The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Every Chicago Deep Dish Pizza: Part IV

by and | Mar 1, 2024 | Humor, Spirituality

This article is the final piece in a four-part reflection. Get caught up and read the first three parts:



So far, we’ve covered the best of Chicago’s deep dish pizza scene, from the Malnati family who invented it to the brand new shops winning national awards. But there’s a lot more out there than just what’s best and what’s most popular. Remember, deep dish is food for the people. And sometimes what the people want is to walk a few blocks and grab a pie. Riding the train all the way downtown, or driving all the way out to Morton Grove? On a night like this? Who has time for that? Here are four pizza shops that fly under the radar but serve their communities one pie at a time. 


Art of Pizza

Serving locals on Ashland in Lakeview for over 30 years, Art of Pizza simply, beautifully, just makes a good pie. They have a traditional, flaky crust reminiscent of the classics but all-around better in its execution. The ratios are perfect: just enough bread, neither drowning in sauce nor overly dry. The cheese works harmoniously with the rest of the pie: soft the way you want it to be and not overwhelming the other elements. Our pie’s sauce was pleasantly just a tad sweet, although notably heavy on the garlic. The toppings were forgettable, but the spices are their signature, with classic Italian blends lending the sauce its punch. In essence, they’re doing the same thing the originals have been doing, but just a bit better. 

The location is simple–a neighborhood pizza place with old-school tables, yellow walls, and a casual vibe. Perhaps my favorite thing about AOP is that it is a counter-service place. You may have come for the pizza, but you could order subs, wings, eggplant parm, ribs, or any number of weekly dinner specials from the counter. Prices are low, even for deep dish, and you can order by the slice. It brings me straight back to the half-dozen pizza places that lined my hometown’s main street. It’s a simple place with a good pie.

In the Jesuit world, there are two kinds of fully formed Jesuits: priests and brothers. For generations, the brothers performed the work that had to be done to keep everything going–repairing buildings, running farms, working as porters and carpenters. They served the Society in humble and often less visible ways. Although Jesuit brothers now serve in all sorts of public roles (the directors of the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Vatican Observatory are both brothers), the vital core of life as a Jesuit brother has remained the same. Unencumbered by the requirements of priestly formation and ministry, brothers can focus intently on what it means to live as a Jesuit in the purest sense. That is, their attention is not divided in the ways that a priest’s almost necessarily is. They can concentrate first and foremost on living their religious life well. The simple elements of Jesuit religious life–our vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and the core of our spirituality–come to the fore. 

This is the Art of Pizza: Simple, focused elements creating quality and harmony. 

Sweetness of Sauce: Just a tad

Garlic: Heavy

Walls: Yellow

Harmoniousness: 10/10


Geno’s East

We wrote in the introduction that going out for deep dish is not about the pizza. Okay, it’s at least a little bit about the pizza, but the most important part is coming together with friends to share a meal. Geno’s East is lucky that the pizza is not the most important part of the deep dish experience. We went out to Geno’s East, which has two downtown locations, as part of our orientation week in 2021. The pandemic was waning, and it was the first time we had been able to go out to a restaurant as a whole group since we arrived in Chicago in 2020. We took a bus tour of downtown with a delightful tour guide who had particular expertise in Chicago’s alleyways, which is something we didn’t know would be interesting until she made it interesting. (Did you know Chicago has more miles of alleyways than any city in the world?) Our final stop was Geno’s East, a huge two-story restaurant covered in Sharpie graffiti from decades of patrons adorning the walls with their tags and monickers. 

Our group of 30 took over an entire section of the upstairs and joyfully passed pizza, beer, and breadsticks to each other as we celebrated our community of brothers. Had Jesus and his disciples lived in a time and place with pizza and beer, I’m sure their meals together would have looked something like what we were sharing that evening. Had we not been reveling in the late summer joy of food with friends, we may have noticed that the pizza was overly bready, the shortbread-like crust soaking up all moisture from the sauce like sand on the shore of Lake Michigan, resulting in a slice somehow both dry and sloppy. We also might have noticed the thick pile of cheese covering the pie like a January blizzard depositing a foot of white obscurity over the entire Windy City. Were there toppings? Who’s to say? Nothing could top an evening in Chicago with our brother Jesuits. 

Downtown Chicago: 10/10

Amanda’s knowledge of alleyways: 10/10

Breaking bread with friends: 10/10

Geno’s East Pizza: Doesn’t matter



Pete’s is the deep dish place right by campus. I went by myself one Saturday. The dough was raw, and I got caught in a rainstorm on my walk home. 

Eating deep dish alone: 0/10. 


Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company is a fixture of Chicago pizza, but I would be hard-pressed to consider their signature dish, the pizza pot pie, as a deep dish in any sense resembling the other spots on our list. In Chicago, however, you don’t skip CPOG. The pies are unique. They begin in a small ceramic bowl lined with cheese and filled with a mix of toppings and sauce. The raw dough goes on top, like a mushroom cap, hiding the cheesy, saucy contents of the bowl. Then the whole thing goes into the oven. When it arrives at the table after baking, the waiter flips it upside down (bread on the bottom) and pops out the bowl. The result is a pillowy bread bowl filled with saucy toppings covered with molten cheese. It’s a process, but the result is enticing. The dish is indeed deep, but for the sake of the form, I can’t bring myself to call it deep dish pizza. Whatever it is, it’s delicious. 

Housed in a historic building just across from the site of the Valentine’s Day Massacre (which every piece about the restaurant seems obliged to mention), the restaurant has a distinct, homey Chicago vibe. Below street level, with a wood interior and tight booths, it’s at once cozy and mysterious. Entering, you feel like you’ve just stumbled upon a secret club everybody has known for ages. I went there for the first time with an old friend and his family who walked me through their perfect combination of dishes at CPOG. The “Mediterranean bread” is something you order immediately and automatically. The salads are ordered for the copious helpings of their two classic dressings (which they used with the bread). You’ll want to dive into the pie right away, but if you do that, you’ll burn your mouth. I was glad to have a guide. This place didn’t fit into any of my categories, and my extensive knowledge of pizza was near-useless. 

Categorizing the world is a necessary neurological process, but if done carelessly, it can lead to stereotyping. We get this as Jesuits. If someone already knows what a Jesuit is, they usually have an opinion about who they expect us to be before they even meet us. People think they know who we are and what we’re about, but come to one of our communities, and I guarantee you’ll meet somebody who surprises you. Our spirituality of listening and discernment attracts and forms a wide range of people. As the saying goes, “If you’ve met one Jesuit, you’ve met one Jesuit.” 

The same is true about Chicago pizza. One thing I love about Chicago is that, among American cities, everything is just a bit, well, particular. Chicago has its own way of doing things, from the name of the train to the color of the bricks. Of course, every city is different, but I found that Chicagoans put those particularities forward and celebrate them, right down to the things that make each of the city’s 178 neighborhoods special. CPOG is unique, just like much of what makes Chicago so wonderful. The restaurant might not make a traditional deep dish pie, but it’s definitely a classic Chicago pizza that also happens to be very deep. It’s just its own thing. All of these restaurants, and Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company especially, are proof that when it comes to Chicago deep dish pizza, if you’ve had one pie, you’ve had one pie. 

Deepness: 10/10

Pizzaness: 3/10

Pies you’ve had: 1/1


Collin Price, SJ   /   All posts by Collin