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Tavern-Style Pizza: The True Chicago Pizza

Everything you should know about this classic Chicago dish.

If you are soon to be visiting Chicago, it is likely that you are eager to try the deep dish pizza that the city is known for. Invented in 1943, the deep-dish pizza has a medium-thick crust with layered toppings. It is referred to as a pie and is typically eaten using a knife and fork.

Although the deep-dish pizza is hugely popular, it has not existed for as long as the tavern-style pizza. The origins of the Tavern-style pizza can be traced back as far as the 20s and 30s. During this time, there was a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in lots of taverns across the city.

Despite this ban, some taverns proceeded to sell alcohol in secret along with a free square of tavern-style pizza. Because this pizza was available in almost every neighborhood throughout the city, it is considered to be the true Chicago-style pizza. 

freshly baked tavern style pizza

This style of pizza has a very thin crust and is typically served in square slices, though some pizzerias in the midwest region may cut it into triangular slices. It is often referred to as a bar-style pizza.

Due to the way that the dough is prepared, it can’t be folded. It is rolled rather than tossed and then cooked for longer than a regular pizza as this creates the crunchiness that it is known for. Tavern-style pizza is thought to be one of the more practical styles of pizza because it is not too rich and the thin base makes it easy to eat. 

Below we have identified several of the best restaurants and pizzerias to visit in Chicago to try some delicious tavern-style pizza.

Where to Get Tavern-Style Pizza

  1. Barnaby’s
  2. Coalfire
  3. Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria
  4. Candlelite
  5. Obbie’s Pizza
  6. Piece Brewery & Pizzeria
  7. Dino’s Italian Pizza & Italian Restaurant
  8. Pat’s Pizza and Ristorante
  9. Aurelio’s Pizza
  10. Pizza Castle
  11. La Villa Pizza
  12. Pizza Lobo
  13. Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream
  14. Rosangela’s Pizza
  15. Villa Nova
  16. Marie’s Pizza and Liquors
  17. Michael’s Original Pizzeria & Tavern
  18. Crust Fund Pizza

Barnaby’s 

960 Skokie Blvd, Northbrook, IL 60062
Phone: 847 498-3900
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Barnaby’s of Northbrook has existed since 1968. This restaurant is famous for creating thin, crispy pizzas with a crust that is made from cornmeal. The sauce, dough, mozzarella, and additional toppings are always fresh and of the highest quality.

If you visit this restaurant, you will notice that it operates via self-service. As such, you can read the menus that are displayed on the tables before going to retrieve your food when it is ready. Along with the master pizzas that they are known for, the menus also list a selection of starters, dinners, sandwiches, and side orders.

Barnaby’s was once part of a local chain with a few restaurants dotted throughout the state, however, there are now only a few remaining which are situated in the suburbs. This restaurant is definitely worth a visit if you would like to enjoy some cheesy, tangy pizza. 


Coalfire

3707 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
Phone: 773 477-2625
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Coalfire pizza is renowned as ‘Chicago’s Original Coal Oven Pizzeria’. Here they serve thin-crust pizza that is cooked in a 1,500-degree oven which is fueled by clean-burning coal. This gives their pizzas a slightly charred appearance and a delicious flavor.

Although they do not class their pizzas as being New York style, Chicago style, Neapolitan, or New Haven pizza, the style of their pizzas shares many similarities to a New Haven pizza.

The crusts are thin and flexible and can be topped with an assortment of ingredients from Jalapenos to pepperoni and bacon jam. They have one restaurant in West Town, Grand Avenue, and another located in Lake View, Southport Avenue. If you are visiting any of these spots, Coalfire is certainly worth a visit. 


Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria

8433 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60652
Phone: 773 735-2050
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Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria was founded in 1923 by two Sicilian natives. The first restaurant was located in Congress and Polk but they now have a presence in a few other locations. The family behind this restaurant has amassed years of experience in creating the best thin-crust pizzas that you will find in Chicago.

This restaurant is a favorite amongst many and is also nationally recognized for creating thin-based pizzas with crunchy crusts that can be topped with a vast array of toppings. Whether you enjoy anchovies, olives, sausage, pepperoni, peppers, or ground beef, there is bound to be something on the menu that caters to your preferences.

On days where you may not feel like eating pizza, you can feast on some pasta, sandwiches, and dinners. 


Candlelite

7452 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60645
Phone: 773 465-0087
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Founded in the 1950s, Candlelite prides itself on being Chicago’s number 1 stop for thin crust pizza. It is fairly easy to locate courtesy of the neon arrows which point visitors in the direction of the restaurant.

The menu is extremely varied with options available suitable for those on a vegan and vegetarian diet. Their famous cracker-thin crust signature pizzas are made with an assortment of toppings. You can choose from BBQ chicken, Hawaiian, Flaming Italian Beef, Taco or a veggie pizza.

Those who prefer pizzas with a more basic flavor may prefer a margarita pizza. Moreover, they also offer a few white pizzas which use a creamy sauce for the base rather than tomato sauce. 


Obbie’s Pizza

6654 W Archer Ave #2420, Chicago, IL 60638
Phone: 773 586-2828
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Obbie’s Pizza was founded in 1977 in the Garfield Ridge area. It is loved by residents in the area and tourists alike. The pizzas from this restaurant have a unique taste thanks to the seasoned Middleby Marshall ovens that they are cooked in.

Just like a traditional tavern-style pizza, Obbie’s pizzas have a thin crust that is topped with a generous amount of sauce, ingredients, and cheese. If desired, you can also opt for the stuffed pizza which is loaded with a solid layer of even more ingredients and cheese. As the sauce reaches the edges, each bite is packed full of flavor.

Their pizzas are available in a variety of sizes from small to extra large and jumbo. Furthermore, you can also choose between the cheese-topped pizza, the one ingredient pizza, or an Obbie’s special. You can also add a side ingredient if you would like. Just like many other pizza restaurants, Obbie’s also has a selection of other dishes listed on the menu. 


Piece Brewery & Pizzeria

1927 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Phone: 773 772-4422
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Located on North Avenue in Chicago, Piece Brewery and Pizzeria was opened by a man named Bill Jacob’s in 2001. They have a few pizzas on their menu ranging from a red pizza which is topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella, to the Hot Doug’s Atomic Sausage Pizza which is topped with caramelized onions, pepper jack cheese, and hot Doug’s atomic sausage.

Alternatively, you may prefer the white pizza which is made with diced garlic, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese. For an additional fee, you can add more toppings if desired. The menu also includes appetizers, salads, and desserts. 


Dino’s Italian Pizza & Italian Restaurant

7004 W Higgins Ave, Chicago, IL 60656
Phone: 773 763-4077
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Dino’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant is situated in Higgins Avenue, Chicago, an area where tavern-style pizza is very well-known and loved. This is a family-owned restaurant that has been in business since 1968. As stated on the company website, Dino’s Italian Pizza restaurant is ranked as the third standout pizzeria in Chicago.

Whilst guests can dine inside the restaurant, there is also the option to carry out. The crusts of their pizza are thin and the bases are topped with some great tasting ingredients. Their pizzas come in multiple sizes, the smallest starting at 10” and the largest being 18”.

You can either opt for a pizza that is only topped with cheese or you can tuck into the Mexican-style pizza. This is topped with a salsa sauce, olives, ground beef, peppers, onions, and a blend of cheeses. Other options include the BLT pizza or the BBQ pizza.


Pat’s Pizza and Ristorante

2679 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: 773 248-0168
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This family-owned business has been operating for over 70 years. As stated on their website, Pat’s Pizza and Ristorante is where the Number 1 thin crust pizza is created. The menu consists of regular thin-crust pizzas along with the vegetarian thin crust pizza and Pat’s special thin crust pizza which is topped with green peppers, sausage, onions, and mushrooms.

Again, they come in a few different sizes so can either go large or if you’re not overly hungry you can choose the smallest size. There are also lots of appetizers to choose from as well as salads and beverages.


Aurelio’s Pizza

1212 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605
Phone: 312 374-4459
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Founded in 1959, Aurelio’s Pizza is the name given to a chain of restaurants that specialize in making the thin crust, Chicago-style pizzas. With 37 franchised locations, Aurelio’s is present in 6 different states. Some of their most popular locations include Addison, Bourbonnais, and Chicago Heights.

The menu consists of a selection of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, and of course pizza. A great thing about this restaurant is that they have gluten-free options available so the needs of those with special dietary requirements are catered to.

As for the toppings, there is a great selection of ingredients available, they include sausage, Italian beef, meatball, chicken, anchovies, mushrooms, fresh garlic, Ortega, jalapenos, and pineapple. Furthermore, they also have an exciting variety of sauces from barbeque to marina and buffalo sauce. Along with thin-crust pizzas, they also offer stuffed pizza and thick crust pizza. 


Pizza Castle

3256 W 55th St, Chicago, IL 60632
Phone: 773 776-1075
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This family-owned food establishment is situated in a strip mall on 55th street. They primarily focus on providing a takeout and delivery service and they have done for over 47 years. On their menu, you will find a few different meal options.

The team at Pizza castle specializes in creating thin-crust pizzas that are topped with a perfectly balanced sweet and savory sauce. In regards to size, these pizzas come in small, medium, large, and extra-large.

Their specialty pizzas include the King Arthur, the veggie option, or Chicago beef. If preferred, you can build your own pizza and choose the toppings that are put on it. This is the perfect option for those who are looking for a convenient place to stop for a tasty bite to eat. 


La Villa Pizza

3638 N Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60641
Phone: 773 283-7980
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La Villa Restaurant, Banquet, and Lounge is situated in the Old Irving Park area of Chicago. It is frequented by the locals who appreciate the freshness of the dough and the toppings.

It was first opened back in 1972 and originally operated as a carry-out business. Since this time, it has expanded and become a popular, generously sized restaurant. Through their adventurous menu, they aimed to introduce Italian-inspired cuisine to America.

Their thin-crust pizzas can be topped with just cheese or you can for the Hawaiin which comes with ham and pineapple or the vegetarian which comes with onion, green peppers, spinach, broccoli, and mushrooms. If neither of these takes your fancy, why not try the Taco flavored pizza, the La Villa special, or the Southwestern pizza. As you can see, there is plenty for you to choose from.


Pizza Lobo

3000 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Phone: 312 265-1745
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Pizza Lobo is located in an idyllic, old-school spot in Fullerton Avenue, Chicago. They offer a dine-in, curbside pickup, and delivery service. The owner of this restaurant wanted to recreate the great-tasting pizza that he grew up enjoying on the East Coast, i.e a thin base and crispy crust.

They offer dine-in daily specials throughout the week including everyday discounts on a 10” pizza. The menu lists a few classic pizza combinations such as the meat lovers, the veggie supreme, or the bee’s knees pizza.

If none of these pizzas appeal to you, you can build your own version topped with all of the ingredients that you love. They also offer sub sandwiches, starters, and salads. 


Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream 

964 W 31st St, Chicago, IL 60608
Phone: 773 565-4192
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This restaurant once focussed on serving thick-crusted Sicilian-style pizza, however, they have since gone on to switch their focus onto creating thin tavern-style pizza. As implied by the name of this restaurant, they do not only sell pizza as there is also fried chicken and ice cream available.

You can also place an order online for delivery if this is more convenient. The pizzas that are available here are made and provided by Eat free Pizza, whilst the chicken is provided by Kimski and the desserts by Pretty Cool Ice Cream. The creators of the pizza provide themselves on establishing the perfect balance between a nice crispy base and a sweet sauce. 


Rosangela’s Pizza

2807 95th St, Evergreen Park, IL 60805
Phone: 708 422-2041
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Rosangela’s Pizza is located in Evergreen Park, Illinois. Though the crusts of the pizzas that they make may be thin, they are strong enough to hold a selection of toppings. They have a few pizzas on the menu ranging from a standard cheese pizza to the Rosangela’s special.

You have the option to select extra ingredients for an additional charge. There are also a few pasta dishes available. Their pizzas combine a deliciously tangy but sweet sauce, with fresh dough and toppings and plenty of cheese. 


Villa Nova

6821 W Pershing Rd, Stickney, IL 60402
Phone: 708 788-2944
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The Villa Nova Pizzeria was founded in 1955. This restaurant is family-owned and located in Stickney. Though the premise may be small, it is worth visiting. As stated on the website, some consider Villa Nova to be the home of the Best Tavern-style pizza in the Chicago suburbs.

Since its establishment, this restaurant has won many awards for the pizza that it creates. Villa Nova is particularly well-known for its Famous Sausage Pizza which is topped with golf-ball-sized bits of sausage. Other options include the John Speciality Pizza or a more basic cheese pizza.  


Marie’s Pizza and Liquors

4129 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60630
Phone: 773 725-1812
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This liquor store and pizzeria is situated on Lawrence Avenue, Chicago. Not only do they offer thin-crust pies and pizzas but they also hold live gigs every week. It was established in 1940 and has won numerous awards.

The menu consists of a range of tavern-style thin crust pizza. Some of the most popular items include Marie’s special pizza, the sausage pizza, and the pepperoni pizza. 


Michael’s Original Pizzeria & Tavern

4091 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60613
Phone: 773 929-4149
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This low-key pizzeria and sports bar serves a selection of pizzas and pub grub. They offer plenty of pizzas for meat lovers, along with a few choices for vegans and vegetarians. Furthermore, they also accommodate those with special dietary requirements by offering gluten-free pizza options.

You can either choose a pizza with a regular thin crust or a pizza with an extra thin and crispy crust. The Michael’s special pizza is topped with green peppers, onion, mushroom, and sausage. The vegetarian pizza can be topped with any three vegetables of your choice from the list provided.

The list of fresh toppings includes Canadian bacon, olives, artichokes, garlic, jalapeno peppers, spinach, artichokes, and much more. 

Crust Fund Pizza

Crust Fund Pizza isn’t a restaurant but rather a monthly pop-up that aims to raise money for charity by selling pizzas via Instagram. It began during the summer of 2020 by John Carruthers. He specializes in tavern-style pizzas and has wowed many professional pizza makers with his recipes and culinary expertise.

Carruthers posts his menu on Instagram at the beginning of the week and then allows potential customers to place their orders which they will then need to pick up. He occasionally collaborates with well-known professionals from the food industry. The uniqueness of Crust Fund Pizza is what makes it stand out.

Though the business may not be affixed to a permanent premises and may not operate as a fully-fledged pizza restaurant, Carruthers has thought of an innovative way of raising money for charities through the enjoyment of pizza. This is a great way of showing support for a worthy cause whilst feasting on some delicious pizza. 


Final Thoughts 

As you can see, there are a few characteristics of tavern-style pizza that set it apart from other types, thus primarily being the thin and crispy crust, the tangy but sweet sauce, and the square-shaped slices.

This type of pizza is available in many great restaurants throughout Chicago, some of which we have listed above. Whilst some solely specialize in Tavern-style pizza, others sell a combination of different types of pizza along with other meals and appetizers.

Interested in the deep-dish version of Chicago pizza? You can read all about that here!

What’s your favorite place to get tavern-style pizza from? Let us know in the comments and we’ll check it out!

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Written by Rocco Smith

Rocco is from Sanibel Island, Florida, and a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Editing, Writing, and Media. With seven years’ experience in the restaurant industry as a cook, server, bartender, and more, he is deeply passionate about intertwining his fondness for food with his love of language.