Steve Dolinsky is a 13-time James Beard Award-winning journalist best known in the city of Chicago as ABC7's Hungry Hound. This summer, he’s adding a new job to his lengthy résumé (which includes cocreator and host of The Feed Podcast with chef Rick Bayless) with the launch of Pizza City, USA tours.
A spin-off of Dolinsky's soon-to-be-released book, Pizza City, USA: 101 Reasons Why Chicago Is America’s Greatest Pizza Town, the pizza tours may, once and for all, resolve Chicago's "best pizza" debate. At the very least, the tours are welcome alternatives to the endless listicles that declare a different place the "hottest pizza spot" each week.
Instead of taking someone's word for it, Dolinsky decided to find out for himself which Chicago slice reigns supreme. Beginning in 2015, Dolinsky ate his way through 76 pizzerias across Chicagoland. The next year, he checked out 100 new locations.
What he discovered may change everything you thought you knew about Chicago-style pizza. From trying 185 pizza spots across Chicago, Dolinsky discovered what Chicagoans really eat is a square-cut, tavern-style pie that’s thin and crispy—not the deep-dish variety sought out by tourists. By 2017, the idea for a pizza guidebook and tour had formed.
The tours launched this spring and include slices from four venues, occasional looks inside the kitchens and an in-depth analysis on the city’s greatest pies.
No tour, each one led by a "dough-cent," is the same, and each outing is categorized by neighborhood (West Town, Bucktown and the West Loop, respectively). But for those who want an up-close-and-personal experience with the man himself, the Saturday bus tour is the one to book; it's the only excursion that Dolinsky consistently leads. The bus takes guests through four neighborhoods, starting downtown at Labriola for Chicago-style deep-dish before moving on to chow down on artisan-style pie, Chicago tavern-style thin and ending with a New York-style slice (yes, Chicago has those, too).
It’s an ideal way to see the city for tourists, but Dolinsky, a Chicago resident for the last 25 years, says this experience isn’t for just out-of-towners. He says no matter how long you’ve lived in the city, it’s likely you suffer from PIGUE syndrome, or Pizza I Grew Up Eating syndrome, and most likely haven’t tried the majority of pizzas offered on the tour.
Tours are running now through the fall—the perfect way to line your stomach for the Chicago winter.
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