Chicago Thin Crust Pizza – Yes, It’s a Thing and There’s a Recipe

 

RDD-PIZZA-LOGO-THIN

Welcome to: Chicago Thin Crust Pizza – Yes, it’s a thing.

Chicago-Style-Thin-Crust-Pizza-20140413-P1030405
In Deep Dish 101 Lesson 3, I told you about 3 styles of Chicago pizza.
Chicago Thin crust is one of them.

Here’s a refresher, courtesy of Dr. Screeny McShots-a-lot:


1) Chicago Thin Crust Pizza – Pizza had been in Chicago since at least 1909, but the origin of the Chicago thin crust that we know today is a little fuzzy – we think the style was invented between 1946 and 1949. Similar to many midwest cracker thin style pizzas, Chicago thin crust pizza has a smooth, sweet, often zesty, almost paste-like tomato sauce, generous amounts of shredded mozzarella, and is typically cut into squares (aka box-cut, tavern-style, or party cut). Pepperoni is an available topping in Chicago, but often comes second to Italian Sausage, which is added to the pizza raw before baking. Contrary to what many people on TV tell you, when Chicago locals order pizza, this is the style we usually order. Some people in Chicago consider Deep Dish to be a tourist or “special occasion” thing. (They clearly haven’t eaten mine!) Popular thin crust shops include Vito & Nick’s, Rosati’s, Barnaby’s, D’Agostino’s, Pat’s, Aurelio’s, Home Run Inn, and hundreds of other great spots all over the city and suburbs.

So you’re probably asking, “how can I make this glorious style of pizza at home?

Well, I’m glad that you probably asked!

I’ve been working on both dough and sauce recipes (and italian sausage too!) for a home version of the typical style of thin crust pizza that you’re likely to find in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.
Before I get to the recipe, I want to talk a little more about this style of pizza.

“OK, cool… but where is the thin crust pizza recipe?” – Eagerly McImpatientpants

Dang! So Pushy! Okay fine – You can DOWNLOAD THE RECIPE FROM THIS LINK!
I sure hope you’ll read the stuff below too. It will help a LOT.
** Also, Scroll Down To See The Note Further Down About Milk in the Recipe 

You should also have good results using the RDD Quick Dough Recipe!

Who invented Chicago Thin Crust?

While pizza has been in Chicago at least as early as 1909, it’s not entirely clear who invented the style we know as Chicago Tavern Style Thin Crust. Vito & Nick’s (a TAVERN! – 1946) appears to be the most likely originator, with Home Run Inn (also a TAVERN! – 1947), Italian Fiesta  (1947) and a handful of other restaurants and taverns following close behind. The general and most plausible origin provided by taverns is a version of “we started serving pizza in little squares as a bar snack and then it got popular, so then we started selling pizza that way.”
* I’ll keep updating this article if/when I manage to locate any additional info on that subject.

Many people from other cities will say something like:
this looks just like the thin crust pizza from my home town of [INSERT TOWN NAME HERE], and to that my response is, yeah, it probably does, because this style of pizza (or a variation of it) has been made in the midwest about as long (or longer) than Deep Dish Pizza has been around (deep dish was invented in 1943), and because of it’s thin and crispy crust, sweet and sometimes zesty sauce, similar versions of this square-cut pizza enigma are now sold nationwide by major pizza chains that sometimes rhyme with “Bleetzza Butt” and “Schlominoes”.


So… what’s the deal with the squares?

Well, “pizza al taglio” or “pizza by the slice” is not a new thing. It’s origins are Roman.
We’re not exactly sure where in the USA the “party-cut/tavern-cut” originated (besides a party or tavern),
but it’s most likely that square-cut slices originated with rectangular pizzas, like east coast Sicilian (i.e. – L&B Spumoni Gardens) and “Grandma” style bakery pizzas.

Square Sicilian Slices from L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensenhurst, Brooklyn NY - photo by Adam Kuban

Square Sicilian Slices from L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensenhurst, Brooklyn NY – photo by Adam Kuban

Aside from the party-cut’s Roman and east coast origins, it’s just an easy way to cut pizza into more pieces, so you can potentially serve a dozen people with one pizza instead of just getting 6 or 8 wedges.

more pics:Chicago-Style-Thin-Crust-Pizza-20140413-P1030413
Chicago-Style-Thin-Crust-Pizza-20140413-P1030417

Now, you might say “this looks kinda like New York style, but you just rolled it instead of tossing, and then cut it into squares”. Well, yes, but there’s some differences. Chicago style thin crust is baked a bit longer and the crust is baked crispier than a typical New York slice. No folding will be happening here.
We know that pepperoni is popular nationwide, but Italian Sausage is the topping of choice in Chicago – not so much in NY – and we put our Italian sausage on RAW. On the East Coast,  if they even offer sausage, they often pre-cook it, and the flavor is different when you do that.


OKAY, let’s talk about making Chicago Style Thin Crust Pizza at home:

Chicago Style Thin Crust Pizza is a little more complicated than making deep dish.
No, REALLY!  
First off, there’s the pizza dough. It’s pretty much your typical pizza dough.
My recipe has been adjusted slightly to make it easy to roll out your dough.
You may need to adjust for your local humidity levels by using less water.
If you don’t want to make your own dough, you can get away with using store-made pizza dough.
(I know, you’re saying to yourself, “that’s not very complicated!”; just hang in there, because here it comes…)

Here’s my 2 main rules for preparing thin crust dough:

1) You have to roll it out thin. Like 1/4 to an 1/8 of an inch thin.
2) You have to build your pizza so that:
before it bakes, it doesn’t stick to the peel,
and
after it bakes, it doesn’t stick to the pizza pan/screen/stone.

Step number 1 is the easy part. The place where you have options (and potential disasters) is Step number 2,
and it all depends on how you plan on baking your pizza, and how much of a mess you want to clean up afterward.

The restaurants use a dough sheeter to do most of the hard work.
You’ll need a rolling pin, a large pastry mat or clean, dry, smooth surface, like a marble countertop or your tabletop.
You’ll also need all purpose flour and/or semolina (and yes, some people use cornmeal here – I won’t be happy about it, but I’ll allow it), and some oil or non-stick cooking spray if you’re using a pan or screen (if you have enough flour on your dough, you might not need the oil/spray). The method you use will determine how much of a mess you will likely create from the ingredients I just mentioned.

Oh, you may want one more thing to help you out – have I mentioned how great it is to use food safe gloves when working with dough or adding sausage to your pizzas? I highly recommend food gloves not just for safety, but for speed, for any style of home pizza baking.


Disposable Powder-Free Foodservice Nitrile Gloves – Large – $6.95
Powder-Free Nitrile Examination Gloves Fits either hand 4.5 mil thick Single use only Non-sterile Although appropriate for food-service use, these gloves are also suited for lab or industrial work. Hygienic Latex free Textured fingers Beaded cuff

Disposable Powder-Free Foodservice Nitrile Gloves – Medium – $6.95
Powder-Free Nitrile Examination Gloves Fits either hand 4.5 mil thick Single use only Non-sterile Although appropriate for food-service use, these gloves are also suited for lab or industrial work. Hygienic Latex free Textured fingers Beaded cuff

As I stated earlier, Chicago Style Thin Crust Pizza is more complicated than making deep dish. When you make deep dish, you don’t need a rolling pin or any of the edible ball bearings listed above, to aid you in your Deep Dish pizza making. Everything is contained in the pan. At most, a small amount of oil on the bottom of a deep dish pan is the most you’re going to need to keep things from sticking.
Thin crust dough, has no such protection, and needs your help to keep from sticking to your peel while you build your pizza. You help it by providing an edible barrier in the form of flour, semolina/cornmeal. These ingredients can contribute to the difficulty of making this style at home, as you will read below.


The General Methods of Making Chicago Thin Crust Pizza

Not every thin crust pizza restaurant does it the same, so I’ll narrow down the ways that I have experienced thin crust pizza in Chicago, into what I would consider the general methods.
Use the method that works for you, and which you are comfortable doing in your own kitchen.
After all, YOU’RE the one trying to bake delicious pizza while avoiding having to call the fire department.

1) The “Every Local Pizza Joint” Chicago Thin Crust style:

A number of pizzerias in Chicago-land prescribe to this method:
1) Flour up your dough ball, roll your dough thin [dough sheeter], slather on a canned sweet tomato puree or watered down paste (often doctored up with herbs and spices). Cover the pizza with a few dozen quarter-sized chunks of freshly made raw fennel-laced Italian sausage. Cover generously with shredded mozzarella (or a mozz/provolone blend – some also add cheddar, scamorza, parmesan, romano). Add rest of toppings (and more cheese, if necessary) and bake until the sausage is golden and the cheese starts to get spots of brown. Cut into squares.

A note about the pizza building order:

As you can see in the video link below, sometimes the sausage goes down right on top of the sauce:
[Benno’s video of a sausage pizza getting made at Home Run Inn],
You can put down some cheese first if you like. I’ve seen it done both ways – use the method that you like best. I personally put half the cheese down first, then lay down the sausage, and then add the rest of the cheese so the sausage doesn’t roll off your finished slice. Also, each restaurant makes a decision about which toppings are allowed to be above the cheese as a default. Do your veggies live under the cheese, or get some oven char?

PEPPERONI: Above or below the cheese?

I’ve seen it both ways in Chicago. I personally prefer pepperoni on top because I like a little char on my pepperoni (or both above and below if you don’t have a heart condition).

2) Vito & Nick’s style :

I grew up in the burbs, so the only time I ever went to the south side was the rare occasion when my family would take me and my brothers to White Sox games at Comiskey Park, so I never had the opportunity to try Vito & Nick’s until my adult years when a co-worker brought some in for an office party.
Great stuff. Lots of similarity to the pizzas of my youth. I love how they intentionally run the cheese and sauce to the edge to get that crispy burnt cheese thing that we all love.“They burn!” Rose exclaimed proudly in the DDD video that keeps getting yanked from youtube
Also, Italian beef with giardiniera on a pizza is one of the best things on this planet.

Italian Beef Style SteakUmm Thin Crust Pizza

That one time I made an Italian Beef Style Steak-Umm Thin Crust Pizza

Nick & Vito’s dusts the dough ball with flour (they use a lot of flour), runs it through a sheeter (possibly more than once) – YOU’LL HAVE TO JUST ROLL YOURS BY HAND WITH A ROLLING PIN – , and then they trim the outer crust with a pizza wheel/cutter.
Then they spoon on the tomato sauce – they like to go all the way to the edge, then throw on the cheese and toppings, and bake them to well done. It’s a really delicious pizza and in my top 3 for the style.
If you want to see them in action making this style, you can watch the clip from Chicago’s Best or search the interwebs for the Diners Drive-Ins and Dives episode which also features them.

3) Barnaby’s Family Inn style:

Originally from the Chicago suburbs, I grew up with Barnaby’s pizza.  They used to have a lot of locations (some in other states). The one I frequented the most was the now-closed Schaumburg location. It was an old-school family style pizza parlor with wood booths and a little TV mounted in the corner near the ceiling that would occasionally show White Sox games and other sports with it’s “ONTV” descrambler box (anyone remember those?). You would go up to the order counter and place your pizza order, the grill and beverage areas had separate ordering stations, and you’d pick them up when they called your number, “PIZZA ORDER NUMBER 371, YOUR PIZZA IS READY!”

Barnaby’s had a big window where you could watch them make the pizzas (a common feature of this chain of restaurants). There were big trays of dough balls, dough sheeters and giant benches of what I think were semolina flour (it’s not entirely clear, but I think some of the franchises substituted cornmeal or used a combination).
I seem to remember them doing the initial stretch by hand in the bench of “semolina” and then running it through the dough sheeter . There was a great crispy sandy bottom crust on this pizza.
I’ve been trying to reproduce it by putting a small mound of semolina under my ball of dough while I roll it out. It’s still a bit of a work in progress. Barnaby’s also runs their sauce pretty close to the edge, but they do leave you some “bones” to grab onto. Not all of the Barnaby’s locations were the same. Some of them, like the Northbrook location (it still exists, and makes the best pizzas of all the Barnaby’s still standing) crimp the outside of the dough by hand, which not only keeps the sauce from going over the edge, but also gives the pizza a great look and nice crispiness.

Variations of those 3 methods exist, but I think you have the idea.


How Can I Make Tavern Style Pizza At Home?

If you’re not up to attempting a copy of the styles listed above, here’s a couple ways I usually make thin crust at home.

Making Thin Crust Pizza, LEAST MESSY:

Lightly dust your dough ball with flour and then roll it out to size. Dock it with a fork, then transfer to a perforated pizza pan or pizza screen. Build your pizza, bake in a preheated oven, preferably one with a pizza stone (or baking steel if you have the means).

TIME AND TEMP?

You’ll need to practice with time and temperature because all ovens are different, but start with your oven nice and hot at least 500 F during your preheating, then lower your baking temp to about 450 F when you put in your first pizza. Estimate a 12 to 20 minute baking time. I can’t be more specific because it really depends on the amount and type of ingredients in your pizza, the size of your pizza, and how crispy or charred you want your pizza to be. You may like a higher temp/shorter baking time, or the opposite – just make sure your ingredients are cooked properly, especially when you add raw ingredients like sausage to your pizzas.

PRACTICE. PRACTICE PRACTICE. Even the not-so-great pizzas will still be pretty good, and really good when you reheat them the next day.

Pizza Tray, Perforated – 16″ – $13.40

18 gauge (1.01mm) hard aluminum pizza tray with 3/8″ (.95cm) diameter holes. Standard wide-rim style. Use of perforated style pizza trays results in a more evenly baked crust, as they enable air to circulate between the product being baked and the underlying oven. Ideal for baking or reheating pizza.

Pizza Tray, Perforated – 18″ – $15.15

18 gauge (1.01mm) hard aluminum pizza tray with 3/8″ (.95cm) diameter holes. Standard wide-rim style. Use of perforated style pizza trays results in a more evenly baked crust, as they enable air to circulate between the product being baked and the underlying oven. Ideal for baking or reheating pizza.


American Metalcraft 16″ Mega Screen – 28716

from: ABestKitchen

Making Thin Crust Pizza, SLIGHTLY MORE MESSY:

Lightly dust your dough ball with flour and then roll it out to size. Dock it with a fork, then gently transfer to a flour/semolina-dusted pizza peel. Wood peels are better for building your pizza because they wick away moisture – metal peels are better for retrieving your pizza from the oven. Build your pizza as quickly as possible, with the least amount of force, so the dough doesn’t stick to the peel. Before you bring your pizza and peel over to the oven give your peel a gentle test-shake to make sure the pizza is going to slide off of the peel and onto your preheated pizza stone.  If your dough is stuck to the peel, your ingredients will fly off into the oven and create lots of smoke. If you’re stuck during the test-shake, try using a spatula (or a floured-up hand) to unstick it and then toss a little more semolina (or flour) between the dough and peel to keep it loose.

Pizza Peel, Aluminum Blade With Wood Handle. Blade size 12″ X 14″. Overall size of peel: 27″ – $15.05

Aluminum pizza peel blade is made of 14 gauge 1.6mm hard aluminum Triple riveted aluminum ferrules with permanently attached hardwood handle

Pizza Peel, Short Handle (8″ Long) – 16″ W x 18″ L – $25.20

Measurements indicate size of blade. Made of highest-quality seasoned lumber Pizza peel is pointed on both edges as well as the point of blade Smoothly shaped handle is manufactured from the peel itself The longer length handle has become popular for the new deeper ovens

Troubleshooting the baking process:

If you’re baking directly on the stone, without a perforated pan or screen, the crust won’t be your major problem for sticking. The cheese and sauce will, especially if you’re running cheese and sauce all the way to the edge; not only are you likely to get a little more smoke coming from your oven (ventilate your kitchen well), but also, you may need to do some strategic “unsticking” of the edges of your pizza from the stone, using a metal spatula or something similar, before attempting to remove the pizza with your peel.

You might be able to avoid all of this by building your pizza on top of a sheet of baking parchment placed on your peel, then sliding the pizza and parchment directly onto the stone. Your crust may not get as crispy as baking directly on the stone, but the parchment should make it easier to remove your pizza with the peel.
Keep in mind that although parchment is meant for baking,
IT IS NOT COMPLETELY FIREPROOF,
so have a fire extinguisher handy when you bake pizzas. It’s a good idea to have one anyway.

OK, hopefully, I haven’t completely scared you away from thin crust pizza, but I just want you to be prepared and get the methods down before jumping into what I would call an intermediate level pizza baking experience. So, good luck to those of you willing to try it, and feel free to post comments and questions here and on the RDD facebook page.

I’m certain that this is not the last discussion I’ll have on Chicago Thin crust, and there’s likely to be a recipe revision or two, but I think you’ll do OK with the recipe I’ve developed, so without further ado…

Hey Look! A Chicago Style Thin Crust Pizza Recipe!
DOWNLOAD THE RECIPE FROM THIS LINK!

You will also have good results using the RDD Quick Dough Recipe!

Looking for a sauce recipe? Here’s one from page two of the Chicago Thin Crust Recipe PDF:
Ed’s Sweet and Zesty Uncooked Pizza Sauce (enough to cover 3 to 4 - 14” thin crust pizzas) 1 can (28oz) Tomato Puree (Muir Glen) (or 2-6oz cans of Tomato Paste plus 16oz water) 4 tsp granulated Sugar (or to taste) 1 Tbsp grated Romano cheese 1 tsp dried Basil 1 tsp dried Oregano 1/2 tsp dried Marjoram 1/2 tsp dried Parsley 1/2 tsp Black Pepper 1/4 tsp fine Sea Salt or Table Salt 1/2 tsp granulated Garlic Powder (NOT garlic salt) 1/8 tsp ground Chile De Arbol or Cayenne Pepper (optional) Combine all ingredients and half of the sugar, Adjust seasonings to taste (more sugar? more salt?). Use immediately or refrigerate for later use. Use about 6 to 8 ounces of sauce for a 14” to 16” pizza.

This dough can take on different characteristics, depending on how long you knead it, how long you let it rise, and whether you decide to give it a rest overnight in the fridge (or not), and what temperature the dough is when you roll it out and bake it (not to mention: what temp you bake at and for how long). These variables are entirely up to you. If you follow the recipe, you’ll get close to the basic Chicago thin crust style, but any of these choices can make your crust take on different characteristics: puffiness, crispiness, chewiness, etc. I hope you’ll experiment and figure out what works, and please feel free to let us know how it worked for you.


** IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT MILK IN THE DOUGH

Not all thin crust joints use milk in their pizza dough.
It’s only in the recipe because they allegedly use it at Vito & Nick’s (there is video evidence – Vito & Nick’s from DDD).

You don’t have to use milk
– in fact, if this is your first time using the recipe, do yourself a favor and substitute with water. Milk can help with browning, but it can also potentially soften your crust, so if you are having problems using milk in your dough, USE THE WATER SUBSTITUTION until you get more practice in on this pizza style, and you may decide you prefer to leave the milk out.

Back to the milk:
It’s a good idea to heat your milk to lukewarm if you’re combining it with the water and yeast, or you can add it in cold after the yeast has had a chance to get going. This is more of an issue with active-dry yeast than it would be with instant yeast.
I’ve talked about this in other places on the site, but it’s also relevant to the conversation:
If you use Lactose-Free Milk (i.e. Lactaid), be aware that the milk sugars (lactose) that were previously UNAVAILABLE to the yeast, have been converted to glucose and galactose (thanks, lactase!). The yeast can gobble up the glucose with no problem (the galactose? – not so much), so that means MORE YEAST ACTIVITY! WOOOOO!
(yes, I just celebrated yeast activity)
The reason I mention this is that if your yeast tends to be a little sluggish, lactose-free milk could help the yeast out.


more pics: 201402-thincrusttest-017201402-thincrusttest-012201402-thincrusttest-002 201402-thincrusttest-003 201402-thincrusttest-004 201402-thincrusttest-005 201402-thincrusttest-006 201402-thincrusttest-007 201402-thincrusttest-008201402-thincrusttest-013 201402-thincrusttest-014If you think it's all just deep dish, you don't know Chicago Pizza.


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61 thoughts on “Chicago Thin Crust Pizza – Yes, It’s a Thing and There’s a Recipe”

  1. Really! After rolling out the dough, Put it on a cornmeal pizza peel then add the sauce, cheese and your toppings. Slide it onto your hot pizza stone on the bottom rack. You can figure this out.

  2. Home ovens don’t always work like a real pizza oven. I learned my pizza-making chops in the 80s working at Papa Damiani’s in Dolton. Can’t get a thinner crust than that. Now I live in Poland and get Chicago pizza during my one trip per year back home. Home ovens often can’t do the same thing as real pizza ovens so although it sounds blasphemous, I put the sauces-up crust in the oven for 7 minutes, take it out to add rest of toppings and put it in till cheese is browned. Comes out crispy all the way through every time. Thanks for the sausage and sauce recipes, that’s been my problem. Will try tomorrow.

    1. Dough and sauce for 7 minutes, then take it out and top it? Yeah, that makes sense. It would keep the cheese from browning too fast while you crisp up the crust.
      Anyone at home trying this should be extra careful topping a par-baked pizza. That sauce could be hot.
      Thanks for checking out the website! 🙂

  3. Ok I tried it. Due to your highlighting possible drip, I put a sheet of tinfoil across the lower rack, Pizza on middle, pre-heater to 500 degrees like you stated. Checked at 10 min & not brown, ended up 16 min before cheese was crusty light brown. Looked PERFECT! Bad news? Beyond the edging, the crust was flappy & not cooked anywhere near enough. I cut the pieces like at Vito & Nicks (small squares). Other than edges, I had to toss the marvelous work of art out. Sooo disappointing. Thoughts?

    1. What are you baking your pizza on?
      Are you dropping the oven temp (450-460) after putting the pizza in?
      Are you using a stone (or baking
      steel)?

      Half the battle is getting to know how your oven bakes, and adjusting time and temp until your pizzas come out how you want them.

  4. Great article! I was wondering if I could use a baking steel for the Chicago thin crust pizzas instead of a screen as I don’t have one? Thanks

    1. Hello, Abdullah. I have not yet had the opportunity to get a baking steel to test,
      but people who have them seem to love them for thin crust pizza.
      It makes sense since some commercial deck ovens have a steel floor instead of stone.

      I’m currently using a perforated cutter pan that was gifted to me from a pizza chef I know (similar to the megascreen on the deep dish equipment page) to make my thin crust pizzas and have baked with and without the stone below with good results.
      Thanks for visiting Real Deep Dish! 🙂

      1. I use the thicker baking steel on the top shelf of my Wolf oven. Preheated really well, the pizza cooks quickly and evenly. I have used all your tips as starting points, and modified. Most notably for humidity, alkaline water and altitude. I use a wooden peel upon which to make my pizza (I mostly make thin crust, tavern cut), slide it on the steel, and use a metal one to remove it. Easy as pizza pie.

  5. Pingback: Ode to Chicago Style Thin Crust – Eat the Region

  6. I see you said use all purpose flour. Been doing a lot of research on making the perfect Chicago thin. Is there a brand you use? Ive been hearing good stuff about the taste of Gold Medal Full Strength #53395. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi, Russ. I mostly deal with the smaller bags of flour available at your local grocery stores, but you’ll see these kind of flours pop up at the big box stores. Most AP flours are in the 10 to 12% protein range. The General Mills website says Gold Medal Full-Strength is a little higher at 12.6% protein flour and is good for pan-style and hand-tossed, and bread, because it’s basically bread flour. You should get good results with thin crust, but see how it works for you. I like Ceresota unbleached all purpose when I can find it on sale, or I’ll pick up a reliable store brand that has similar ingredients and carb/fiber/protein ratios on the package label. I think theirs is about 11.5% protein.

      1. Cool Thanks much. Will let you know on the GM full when i get a chance to use it.. Ill try Ceresota next. Hard to find the GM full in smaller bags.Mostly found it in 50lb bag. just cooking for my family so that’s a bit much lol

  7. Thanks! This brought me right back to the neighborhood and Poretta’s on Central and Waveland. Mine came out perfectly.

  8. Pingback: The Big List of Pizza Styles - Ramshackle Pantry

  9. Deep dish is a north sider’s thing. Thin crust started on south side, then made it’s way to the rest of Chicago. Definitely Nick and Vito’s, and extreme south, Ray’s, Bob’s, Guiseppe’s, Fox’s Pub, De Guido’s and now Beggar’s. Pastorelli’s was a pizza sauce you could only get in Chicago, but I think they’re defunct now. Delivery was king. Delivered in paper sleeves, not boxes. Comfort food, couldn’t get enough. Deep-dish, you’re joking, right?. Folded slices from a pie-what the @#$%? Doughy? Toppings? Stop the madness!
    Give me the basic, purity. Thin, crispy crust, real mozzarella, slightly sweet sauce, fennel sausage.

    1. Pastorelli’s is not defunct. It’s still the only sauce I ever use, even though I haven’t lived in IL since 2002. You can buy it at any Jewel, or if you are no longer in Chicagoland, online.

  10. Avatar
    Carl Christianson

    Charlotte’s Pizza on RT.14 between Palatine and Barrington
    Closed in 1989 by eminent domain to widen Rt.14/Rt.68.
    Jim Pals made the best thin crust pizza ever!
    I’ve been chasing this recipe for years…

  11. Tried this recipe for the first time last weekend and it took me right back to the pizza I grew up eating–Milano\’s on 110th & Western. But I couldn\’t get the crust right, it was solid but still soft and almost doughy on the bottom. This is with the oven preheated to 500 for an hour with the stone inside–but the pizza wasn\’t sitting on the stone, it was in a perforated pan sitting on the stone.

    I\’m going to try again this weekend, leaving it in longer (with more cheese!) at 475 like you suggested. And I just ordered a peel from Amazon so if that doesn\’t work I can put the crust directly on the stone for a few minutes at the end. Any other advice?

    1. Peter, I had the same issue. Crust was soft/dough/spongy w/unbrowned bottom, yet starting to char on top. Also it was sweet, presumably from milk sugar. Will try recipe one more time using water instead of milk, and a longer bake time a lower temp. Fingers crossed.

    2. Same here. I’ve tried different dough recipes and they all remain soft and don’t crisp up on the bottom like the Chicago-style I grew up with. I rolled as think as I dared. I’ve tried baking on a stone, on a perforated pan, on a perforated pan on top of a stone…same result. Nothing comes close. Next I’m going to try dough that doesn’t use yeast. It’s the only thing I can think of that might change the texture to get to what I’m looking for.

      1. Leaving out the yeast is what St. Louis does. They use baking powder for their thin crust.

        One of the drawbacks of milk in the dough is it can give you a softer crust, especially if you don’t heat the milk first.
        Other options are to use dry milk powder instead, or just leave out the milk altogether and substitute water.

        Pizza Magazine has an article that talks about this:
        https://www.pmq.com/adding-milk-to-pizza-dough/

        Thin crust dough is still something I’m tinkering with, and the milk listed in the recipe is very optional. I include it because Vito & Nicks uses milk in their dough. Lately, I’ve been using the Quick Dough Recipe (low oil, 5 minute knead version) with good results, but I may be testing cutting back further on the oil to see if I get better results.

        I’m happy to help you troubleshoot your process if you like.

        Are you following the thin crust recipe exactly, or have you made any changes or substitutions?

        How long are you kneading your dough?
        How long are you letting it rise?
        Do you punch down and give it 2nd rise, or roll it out right away?
        Are you doing any cold-fermentation overnight in the fridge?
        How hot are you preheating your oven?
        Are you using a baking stone?
        Once your oven (and stone) are preheated, are you changing your oven temperature?
        What ingredients are you using in your pizza?
        How much sauce?
        How much cheese?
        What size pizza are you making?
        How long are you baking it?

        Answers to these questions can help narrow down any problems and possibly provide clues to a better pizza.

  12. I grew up in Chicago and on 106th street was a basement store front pizza place called pasquallas (sp) Thin crust (not cracker) cut in squares with Italian sausage that you could fold over and eat like a sandwich. I live in AZ now and NO pizza is good here. I make my own.

    1. Can’t wait to try this recipe. but to Clara I am also from Chicago and now live in phoenix have you tryed Spinotoes pizza, it is very yummy also Geno’s east and Lou Malnati’s pizza are out here now. I hope this might help

    2. Im from EP…you will know what it stands for if your from 106th..i live in CG AZ now….just to help Safeway carries Home Run Inn and Ginos East as well as Spinatos(Aurilios)…plus Ginos and Lou Malnattis opened in Phx area. Fyi…my wife makes a Killer Chicago Deep Dish..contact me if you want.

  13. In the 60’s and 70’s best pizza ever was in Cal city/Hammond on St Line the name St Line Pizza it was carry out no dine in plus they delivered

    1. Stateline is still pretty good, remember Brat’s? They were pretty good. Also remember “The Cottage” and “Lauer’s Inn Town Restaurant” Cal City used to have some world class restaurants! Anyone doubt that look up “The Cottage”, it was one of the best French restaurants in the America. You don’t have to believe me. look it up.

  14. I was born in Chicago, baptized in Chicago, grew up in the South Suburbs and I NEVER heard of “Deep Dish” pizza until I was about 18 or 20 years old. I worked at The House of Pizza in Dolton for atleast 2 years, the owners were franchised to the Ken and Dick’s Pizza out of Roseland. The pizza was great and I still make it today, with some improvements for the home cook. I have given this recipe to multiple people through the years and their kids just love making their “OWN” pizza! I also encouraged people to use a piece of 1/4″ steel (seasoned) to cook their pizza on, it is the only way to do it right! The sauce should only be whole 28 oz. San Marzano canned tomatoes with salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, pulsed acouple times in a blender. Of course Chicago, Stock Yards, only pork sausage with whatever next and whole milk low moisture mozzarella. That’s it! Well maybe a little honey in the pizza sauce, a tablespoon! Classic Chicago Pizza! Period!

  15. Hello,

    In your thin crust recipe, you mention cooking the pizza directly on the stone versus cooking it on a pan. If you cook directly on the stone, do you still bake it at 500 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes?

    Thanks

    1. Hi & thanks for visiting the website.
      I’ve recently commented on the Real Deep Dish facebook page about making thin crust at home.
      While baking directly on the stone is one of the options I have mentioned, I have been getting the best results baking on a perforated pan placed on top of a preheated stone.
      Unless you are baking a cheese-only pizza or like extremely charred toppings, I recommend turning the oven temp down a bit right after putting your pizza in. I usually drop the temp to about 450 so you don’t burn the toppings, but your oven may behave differently. You’re looking at about 15-18 minutes for a 14 to 16″ sausage pizza, a little less time for a cheese or pepperoni pizza. If your crust is not as crispy as you like, you can always move the pizza directly onto the stone for the last minute or 2 of baking.

    2. Rather than a stone use a steel plate, it’s pretty much what pizzerias use. Unless they are specialty pizzas, most use an oven with a steel cooking surface. I think it works better anyway.

  16. What temperature should the milk be when combined with the other ingredients? 110° F like the water?

    Thanks!

    1. Great question. The short answer is… it’s up to you. Lukewarm milk will certainly help the yeast work better than cold milk will.
      In videos featuring Vito & Nicks, I’ve seen them add the milk straight from the gallon jug, so it was probably cold at the time they added it. As they’re likely using instant yeast and proofing a giant amount of dough at one time, it is probably not a huge deal for their milk to be cold.
      At home, most of us are using active dry yeast, so if you plan on combining the milk with the lukewarm water and yeast, you’ll probably want to heat it up first.
      OR
      you could wake up your yeast in the lukewarm water first, then add the milk afterward with the other ingredients.

      Alternately, you can leave the milk out and substitute more water, and you could also add some nonfat-dry-milk powder (or buttermilk powder -to add a little zip to your dough- if you can find it).

      p.s. – I’ve talked about this in other places on the site, but it’s relevant to the conversation:
      If you use Lactose-Free Milk (i.e. Lactaid), be aware that the milk sugars (lactose) that were previously UNAVAILABLE to the yeast, are now glucose and galactose (thanks, lactase!). The yeast can gobble up the glucose with no problem, so that means MORE YEAST ACTIVITY! WOOOOO!
      The reason I mention this is that if your yeast tends to be a little sluggish, lactose-free milk could help the yeast out. (hey, I think I’ll add this to the article!)

      When I do more testing with milk in thin crust dough, I’ll update this page with any changes, results, or recommendations.
      Thanks for visiting RDD!

  17. Avatar
    Moe Curly Howard

    Lived in Chicago area until my late 20’s. Grew up on Tomesello’s from McHenry [bowling alley and pizza joint on the Fox River]. It was even sold frozen in Jewel for some time. Best pizza I have ever had, bar none. My mom even worked there for a time. Once I went in with my sister’s boy and introduced myself again to Sam [the pizza maestro] and remembered my mother to him. We were there for carry out, he kept bringing out pizza and saying “oh, it burned, you can have this one for free until I get it right!” This went on until we couldn’t eat any more, if I remember right three pizzas, then we got “the to go” order. Like all Chicago pizza back then, it came in a paper bag that they “puffed up”. I miss this pizza to this day, decades later.

    1. What an odd coincidence. I’m in CA now (have been for 15 years) but grew up in Johnsburg and remember my favorite pizza joint in McHenry called the Fox Hole…wonder if it is the same place.

      1. No, Fox Hole if I remember the name correctly was actually in McHenry [City] on the river. I should have stated Tomesellos was in Johnsburg [McHenry county] on the Fox river. Small world none the less. I still have family living in the area.

  18. Avatar
    Anthony Martini

    Hello,
    Have you tried or have any tips for a paper thin, cracker crisp crust like Pat’s in Lakeview at Lincoln Ave and Seminary. Nick the owner states that the dough is a 3 day process so the yeast doesn’t rise. He also uses breadcrumbs under the pizza instead of cornmeal. I knowing one of the top rated thins in Chicago. I just love it! Thanks ……love your site too!

    1. I haven’t had Pat’s pizza in years, so I don’t have a vivid memory of that specfic thin crust.
      As far as tips on a paper thin crust: you just have to roll it really thin, dock it so it doesn’t puff up, and bake it in a really hot oven. Try one of the methods I describe in the article and see which one works best for you.
      Go easy on the sauce and toppings or the super thin crust will go soggy fast.
      Thanks for visiting RealDeepDish.com! 🙂

  19. I have been fascinated by this site for the past month and a half… I live in south Texas and pizza is a difficult item at best to find… Think enchiladas and taqueria jalisco on every corner… I did find that the deep dish recipe was SPOT ON… As suggested I did take some time and managed to acquire some 14″ seasoned deep dish pans from ebay… and they have come out perfect every time… The thin crust has been very good… I have tweaked with the ratios and used a small bit of the semolina… (I even used a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten… a habit from my pizza napoletana) and couldn’t be happier with the flavor of the crust… I am using a perforated aluminum pan 16 inches, but making my pie a bit smaller… Cooking in an oven heated to 500 degrees first with a stone, next with just the perforated pan… I think I may need to increase cooking time because my crust bottom does not seem to be browning very well, and I am winding up with a flimsy undercooked bottom crust… I have even move the rack to the lowest portion of the oven… I had tried with my stone the first time but that one seemed to be the least cooked… I think I may need to go to a screen… any suggestions?

    1. How long are you preheating your oven and stone? I preheat to 500 (or as hot as your oven will go) for 45 minutes to an hour to make sure the stone is ripping hot. Then, I turn the oven down to about 465 for deep dish and 475 for thin crust. You might have good results keeping it at 500, just keep an eye on your toppings so they don’t burn.
      Try moving your pizza off the perforated pan and directly onto the stone for the last few minutes of baking. Also, if you’re using milk in your thin crust recipe, the milk proteins might make the dough softer than if you substitute only water. It’s worth a try.
      Thanks for returning to RealDeepDish.com ! 🙂
      https://www.facebook.com/realdeepdish/

      1. I will try either reducing the percentage or eliminating the milk next go round… Oven usually heats to 500 for at least two hours… I try to make dough 24 hours before and rise it as long as possible then proofing it overnight… I didn’t even think of the milk proteins…

  20. I tried your thin crust dough along with using the fresh uncooked sausage. That’s perfect! I grew up on the South Side on Vito and Nicks, Barnaby’s, and my personal favorite Palermos in Oak Lawn. I live in Nashville now and believe me there is nothing close to that. I make mine on a pizza stone on the grill and roll out the dough on a piece of parchment on the peel. I put the built pizza on the stone and in a few minutes, I just yank the parchment right out and let it finish on the stone. Works great and no mess.

  21. I live in Denver Colorado and grew up eating at a pizzaria in southwest Denver called “Bobs Pizza” it closed due the owner( a family friend) passing. Since then, and were talking the 80’s. I have been on the hunt for this style of pizza. I tried this recipe this last weekend and Wow! Like going back in time. Denver is full of chain pizza joints and processed sausage that tastes like every other grocery store sausage. It was a pleasure to eat and my son proclamed this was the best pizza he has ever eaten!

    1. Hi, Tom!
      Thanks for trying out the thin crust pizza recipe on RealDeepDish.com.
      I’m happy to hear you had good results.
      I’m curious how the dough worked for you in the high altitude of Denver. Did you make any adjustments?

      1. The dough seemed fine, but I dont have anything to compare it to, and since I was rolling out the dough anyway it didnt seem to matter. The taste was great. What a great webpage!
        Thanks, Tom

  22. Moved out West 3 years ago and have no choice but to duplicate my Chicago pizza. First, I completely disagree with those who say deep dish is only for tourists. Thats just silly folks. Both deep dish and thin crust are equally Chicago. Nothing beats a real Pizzaria Due or Uno (or Lou Malnati in a pinch) deep dish – nothing. That said – I have PERFECTED my deep dish recipe and now need to move on to thin crust. My two favorite thins are Maries (West Foster Ave), and Calos (North Clark Street). Time to learn how to make thin, crispy crust with perfect sauce…..

    1. Thanks for visiting Real Deep Dish dot com!
      Good luck with your baking! A few tips for thin crust dough:
      If your dough is too wet/sticky, feel free to add small amounts of flour until the texture is right for kneading. Food service gloves make the whole process a lot easier if you’re kneading by hand.
      Also, I’ve been tweaking my Chicago Thin Crust sauce (which is a great place to start if you don’t have your own sauce recipe) and to my current sauce recipe, I added a tablespoon of red wine vinegar with good results. Getting the right balance is tricky, but at least the test pizzas are tasty! 🙂

  23. After 30+ years in the burbs, moved to Iowa and the chewy, droopy crust and crumbled sausage just makes me angry. Forced to now try and recreate a sausage thin crust like home. Will try the crust recipe as it sounds and looks, in the pictures, like the real thing. But now I need an authentic sausage recipe…in the supposed land of pigs…can’t find the right mix of Italian sausage…got a recipe for sausage? Thanks

  24. Great article that is right on the money. Check out the recommended thin crust places he mentions. Deep dish is ok but it’s more of a highly-marketed tourist trap like Navy Pier. Chicagoans only go to Gino’s East or Uno when the relatives are in town. Peaquods is the best Chicago deep dish by far and Lou Malnatis is actually the worst. “If I wanna eat bread, I’ll eat bread.” Enjoy!

    1. Thanks for reading the article on Chicago thin crust. No need to dis Lou Malnati’s just because you don’t like deep dish. That said, the worst offender for dough overload of the traditional deep dish is Gino’s East, who puts a moat of crust around the outside. I agree that Pequod’s is a great pizza, but if you’d read any of my other articles, you’d know that it’s not really traditional deep dish, and actually the thick Sicilian style dough of Pequod’s has more “bread” than any of the styles mentioned.
      Thanks for visiting. 🙂 Let us know if you tried any of the recipes and how they went: Facebook.com/RealDeepDish

  25. Pingback: Chicago Style Thin Crust Pizza on Big Green Egg | Beach Blanket Bacon

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