Chicago saw a glut of pizzerias open during the pandemic and a few restaurants switched business models and start selling pies. Pizza provided stability for takeout and delivery as restaurants contended with their health, PPP loan applications, and government regulations.
This month, a trio of notable pizzerias will make their debuts. Here’s a rundown of what to expect.
Lou Malnati’s, 3333 W. Fullerton Avenue, Logan Square
Chicagoans should be more than familiar with the Malanti name, a legend know for its deep-dish pies. Marc Malnati even traveled to New York in 2013 to defend Chicago’s honor after Jon Stewart bashed deep dish on The Daily Show.
A decade later, the conversation has shifted a bit regarding Chicago-style pizza. There’s been a rebellion in terms of advocating for tavern-style pizza as Chicago’s No. 1 choice, the pizza locals eat regularly. The New York Times and Esquire recently published features on tavern-style pizzas, creating more buzz with out-of-towners.
In Logan Square, Malnati’s is opening a carryout- and delivery-only store. It’s similar to what the chain did in 2007 when it opened a tiny location across the street from Wicker Park, a neighborhood that has since added several new restaurants.
Malnati’s continues to be popular,despite that deep-dish backlash. It’s also a rare spot for Chicagoans to enjoy both deep dish and tavern style. The Malnati’s sold the majority of the business in 2021 to an investment firm with offices in Connecticut, San Francisco, and New York. The family retains a stake in the chain and has vowed to keep the quality the same.
Status: Opening Tuesday, April 18.
Pizza Matta , 3211 W. Armitage Avenue, Logan Square
Another takeout and delivery pizza spot is coming to Logan Square. Chef Jason Vincent opened his first restaurant, Giant, in 2016. The tiny modern American restaurant gained a following and last year the James Beard Foundation nominated Vincent as Outstanding Chef (even if the foundation mistakenly left his name off its website). In January 2020, Vincent and his team opened a bar in Bucktown that served their renditions of Chinese food, Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar. The food was based on Vincent’s memories of eating Chinese food in Cleveland.
The pandemic forced Vincent, like all restaurant owners, to scramble to keep their businesses alive. In October 2020, Vincent began serving pizza from a food truck. These were square slices, kind of Detroit-like. The Giant staff would bake pizza for their family meals and the food truck featured the next evolution of their recipe.
The next phase comes in the form of Pizza Matta. Like Chef’s Special, which allowed other Giant employees to run the show, Matta features the recipes of chef de cuisine Mike Gaia. Vincent, who declined comment to Eater, explains to Block Club Chicago the new pizzeria will serve 14-inch round pies that fuse many styles.
There are also salads with produce from Werp Farms. As the website states: “Salad cancels out pizza… it’s science…. With that balance in mind we have carefully crafted pizza that will exist harmoniously with salad.”
Status: Opening Friday, April 14.
Professor Pizza, 406 N. Sangamon Street, West Town
Anthony Scardino’s a familiar name within Chicago pizza circles. He’s a champion on the competitive pizza circuit and has run a delivery- and take-out-only spot in Humboldt Park out of the same ghost kitchen as Henry Cai, the chef of 3 Little Pigs. That kitchen has shut down forcing Cai and Scardino to find new spaces. Professor Pizza has found a rooftop spot in West Town, in the same building as taco bar Tabu. In fact, this is a collaboration with Tabu’s parent company, Atomic Hospitality, as the rooftop was once Tabu’s.
Scardino is a pizza maestro who embraces a variety of styles. His grandma pie, a slightly thick square-cut slice, might be one of the bites in Chicago. His tavern-style pizzas are well-balanced and light but filling.
Professor Pizza will be carryout- and delivery-only at first. Scardino is hoping they can debut rooftop dining in the second week of May. He’s happy to be back rolling three months after the ghost kitchen closed. He says the operation will stay put for at least a year. He has bigger plans, but he’s not ready to share.
Status: Opening Saturday, April 15.