The rivalry between New York-style pizza vs. Chicago-style pizza is one that dates, more or less, since the beginning of time. I’ve heard that it was the first argument that cavemen had; it’s possible that the dinosaurs actually went extinct because they could never decide on which pizza to get for dinner. Since both groups have since perished, we’ve never gotten a real answer to the question of which is better — or even whether deep dish pizza can truly be classified as pizza.
So, on a rainy Wednesday, four New York City-based BuzzFeed writers set out to try an apparently authentic incarnation of Chicago deep dish, newly arrived in our city in hopes of putting an end to the question once and for all. Among the researchers was one Chicago native, present to confirm the pizza’s legitimacy. Would its seductive depths of sauce and cheese sway the other three novices and prove Jon Stewart wrong?
5. Part I: Acknowledging Biases
Before the tasting commenced, each pizza researcher established her prior experience (or lack of it) with deep dish pizza.
Joanna Borns: I’d never tried authentic deep dish before. I think I had “deep dish” once as a kid, but it was from some chain restaurant making outrageous claims. I grew up near Chicago, so this is probably shameful. It never appealed to me because it looks like liquid pizza, and I feel like pizza should be a solid.
Mackenzie Kruvant: I was born on the East Coast and have lived here all my life, so to me New York pizza has always been the holy grail of ‘za. I’ve never had deep dish pizza, and I wasn’t even really sure what it was, until I went to Chicago for a music festival in 2008 — but was too scared to try it. I did watch Jon Stewart bitch about it on The Daily Show, though, and I trust that man. Also, my doctor says I shouldn’t really eat a lot of gluten or dairy for medical reasons, but I figured this was worth taking a risk for. Sorry, Dr. Levy!
Marie Telling: I had no relationship with deep dish pizza. I didn’t even know what it was before you mentioned it to me. I am French [editor’s note: Marie edits BuzzFeed France, and is indeed French.] and I’ve never been to Chicago, so I have an excuse. I googled it and I didn’t find the pictures very appealing. But I approached the tasting like any first time: I was curious and a bit excited, but mostly anxious and fearful.
Kasia Galazka: I’m from Chicago, so I’m a born equal-opportunity pizza lover and have endless fond memories over a good pie. Since they take forever to bake, it’s an excellent excuse to sit around and shoot the poop over a few beers with old friends while you wait. I try to have it every time I go back!
6. PART II: First Impressions
Pizza pictured is not OUR pizza (alas, we didn’t get photos before it was cut up). This is however, a pizza from the same restaurant we went to.
JB: It looks like an above-ground swimming pool full of tomato sauce.
MK: This looks like an edible Quidditch stadium. It’s just tomato with cheese ooze. I feel like it would be a realistic way of bathing in a bathtub full of food.
MT: It looks more like a tomato pie than a pizza to me — sloppy.
[Chicagoan] KG: It’s a tiny miracle! It looks almost right, but its innards are more sunken than usual.
8. Part III: Post-Tasting Evaluation
Also not the pizza in question.
JB: Surprisingly delicious for something that looks like an alien bread bowl. The cheese was spot on. Some of the best pizza cheese I’ve ever had. Usually I don’t eat the crust, but I felt compelled to eat this crusty crust. There was a bite of crust left on my plate that I wanted, but the waitress took my plate away before I could eat it. It made me sad. I’ll never forget you, piece of crust.
MK: Surprisingly yummy. I mean, it doesn’t look good, and you don’t look great eating it. Although you keep your hands clean, which is great. Fork & knife 4 life. But yeah, one slice maximum on that shit.
MT: I thought it was really good. The tomato sauce was delicious and perfectly seasoned. The cheese was good too, one of the best I’ve had on a pizza in the US. The crust was too hard. though, and on the whole I found the dish a bit monotonous.
[Chicagoan] KG: I loved it in the way people love their significant others, flaws and all. I had to stab the crust to cut through it, which bummed me out, but for a sodium fiend like myself, the cheese and sauce and seasoning were all perfect.
JB: Yes, of course. It’s like a fat pizza. There’s just a little more to love. I feel like people who claim there’s some major difference between deep dish and regular pizza are like those people who like to remind you that a tortoise is super different from a turtle. No one cares. Also, the 45-minute gestation time in the kitchen for a deep dish pizza sort of defeats the purpose of pizza. If I’m waiting 45 minutes, I feel like the pizza should come out shaped like a sculpture of my face or something.
MK: Urgh, whatever, Joanna. It has all of the components of pizza and is cooked like pizza, so the logical side of me says yes, it’s a pizza — butttt I just can’t say yes.
MT: Agreed. I think it’s a tomato sauce pie. It’s still good, it’s just not a pizza.
[Chicagoan] KG: Guys it’s pizza. I don’t hate fun. I get irrationally upset when people don’t consider it pizza, because pizza is a representation of all that is good in the world, and why do you want to take that away from me?
12. Part IV: Results
Which is the winner: New York City pizza or Chicago pizza?
JB: I need someone to explain to me what defines “New York style pizza.” [editor’s note: Check this out.] What are the criteria? It’s very unclear. I’ve lived in NYC for 7 years, and I’ve eaten a lot of pizza here, and I still don’t understand what its defining characteristics are. I did not expect to feel this way, but I think I liked the “Chicago style” better, even though obviously New York is a far superior city. I may only be saying this because I was really hungry.
MT: Well, I preferred deep dish pizza to basic NY pizza. But I don’t think it’s a pizza. To be honest, I just don’t like the way Americans make pizza. I love American food, but I just don’t think you’re that good at pizza (and I know how many people I’m going to piss off with that one). The NY pizzas I’ve had were all oily, chewy and tasteless. And I tried. Oh yes, I did. I wanted to be into pizza the way Jennifer Lawrence is. So I’ve had pizza each time I was drunk and often when I was sober. But I like my pizza with a thin crispy crust, with delicious tomato sauce topped with slices of mozzarella, black olives and leaves of basil. I like my pizza Italian. Sorry :/
MK: Marie, I respect your dedication to the American Dream and have see you eat NY style pizza at the office every other Thursday so gold stars, man. I’m still going with NYC, though.
[Chicagoan] KG: Both! Put it all in my mouth. There is no debate where to hot cheese, tomatoes, and bread are concerned. You can purée them and call them pizza and I’d drink it down the way people drink smoothies. Mmm, pizza smoothie.
a) Chicago deep dish resists classification. (Vote: 2 to 2)
b) But whatever it is, it is better than a New York slice. (Vote: 3 to 1)
Sorry, Jon Stewart (and whichever cave men and dinosaurs died for NYC style pizza).