only serves thin crust] in Homewood. Despite that, Iâ€™m a fan of deep-dish pizza. I prefer a hearty meal.â€
Nilay Patel, the punk provoker Heâ€™s the guitarist for local band the Heaven Seventies. â€œIâ€™m from Wisconsin and I like cheese, so deep-dish pizza speaks to me on a very fundamental level.â€
Emily Balassone, the sensible teenager â€œThick crust is more of a meal than thin.â€
Marianne Balassone, the mouthy mom â€œI prefer deep dish because of the utensils. Especially for a first date, itâ€™s better to use a knife and fork than having to pick up a piece of thin crust with your fingers and have grease dripping down your hand.â€
TOC: Iâ€™ll throw out this question to start things off: Is deep dish even pizza?
Ruthann Itâ€™s like a quiche.
Nilay Actually, Iâ€™m not a big fan of [Malnatiâ€™s] crust. Unoâ€™s and Ginoâ€™s cook the crust through and itâ€™s a better texture, not like a pie.
Ruthann [Nodding in agreement with Nilay] See, [Malnatiâ€™s] is my experience, why I donâ€™t like deep dish.
Some say the essence of the individual ingredients gets lost in deep-dish pizza.
Nilay I think you have these perfect layers of each ingredient in the deep-dish pizza, almost stratified. I love the layer of sausage at Ginoâ€™s East. I love the idea that thereâ€™s an Italian guy somewhere teaching his kid to make, like, 18-inch-wide sausages.
Matthew You know [Ginoâ€™s] uses that sausage as the [crust] for a gluten-free pizza? I learned the hard way that you do not order gluten-free pizza with additional sausage.
Marianne I think Louâ€™s and Ginoâ€™s set the standard for deep dish and everyoneâ€™s trying to copy it and not doing a very good job.
Isnâ€™t the flip side that thin crust is for wimps?
Ruthann Iâ€™m about the goodies, I want to have eight toppings. When you do that with thick crust, everything gets lost.
Dan [Pointing to a half-eaten thin-crust pizza with disgust] See that giant pile of ingredients that fell to the wayside over here? That doesnâ€™t happen with deep dish.
What are the quintessential deep-dish places in Chicago?
Dan I grew up next to Giordanoâ€™s and Edwardoâ€™s. They have a good level of sauce and spice.
Nilay I think Ginoâ€™s East is really the place to go. They execute with that crust.
Matthew Pequodâ€™s is good.
What are the quintessential thin-crust places?
Marla Pizza D.O.C.
Dave Art of Pizza.
Matthew Vito and Nickâ€™s, Aurelioâ€™s. Medici does both good thick and thin.
Ruthann I grew up near Aurelioâ€™s, and theyâ€™d serve hot lunches at our school. But thatâ€™s major nostalgia talking.
Whatâ€™s the stereotypical thick-crust eater like?
Dave Someone whoâ€™s, like, four or five times the size of me.
Marla Itâ€™s Midwestern. Football-watching people.
You almost say Midwestern as if it were an insult. If you donâ€™t like Chicago pizza, you should just come out and say that.
Marla No, I like Chicago pizzaâ€¦. I do think thin-crust people tend to be a little snobby.
Dave I think itâ€™s funny that you guys associate deep dish with TV. You wouldnâ€™t watch football with a knife and fork. I hate the effort involved with deep dish. You canâ€™t eat it standing up. It takes 40 minutes to cook.
Whatâ€™s the stereotypical thin-crust eater like?
Nilay For thin crusters, itâ€™s much less about eating pizza and having fun, itâ€™s about being effete and taking limousine tours of blighted neighborhoods.
Matt You can take thin crust too far. Look at Crust, where everything is a â€œflatbreadâ€ and costs $18. Thatâ€™s one point for deep dish. Itâ€™s salt of the earth and stick-to-your ribs kind of fare.
Marianne [Nodding] There are so many froufrou varieties of thin-crust pizza.
Is deep dish responsible for making Chicago one of the nationâ€™s fattest cities?
Dave Itâ€™s not helping.
Marianne [Gesturing toward the almost empty boxes of thin-crust pizza and the barely touched boxes of deep dish]Â No. You only eat one slice of the deep dish. You graze through the thin crust. Look how much [the thin-crusters] ate over there.
If you can only eat one slice of deep dish, whatâ€™s the point?
Marianne Itâ€™s also breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day.
Matt Thatâ€™s another thingâ€¦the keepability. With deep dish, 24 hours later itâ€™s like youâ€™re culturing something in the refrigerator.
Dan I like putting deep dish slices in the microwave and letting the cheese ooze.
Dave I do believe in finishing what you take. So if you have one piece and itâ€™s not enough, you have to finish the second piece to clean your plate. Then you have a pound of cheese in your stomach for hours.
Emily There is such a thing as cutting a piece in half.
Can you say anything good about the other type of pizza?
Dave Is this the happy ending where we all hug? I am jealous that thereâ€™s not the same kind of â€œbeing a true Chicagoanâ€ tradition with thin crust.
Nilay Despite all my allegiance to deep dish, my favorite pizza in this city is Philâ€™s in Bridgeport, which is basically thin-crust sausage pizza.
Do you hate yourself?
Nilay Itâ€™s still Chicago pizza. Their old location was a storefront with, like, a metal cage and people were screaming at each other. You get a free two-liter of RC Cola when you buy a pizza. That shitâ€™s real. You canâ€™t have a more honest thin-crust pizza. All you chichi fools [thin-crusters] though donâ€™t count.
Marla Weâ€™re not chichi. I like to graze. With thin crust, you can eat more.
Emily Itâ€™s like the Sox and Cubsâ€”thereâ€™s always going to be two sides. Everyone will have their reasons why they like one or the other, but itâ€™s pizza. It all tastes good.
This article first appeared in Time Out Chicago