Chicago didn't invent pizza. But it did invent deep dish pizza. In 1943, at Pizzeria Uno, supposedly—documentation is sketchy, though nobody else claims the honor.
Uno's is still around, though I never go there unless I'm squiring somebody from out of town. The cornmeal crust at Uno's, well, I understand there are people who like it, and while I'll eat it if it's set before me, I don't go out of my way to have it set before me, if you catch my drift.
Lou Malnati's is excellent. It's the tomato sauce; pure and perfect. Their deep dish with spinach and mushrooms, on their Buttercrust crust. When we order pizza, it's what we order, unless my wife insists on indulging her passion for thin crust, which I agree to do because fair's fair and, besides, I know I won't eat much of it.
But Lou Malnati's, though it styles itself as "the absolute best" is not, in fact, the best deep dish pizza the city has to offer (hmm, now I'm starting to see why they don't advertise. Candor and good business sense are not friends). That distinction goes to Burt's Place, in Morton Grove. Burt's offers up a caramelized, almost burnt pizza that is beyond words.
And if you are saying, "But Burt's closed in 2015" you are right. It did close in 2015. And Burt Katz, its quirky, not always pleasant owner of 26 years, died the next year. One interview I put off a little too long.
But Burt's re-opened in March, without Burt And I went back there as part of a pizza fest my oldest son insisted upon before he exiled himself to the pizza wasteland of Los Angeles. We went to Chicago Pizza Oven and Grinder, where I don't even order pizza (salad, Mediterranean bread and, if I'm feeling decadent, a meatball grinder). Then Lou's, ordered in. Then Burt's.
Third time's the charm.
The Burt's pizza was so good it made me happy. Briefly at least. Happy to be there and eat it. Happy afterward on the way home, just that something so damn good exists and the public has access to it. Not so brief, now that I think about it. I'm still a little happy, thinking about my next visit to Burt's.
At the old Burt's, you had to order your pizza a day ahead of time, which made going there difficult. The new Burt's has put in an extra oven, so ordering ahead on weekends is not necessary. I spoke with one of the new owners, and he seemed ... I don't want to say "struggling," so let's say, "working hard" to keep the place humming along. It's hard to run a restaurant; harder still when you are learning on the fly. Nor was it as crowded on a Friday night as the only restaurant offering the best deep dish pizza in Chicago ought to be.
What I'm saying is, go to Burt's. And so will I. And between the two of us, we'll keep the place afloat. In the meantime, if there is a better deep dish pizza in Chicago, I'd like to hear about it though I'll tell you right now: I don't believe you. It's Burt's.