Stop making the same tired joke about Deep Dish Pizza

I realize most of you don’t know me in person, but I’m really easy going. I’m patient and don’t get angry easily, which has served me well over the years. So the food arguments don’t annoy me in the least, because in the end, it’s just food. But there’s one subject I’m really passionate about, and it’s one of Chicago’s famous edible creations: the deep-dish pizza.

Notice the last word of that last sentence, my dear friends. Pizza. I said pizza. The deep dish is fucking pizza. I am so convinced of this fact that dropping F-bombs is, in fact, necessary. Stop calling it a bitch, you motherfuckers.

Deep pizza absolutely qualifies as pizza

Of course, the deep dish format is not the apartment circle of dough with sauce and cheese on top you might immediately imagine when you think of pizza, but listen, I wrote a fucking definitive guide to regional american pizza styles, and I can tell you that many of these pizzas have different shapes. They are not all neat flat circles. Mind-boggling, I know.

Some pizzas are rectangular and puffy (Detroit-style and Sicilian), and others are conveniently made on french bread. Others put sauce on it cheese, and some just cheese at all. So any argument that the deep dish is too thick to be pizza, or any other complaints about its physical shape and assembly order, quickly crumbles when you talk to a true pizza enthusiast.

deep dish pizza

Don’t tell me it doesn’t look right
Photo: Brent Hofacker (Shutterstock)

Deep pizza is definitely not a pan

Another thing is that haters – yes, I called you haters – like to say deep pizza is a casserole. We’ve all seen this Jon Stewart diatribe to daily broadcast, where he screams flat deep in a passionate screed.

“Deep pizza isn’t just better than New York pizza,” Stewart begins. “It’s not pizza. It’s a fucking casserole.

This whole three-minute monologue is quoted endlessly by people who think they’re the funniest person in the comments section. But guess what? This tirade was in 2013. In the Internet years, it’s like your grandpa would bring up an old Johnny Carson gag and call it a knee kick.

(For the record, I love that Jon Stewart rant, and the people of Chicago respect good quality shit talk. But repeating a nine-year-old skit you saw on your favorite political comedy show doesn’t qualify as a good shit talk in our book.)

Let’s break this down on a technical level. Tell me, when was the last time you had a casserole baked in the oven a mold lined with dough? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Obviously nothing prevents you from making a casserole coated with bread, and besides, I encourage you to try. But a crusted casserole is more like a pie, isn’t it? And don’t people refer to pizza as… a Pizza tart?

You can’t eat a deep dish with your hands, but so what?

Some purists insist that “real” pizza is something you should be able to eat with your hands. Ergo, the deep dish, which is often eaten with a fork and knife, doesn’t have to be pizza. But this argument is also bullshit.

Neapolitan pizza, the OG of pizza, is often eaten with fork and knife in Italy because its center is so moist and supple. Holding it with your hands would be a total disaster, sending hot red sauce down the center of your shirt and up your crotch. Go tell the Italians that they eat their pizza badly. I defy you.

Plus, here’s something a lot of foreigners might not realize: You can eat most deep-dish pizzas with your hands. The deep dish crust is designed to be thick and sturdy enough to hold a generous amount of cheese and sauce. It would have been irresponsible to create a crust that couldn’t.

Now, it is extremely fair to note that a subset of deep pizzas, stuffed pizzas, cannot be eaten with hands unless cooled. Stuffed pizza (not to be confused with stuffed crust pizza) is a deep pizza with a thin layer of dough on top of cheese (thus stuffed), with sauce piled on top. If you try to eat this with your hands while it’s still hot, well, you’ll have the old crotch sauce problem. But stuffed pizza is more of an outlier than the rule; it does not fully represent deep pizza as a category.

When you say bad, you don’t insult Chicago like you think

I will say one last thing on the subject. I know non-Chicagoans seem to think the deep dish is the default pizza in town, but it’s not. We mainly eat a totally different variety: tavern style, or a thin crust pizza cut into squares. The deep dish is an occasional treat for most of us, while the thin crust is our go-to for movie night.

The deep dish is just too heavy for regular consumption, but if you are visiting the city the locals will be happy to whisk you away for a deep dish as it is a big party meal. And you are obviously worth celebrating.

The wonderful truth is that Chicago has a dizzying amount of pizza options. During my long stint as a pizza maker here, I regularly made three different varieties: Neapolitan, Detroit-style, and New York-style slices (the recipe for which came straight from Brooklyn). Unfortunately, the deep pizza in our scene is kind of a relic of the past now, and very few new pizzerias represent the style anymore. Maybe because you’re all so busy making fun of it that you haven’t tasted it and discovered how great it can be.

Yes, the deep pizza is weird. It’s big, chunky, loaded with toppings, and comically overdone in every way. Everyone here knows that. But it is absolutely pizza. I will maintain this fact until the day of my death. It’s delicious, and for God’s sake, it’s not a damn saucepan.