Where do you find Chicago-style deep dish pizza? Lori Fredrich is exploring the Chicago deep dish pizza scene in Milwaukee, visiting a variety of pizzerias to give you a full report on the flavors and textures you’ll encounter. Check out all the deep-dish features so far.
"Where do I find Chicago-style deep dish pizza in Milwaukee?"
It's a question I'm asked on a regular basis. It's also one that's become far easier to answer in recent years as Milwaukee has become home to various Chicago-style deep dish pizza brands. But, even among those popular brands – think Uno, Rosati's and Lou Malnati's – there are variations.
So, I decided to take the time to explore the Chicago deep dish pizza scene in Milwaukee, visiting each spot and giving you a full report on the flavors and textures you'll encounter at each location. To keep things consistent, I ordered a small (generally 10-inch) pizza with sausage, mushrooms and pepperoni at each location, and then tasted each pizza component (from toppings to crust) to give you the full lowdown.
If you're a lover of Chicago-style deep dish, my hope is you'll read along and maybe find a spot or two you haven't tried. If you're curious what all the fuss is about, this series might well assist you in finding your ideal pie.
But first, a few words on what Chicago-style deep dish really is.
Not every deep dish is Chicago-style
"Deep dish" pizza can come in various forms. But there is really only one type of pizza that qualifies as Chicago-style deep dish. Much of what you'll find in Wisconsin is more akin to "pan style" pizza featuring a soft, thick dough that's cooked in a deep pan. It looks a bit like Chicago-style pizza, but the top is likely covered with cheese.
When you break it down to basics, there are three ways to identify a classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza:
- The crust: Chicago-style deep dish features an almost biscuit-like crust, which nearly always gets a boost from butter or corn oil. Note: Stuffed pizza is a category all its own. If there is a second, often very thin layer of crust in between the toppings and the sauce, it's not classic Chicago-style deep dish.
- The toppings: they are applied in reverse order from most pizzas. The cheese is layered right on top of crust, with meat and vegetable toppings to follow; this prevents the cheese from scorching during the longer cooking time.
- The sauce: You will definitely find the sauce on the top of your pizza.
For the purpose of this series, I made a grand attempt to focus on true Chicago style deep dish. But, as you'll find ... not every "Chicago-style" pie is created equal.
Capri di Nuovo
8340 W. Beloit Rd., West Allis, (414) 543-5510
Capri di Nuovo has been a long-time West Allis staple, operating as Capri’s for 40 years before closing in 2012 and reopening in 2014 under the ownership of Christopher and Abby Paul. The restaurant, which specializes in Italian cuisine, including lasagna, various pastas and entrees including classics like Sicilian spiedini and veal parmesan. They’re also known for their pizza, which is available with a thin crust, pan style or … Chicago style.
On our visit, we took a seat on the restaurant’s well-appointed patio and ordered a small deep dish pizza with the usual toppings (sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni). The pie took about 40 minutes or so to prepare and came out to our table steaming hot.
Capri di Nuovo’s crust was ultra crisp and somewhat dense caused a portion of it to collapse before it reached our table. Since the crust wasn’t served in a pan, it was easy to inspect the appearance, which didn’t possess the yellow hue of most Chicago-style deep dish pizzas. As we sliced into the pizza, we found the bottom crust to be somewhat thin; it was a bit soggy; but there wasn’t a lot of residual moisture pooling from the toppings.
Its flavor was yeasty and somewhat dry with no buttery flavor or oily texture. Upon further inspection, we found that the pizza also possessed a top crust just beneath the generous layer of tomato sauce.
Starting from the top, the Capri di Nuovo pie featured a thick layer of nicely seasoned marinara. It was spice forward with deep tomato in background. Did I mention there was a lot of it? In addition to the generous helping of sauce on top of the pizza, there was also a layer of sauce at the bottom below the cheese. I loved the flavor, but the sauce-to-toppings ratio was definitely unbalanced.
From there, we found ultra-thin sliced mushrooms, which were applied somewhat sparingly and thin slices of pepperoni which were more salty than spicy. The sausage, meanwhile, was notable. Pieces were large with a classic Italian sausage flavor, moderate salt levels and a subtle hint of fennel. There was definitely enough cheese to provide flavor to the pie; but it was applied with a lighter hand than some.
The pizza at Capri di Nuovo was undeniably tasty. But it isn’t a classic Chicago style deep dish. In fact, I’d leave the "Chicago style" out of this altogether. I would describe it as a stuffed deep dish pizza with a crisp, Milwaukee-style crust.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.