Feb. 16, 2016

Best Pizza on the North Shore

While the novelty of heart-shaped pizzas got plenty of action this past Valentine's Day, (Lou Malnati’s, Viccino’s, Italian Kitchen, D’Agostinos and Barnabys all serve them), the question of where to get the best pizza on the North Shore, regardless of shape, is still up for debate. Further investigation into this hot topic reveals that while deep dish may be Chicago’s claim to fame, not everyone is a fan (gasp)! However, by the sheer number of pizza offerings in the area, chances are there is a pizza that will suit anyone’s palette and crust preference. With so many options, narrowing the list down was a very difficult task so if we left of  your favorite please comment and join in on the debate. Now, without further ado, we present our list of the North Shore’s Best Pizza organized by type. Who’s up for a slice?

Deep Dish Pizza

Lou Malnati’s
1850 Sherman Ave., Evanston, 847-328-5400 – Café
1890 First Street, Highland Park, 847-266-9000 – Carryout & Delivery Only
840 South Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, 847-735-1515 - Carryout & Delivery Only
1326 Shermer Rd., Northbrook, 847-291-0250 - Carryout & Delivery Only
3223 Lake Ave., Wilmette, 847-256-5780 - Carryout & Delivery Only

When it comes to deep dish, Lou’s is and probably will always be the first name that comes to mind. Having worked in the pizza biz since the 1940’s, Lou officially opened up his own shop in 1971 and the rest is history. Known for its buttery, flaky crust and sweet and tangy tomatoes, for many it is mere perfection. With several locations throughout the North Shore, chances are you’re only minutes away from picking up this deliciousness for yourself. Although they do ship anywhere in the U.S.!

Pizano’s, 1808 N. Waukegan Rd., Glenview

Equally loved for its thin crust (maybe even more so) as it is for its deep dish, we listed Pizano’s under deep dish for its family roots to Lou’s. But that’s a whole other story for another blog post! Pizano’s deep dish offering is close to Lou’s but there are differences: Their deep dish is not as thick, and they use less sauce that is lighter in taste. Their toppings do not necessarily cover their entire pies, and their sausage (a proprietary garlic sausage blend) gets rave reviews. When it comes to the crust, you can order their regular crust which uses corn oil and olive oil, or you can order the butter crust (comes automatically on the thin) which is similar to Lou’s as it is based on the same family recipe, but is crunchier and perhaps a bit blander. 

Piero’s Pizza
647 Roger Williams, Highland Park, 847-433-7795
3125 Dundee Rd., Northbrook, 847-498-5700

Although Lou’s may have the notoriety, Piero’s has been around the block long enough to know a thing or two about deep dish. A North Shore tradition since 1980, Piero’s is known for its fresh ingredients, crispy crust and especially gooey cheese!  Thin crust and extra thin crust get raves too.

Pequods, 8520 Fernald Ave., Morton Grove

Although not necessarily the North Shore, it’s close enough to warrant a listing for its unique take on deep dish crust – it looks burnt, but it’s really caramelized cheese. Some say once you taste it, you’ll be converted for life. If you do decide to venture there, please note that the dining area is relatively small so expect a wait. Carryout is available as well, but allow for a few extra minutes than the time you are quoted.

Burt’s Place, 8541 Ferris Ave., Morton Grove (Permanently closed as of July 2015)

We can’t discuss Pequods without mentioning Burt’s Place which was owned by Burt Katz, Pequods’ founder.  Unfortunately, this legendary Chicago staple, where you had to call your order in at least 24 hours in advance, closed July 2015 due to illness.  

Thin Crust Pizza

Barnaby’s of Northbrook, 960 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook

Barnaby’s is about at old school as it gets, as the décor and ordering system has literally not changed for 40 years! First you grab a seat and menu, then you place your food order with the cashier, and then walk over to the bar area to purchase your drinks. Don’t forget to grab plates, silverware and napkins (and the free cheese and crackers) as well since those are self-served too! But all of the “work” is worth it once your pizza is ready. The signature square cut, thin cornmeal crust with a bit of grease (in a good way) does not disappoint and is why so many people on the North Shore keep coming back for more. Dine-in/carry out only.  Delivery through Door Dash.

Alex’s Washington Gardens, 256 Green Bay Rd., Highwood

Serving up delicious square cut, thin crust pizza since 1944, the recipe was created by Alex’s parents, Tony and Ellen Scornavacco. With over 30 different toppings to choose from, you can create a pizza that’s all you own, and you can request to have it sliced in the round if that is more your thing! The restaurant is small and cozy and has maintained the original ambiance throughout the change of ownership. The service is still friendly and welcoming.  They also offer a great selection of classic Italian entrees as well. Reservations recommended for dining in, carry-out available as well.

Upscale Thin Pizza

Napolita, 1126 Central Ave, Wilmette

Why still family friendly, Napolita is also great for date night and has been a welcome, new arrival to the North Shore dining scene. Think real Italian Neapolitan pizza (both red and white) with fresh, gourmet toppings. Their wood burning oven and dough mixer were both imported directed from Italy and the mozzarella is flown in weekly from Campania. They also have a nice selection of pastas and entrees and an almost all Italian wine list and unique beer list as well. And did we mention the gelato? Gluten free options available. Dine-in or carry out.

Union Pizzeria, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston

If you like tasty wood-oven, Neapolitan pizzas then this is your place. Local favorite seems to be the lamb sausage, although on the pricier side ($17). The ambiance also scores big…trendy and industrial but not pretentious. Salads and small plates round out your meal. They do not accept reservations. Dine-in or carryout.

Trattoria D.O.C., 706 Main St., Evanston

In addition to fine pastas and salads, this charming spot is known for its fantastic, Italian-style 12” pizzas that are served uncut so the crust does not get soggy. Diverse toppings and a solid wine list add to the fun. Dine-in or carry out

Merlo’s, 581 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park

A great neighborhood gem that serves up huge portions of Italian classics and fabulous wood-oven, personal pizzas with a thin and crispy but not too crispy crust.  Toppings are flavorful.  Be sure to start off your meal with their delicious Brussels sprouts or grilled calamari. Nice outdoor seating area when the weather cooperates! Dining room is usually packed and can be loud. Dine in or carryout.

NY Style Pizza

For many, a thin, classic New York style slice is the definition of real pizza. Finding the “real deal” in the Midwest can be a challenging task. Here are few a pizzerias that come close.

Highland Park Slice, 1843 2nd St., Highland Park

If you are looking for giant, foldable slices, then you’ve come to the right place! Started by native New Yorkers who wanted to bring a slice of the Big Apple to the Windy City, their recipe hails from Lindenhurst New York with the help of the famous Chef Bruno. They also serve Sicilian style along with a variety of sandwiches, pastas, calzones and salads in a small, casual environment in the heart of downtown Highland Park. Delivery available, call store for details.

No Man’s Land Pizza & Grill, 1515 Sheridan Rd., Wilmette

As their sign says, they feature New York style pizza and they mean it. Their pizza features the perfect sauce to dough ratio, along with a slightly chewy crust! Need we say more? Small, “hole-in-the-wall” type establishment with limited seating; many customers prefer to carry out or have this little slice of heaven delivered! 

Little Red Hen, 653 Vernon Ave., Glencoe

We debated whether to put this establishment under thin sliced or NY style and the debate may continue, but alas, who really cares. The important point is that this North Shore classic dishes out some of the most flavorful pizza around. For NY style lovers, it has the right cheese to sauce ratio with a bit of tang, and a nice foldable crust in the middle. What makes it miss the mark for 100% NY style is that the edges are a lot crispier and thinner than traditional NY style and they cut their pies into squares (unless ordering by the slice), although we have heard that you can request regular triangle slices if you can't get past it.  Trust us, either way it's worth it!


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