What Makes Chicago Thin-Crust Pizza Unique?

Most people, when they think of Chicago and pizza, think of deep-dish pizza, a hearty and filling pie with a thick crust and inverted layers of cheese, toppings, and tomato sauce that you need a fork and knife to eat. It's a meal unto itself and not something you consume on a regular basis. It's also not the only pizza that Chicago has to offer.

At the other end of the spectrum is the other Chicago pizza, the one that people from outside of Chicago may not be familiar with, but which most locals (and Wolfgang Puck, who hates Chicago deep dish pizza) prefer and actually eat — the Chicago thin-crust pizza. Also known as tavern-style pizza (or "party cut" for its popularity at kids' birthday parties), it's about as different from deep-dish pizza as you can get. And while there are variations throughout the city, most tavern-style pizzas are defined by a circular pie with a thin and crispy crust, with toppings that stretch from edge to edge, and cut into small squares (with a few leftover triangles at the corners) for ease of holding and eating, explains Paste Magazine.

Tavern-style pizza is a uniquely Chicago invention

According to food writer, Steve Dolinsky, tavern-style pizza is "an original Chicago creation" (via Bon Appétit). As Chicago Magazine explains, pizza didn't quite catch on in Chicago until fairly late, after the end of Prohibition. At that point, many taverns starting selling pizza as a snack, and a reason for their patrons to stick around longer and drink even more. As non-bakers who happened to sell pizza on the side, Chicago tavern owners didn't feel obligated to continue the Old World tradition of hand tossing pizza dough as they did in New York, and rolled their dough instead, which allowed for a much thinner (and crispier) crust.

A lack of plates and silverware in taverns could have been what led to the square cuts on the Chicago tavern-style pizzas. And while horizontal cuts on pizzas are not unique to Chicago — Quad City style pizza features horizontal cuts on thicker, hand-tossed pizza with a zesty sauce, while St. Louis style pizza also features square cuts on a thin crust, but one with no yeast and topped with Provel cheese — there's no other pizza quite like it. Get it "loaded with fennel-heavy sausage" (via Eater) for an authentic taste of the Windy City you'll want to return to over and over again, like the locals do.