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.
9022 W Oklahoma Ave, West Allis (414) 543-1300
Pizzeria Scotty has been serving up delicious pies for carry-out and delivery in West Allis for 35 years. For many years, they operated out of a smaller space in a strip mall; but in summer of 2019, they moved into a brand new building, converting a former travel agency into an outpost for their pizza business.
Pizzeria Scotty is a spot that comes up regularly when folks talk about deep dish pizza, particularly “Chicago style pies.” That’s because in addition to thin crust, the pizzeria serves double dough pies, stuffed pies and Chicago pan pizzas, noted on their menu as “The pizza that made Chicago famous!”
Now, I should be clear from the start that, despite Chicago claims, pan style pizza is distinct from deep dish. While it is baked in a pan, it doesn’t possess the hallmark qualities of a Chicago-style deep dish, which possesses a medium to medium-thin crust (plus all of the qualities listed above).
A pan style pizza – whether made in Chicago or otherwise – is a thick crust pizza that’s baked in a pan. It also doesn’t follow the same order of toppings. The sauce is placed right on the bottom crust, with toppings to follow and cheese on top. Scotty’s is upfront about this, calling their pizza “pan style”... but the tagline (“The pizza that made Chicago famous!”) tends to confuse the issue a bit. And that’s one of the reasons I included them in the series.
The other reason is that Milwaukee has a far longer history in serving pan pizzas, and – likely as a result – the pies have often been called “deep dish.” You’ll find versions of these pies at a variety of venues, from Pizza Man and Fixture Pizza Pub to Falbo Brothers in Shorewood (which also serves a Chicago stuffed).
For this piece, we ordered a medium Chicago pan with sausage, mushrooms and pepperoni for carry-out.
The crust on the pizza was hefty and fairly thick, both on the sides and even the bottom. It was flawlessly crisp around the edges with a pleasantly yeasty smell, a vaguely buttery flavor and a texture that fell somewhere between biscuit-like and breadstick-like.
As for the build, it was exactly opposite a deep dish with the sauce on the bottom, spread across the crust, the toppings in the middle, and a thick layer of mozzarella cheese on top.
The tomato-forward sauce, a smoother puree doppled with petitely diced bits of skin-on tomato, is lightly seasoned with a notably punchy acidity that cuts through the richness of the cheese and meats.
Generously pinched Italian sausage was flavorful and flecked with visible bits of fennel; it was also abundant, making it a memorable part of the pie. The mushrooms were fresh, but nicely cooked and full of solid earthy flavor. The pepperoni was thinly sliced and (by sight alone) could have been mistaken for deli style; but it possessed a slightly spicier profile that made it stand out a bit.
And the cheese? Well, it was also applied liberally, pooling in the box and offering up an impressive stretchy pull in every bite.
While it’s not a Chicago-style deep-dish, Pizzeria Scotty! has a great reputation for good reason. They make a tasty (cheesy) pan-style pizza.
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.