By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Oct 28, 2020 at 3:31 PM

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.

Klasiana Pizza

5487 S 76th St, Greendale, (414) 421-0000
klasianapizza.com

You could easily overlook Klasiana Pizza, located in a strip mall just across from the Southern end of Southridge mall. But the pizzeria, founded by Ylli Proko over a decade ago is well loved by locals, especially those with families, for its affordable pizza, sandwiches and Italian dishes.

For this piece, we ordered a Klasiana deep dish with sausage, mushrooms and pepperoni for carry-out. We did indicate in the notes/special requests section of our online order that we’d like the pizza to remain un-cut (for better transport). But my guess is that old habits die hard (or our note was overlooked), since our pizza did get sliced. Fortunately, we transported it in an insulated bag, so it stayed pretty warm.

The crust

Even before I pulled the first slice from the box, it was obvious that I’d found another stuffed pizza. That tell-tale layer of extra crust peeked out around the edges of the evenly applied sauce atop the pizza, mostly at the edges where the top crust connected to the edges. 

That said, the crust was nicely browned all around. It was flakey and crisp on the edges, but more breadlike where it grew thicker on the sides, and there was extra cheese wedged into the edges of the crust, giving it an almost “stuffed crust” feel. The bottom of the pie was browned, but the bottom crust was slightly soft and soggy. This was likely partially from the pizza being cut and transported, but also because there was yet another layer of sauce spread across bottom crust as well as the top.

The toppings

The pizza’s toppings were layered: first a bit of sauce, then the pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms followed by the cheese, the top crust and the top layer of sauce. 

The sauce itself was smooth and notably seasoned with Italian seasoning. It was thick and mild with a fairly classic “pizza sauce” flavor. Despite being applied moderately, the sauce’s placement did make the layers of the pizza slide apart as one tried to cut through them with a fork.

The mushrooms were fairly sparse, but nicely cooked and not watery with a good earthy flavor. The Italian sausage was broken into very small pieces, but it was flavorful and well seasoned with a nice bit of fennel. The pepperoni, on the other hand, was nothing special; it was very mild, thinly sliced and soft.

As for the cheese, it was plentiful. The layer wedged between the sauce and toppings was notable and offered up a significant pull when removing slices from the pie. 

Verdict

Again, while it’s not a contender for the classic Chicago-style deep dish category, Klasiana presents a unique spin on the stuffed pizza with a thicker, breadlike crust, plenty of cheese and two layers of well-seasoned sauce.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

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.