Jon Stewart on why Chicago pizza is not better than NY pizza

Jon Stewart is disturbed that the Today Show said Chicago has better pizza than New York.

Of course, Chicago pizza does rock. But Stewart, in his criticism of Chicago deep dish pizza make the fatal mistake of assuming that that’s the only good pizza Chicago has. That would be untrue.

Go to practically any neighborhood of Chicago, or any suburb, and you’ll probably find 3 to 5 excellent pizza joints nearby. I can’t speak for NYC on this account, but I did have one excellent piece of pizza in NYC – the man pretended not to understand what I meant by a “piece (they call it a “slice,” which of course makes all the difference in comprehension) – and it was a great piece of pizza. I never found another that I liked there.


Nonetheless, I’m sure New York has good pizza. But as I said, don’t make the mistake of assuming that Chicago pizza is deep dish, or stuffed, pizza. It is, but not exclusively. (And contrary to Stewart’s assertions, deep dish pizza is damn good stuff.)

(I’m told that in order to actually see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me – so say the experts.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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76 Responses to “Jon Stewart on why Chicago pizza is not better than NY pizza”

  1. Mark Alden says:

    I always thought deep fish pizza is disgusting, but now I know its cheaper, really looked good, inviting and no need to compare with my favorite Italian pizza in Oviedo.

  2. LanceThruster says:

    They bought Dominos for a work potluck after the recipe change and i thought it was a vast improvement (though certainly in relative terms the bar was pretty low). I agree with the poster who avoids them for their political affiliations.

    And then there was that Simpsons episode where Homer gets Snakes car and when they fly past Chief Wiggum’s speed trap, he puts a pizza delivery sign on the door so he won’t have to chase after them. His deputy says: what if they like
    pizza?” So Chief Wiggum puts a Domino’s sign on the roof. “Got it
    covered, Lou”


  3. okojo says:

    Actually I think New Haven has the best pizza in country, given that Sal’s and Pepe’s have incredible crust, and I am a fan of red clam pizza.

  4. karmanot says:

    Thanks for the tip

  5. kate60456 says:

    Thank you Chicago people. Chicago is all about thin crust pizza and the way it is cut is also of importance. The pizza is cut into squares with little triangle ends to round out the squares (only Chicago people get this). Now when my family has a party and we order pizza in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago we order pizza from Palermos (the best sauce/my favorite), Beggars (great cheese), Barracos (not my favorite but not bad). We all have our favorites and heated discussions occur quite often over who has the best pizza. i

  6. trinu says:

    The recipe change made it even worse.

  7. LanceThruster says:

    I loved the take on the maxim “Pizza is like sex…even when it’s bad it’s pretty good” and then went on to explain how in that comparison, Chicago style pizza would be like “sex with a corpse made of sandpaper.”

    Too funny!


  8. demosthenes says:

    Jon Stewart is a funny man. HIs political satire is superb. Okay, I got that out so I can say he has clue clue what is the best pizza. Yes, it is here in Chicago. New York pizza has all the attraction to me that moldy white bread with ketchup has. Zip.

  9. Richard says:

    Stewart’s right ! There’s no better Pizza than a New York Pizza !

  10. emjayay says:

    Amazing. Laugh out loud at your computer in the middle of the night hilarious.

  11. grandpamike1 says:

    No, he is not wrong.

  12. ComradeRutherford says:

    Oh, wow, the old Rays vs Johns argument. I forgot all about that! I remember when I first moved to NYC, hanging out near Wash Sq Park eating Rays with the girl I had a huge crush on… It was 65 cents a slice…

  13. ComradeRutherford says:

    I would say no, the owners of Dominoes used to fund anti-abortion whackadoodles. They may still…

  14. GarySFBCN says:

    Wise Sons in San Francisco makes pretty good Ruben sandwiches. But it will set you back about $14.

  15. OtterQueen says:

    I like all kinds of pizza. We bought a pizza stone for the Weber, and we’ve had a lot of fun with everyone making their own thin crust kinda-wood-fired pizzas. But this is the best pizza recipe I’ve ever tried:

    Don’t know about the authenticity as I didn’t get any pizza (or steak!) the one time I made it to Chicago. But it is incredible.

  16. Monoceros Forth says:

    Occasionally I’ve thought of trying Dominos every since they claimed to have improved their product a couple years ago. But when it comes down to it, is the experiment worth the money?

  17. judybrowni says:

    Fuhgeddaboudid, New York and Chicago.

    I’ve eaten pizza in Naples, where they invented pizza, and the stuff you buy on the street is a trillion times better than in either American city, even in the fancy schmanzy Italian restaurants — duh.

    In fact, the stuff I’ve eaten in New and Chicago is gahbage, ladies and gentlemen, in comparison.

    It’s flat bread, tomato and cheese, how do you fuck that up?

    From Wikipedia: The innovation that led to flat bread pizza was the use of tomato as a topping. For some time after the tomato was brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century, it was believed by many Europeans to be poisonous (as are some other fruits of the nightshade family). However, by the late 18th century, it was common for the poor of the area aroundNaples to add tomato to their yeast-based flat bread, and so the pizza began.[20] The dish gained in popularity, and soon pizza became a tourist attraction as visitors to Naples ventured into the poorer areas of the city to try the local specialty.

    Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples

    Until about 1830, pizza was sold from open-air stands and out of pizza bakeries. Pizzerias keep this old tradition alive today. It is possible to enjoy pizza wrapped in paper and a drink sold from open-air stands outside the premises. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples is widely regarded as the city’s first pizzeria.[21] In Campania, Italy, 1889, Raffaele Esposito created pizza, in his restaurant Pizzeria di Pietro. This new invention was especially made for the arriving Italian king and queen, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita. He wanted to make a good first impression with his new discovered pizza. Purists, like the famous pizzeria “Da Michele” in Via C. Sersale (founded 1870),[22] consider there to be only two true pizzas — the Marinara and the Margherita — and that is all they serve. These two “pure” pizzas are the ones preferred by many Italians today.

    The Marinara is the older of the two and has a topping of tomato, oregano, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It is named “marinara” because it was traditionally the food prepared by “la marinara”, the seaman’s wife, for her seafaring husband when he returned from fishing trips in the Bay of Naples.

    The Margherita, topped with modest amounts of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil, is widely attributed to baker Raffaele Esposito. Esposito worked at the pizzeria “Pizzeria di Pietro” which was established in 1880. In 1889, he baked three different pizzas for the visit of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The Queen’s favorite was a pizza evoking the colors of the Italian flag — green (basil leaves), white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes).[16] This combination was named Pizza Margherita in her honor. Although those were the most preferred, today there are many variations of pizzas.

  18. Houndentenor says:

    If my New York pizza he means that nasty Ray’s Original (and various other kinds) that seems to be on every street corner in the city…the only good thing to say about that is that it’s cheap. If he means John’s Pizzaria…that place is awesome.

  19. Lindy Studt says:

    I take offense at you blanket statement about pizza. Each region has its own favorite style of pizza. In the American way of doing business, whatever sells in a region and lasts is usually the best. As a Chicagoan, I prefer Salerno’s deep dish pizza. Exactly like the one you objected to. As a senior citizen, I can no longer eat it.

  20. ComradeRutherford says:

    For the most real NYC pizza, go to Patsi Grimaldi’s in Dumbo. Just, wow. They are the Gold Standard.

  21. ComradeRutherford says:

    During the weeks after 9/11 the Red Cross flooded the NYC area with volunteers from across the country. There, in NYC, surrounded by great mom-n-pop pizza joints, the RC ONLY bought Dominoes ‘pizza’. It was horrible, ketchup on cardboard with processed cheese food.

    Every day after volunteering, I’d stagger to he nearest Real Pizza joint and order a slice of Real Pizza, just to fortify myself against that horrible crap that Dominoes sells.

  22. karmanot says:

    Garp!!! same here!

  23. ComradeRutherford says:

    I was working on a movie and we were told that production was getting pizza for lunch, and they asked what we wanted. The Key grip said, “We need a Grip Pizza!” No one knew what that was, so he explained, “By the time the Grip and Electrics departments are released for lunch, everyone else has already eaten everything is sight. A Grip Pizza is guaranteed to still be on the table by the time G+E gets there.’

    He ordered a pie with black olives, raw garlic and anchovies. Sure enough, that one pie was all that was left.

  24. ComradeRutherford says:

    I believe laws have to be passed that places that do NOT sell slices can not use the word Pizza in their name. This is a huge problem in New England where they almost never sell pizza by the slice, something that makes no sense. I asked one owner why he didn’t sell by the slice and he, quite seriously, said, ‘what would I do with the rest of the pie?’

  25. Monoceros Forth says:

    I’ve had so many bad reubens, made with insipid and insubstantial bread, using cheap supermarket-quality pastrami instead of corned beef, and drowning in the sort of Thousand Island dressing that school cafeterias buy from Sysco by the hogshead.

  26. karmanot says:

    Let’s open the’ best dogs’ city—-Chicago!

  27. karmanot says:

    drooling here!

  28. karmanot says:

    Yep. Costco can bring it on at times.

  29. karmanot says:

    You are right about Italian pizza. My favorite is a thin sliced potato pizza.

  30. karmanot says:

    I feel that way about Sonoma county where for the life of me I can’t find a decent Ruben.

  31. karmanot says:

    That’s right. When I lived in Ann Arbor I avoided it like the plague, although the corporate headquarters were build in a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright style.

  32. emjayay says:

    If fracking happens in NY, it won’t be allowed in the NYC water supply watershed.

  33. EdHandy says:

    Pizza in Italy is quite variable; the main kind I had in Rome was what they call “rustica” and sounds similar to what ArthurH mentions having in Venice — not nearly as thick as NY-style “sicilian” but as thick as a slice of bread and thus a great deal thicker than the paper-thin Neapolitan stuff. Delicious; possible the best I’ve had in my life.

  34. emjayay says:

    “thin crust, tomato sauce, basil leaves, several barely-crushed cloves of garlic and a gallon of olive oil.” is also the classic NYC pizza. And if you go to a place that serves single servings, for god’s sake it isn’t a piece of pizza. It’s a fuckin slice.

  35. EdHandy says:

    I love Giordano’s, and similar types of stuffed “pizza” (including Zachary’s out in the Bay Area.) It deserves its own name, since it’s not in any way the same stuff as pizza (defined by NY and the rest of the US), but it’s delicious for what it is. The Uno’s-etc “deep dish” one gets outside of Chicago is largely without merit, although my sample set of the actual stuff in Chicago is very small.

  36. fletcher says:

    There is thin-crust pizza served all over Chicago. I like mine topped with hamburger and black olives. During Lent I get my pizza topped with tuna and green olives.

  37. fletcher says:

    For bad pizza in Chicago you go to Mama Luna. For good pizza in Chicago I got to Marcello’s, Suparosa, Leona’s and Papa Joe’s (only in Gladstone Park). But where Chicago really has it over every other city in barbecued baby back ribs. The best in town (my opinion) are Charley Robinson’s and The Gale Street Inn. They will please anyone who isn’t a Vegan.

  38. RussMillerInABQ says:

    Are you talking about the one in the parking lot of the Hampton Inn?

  39. Indigo says:

    When we’re talking about it’s-not-really-pizza, only one word comes to mind: Domino’s!

  40. Tatts says:

    Actually, it’s Cleveland, City of Light, City of Magic. Paris, TN can’t hold a candle to the magic that is Cleveland. ;-)

  41. keirmeister says:

    Interesting stats. I can “brag” that I’ve had Godfather’s Pizza when I was a kid. Even back then I remember it being the equivalent to edible rubber.

  42. Ty Morgan says:

    It’s obvious you don’t know what quiche is.

  43. GarySFBCN says:

    ‘Deep-dish’ is OK, but it’s not pizza.

    And for 20 years I hated that there was no decent pizza in San Francisco. Now we have the best: Tony Gemignani.

  44. The_Fixer says:

    Yeah, I was raised in the Northwest suburbs, and never had deep-dish until I was in my late teens or early twenties. I honestly think it was invented sometime in the 1970s or something.

    I might add that the deep-dish pizza that I first tried was nowhere near as deep as that pictured. To me, that’s a little much. One piece is all I’d need (and I can eat a lot of pizza if I let myself).

    In the end, though, it’s all a matter of taste and there is no”right” way to make a pizza, only what one thinks is right.

  45. ArthurH says:

    I’ve never sampled Donato’s Pizza, but a survey released in November 2011 rating 27 pizza chains in customer satisfaction had Donato’s rated at No. 2 (Pizza Hut was No. 1). The survey was conducted on behalf of Domino’s which had just switched recipes from cardboard topped with red paint to real pizza; but even then Domino’s was tied for No. 8. The survey kicked up some minor controversy as Godfather’s Pizza came in dead last, but to be honest then GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain hadn’t been connected to the chain in nearly 10 years. A 28th choice in the survey was “My local independent (non-chain) pizza restaurant” and it topped all 27 chains in customer satisfaction.

  46. ArthurH says:

    I beg to differ. When I was in Venice I bought some pizza at a place off St. Mark’s Square and it had crust as thick as a slice of bread. It was topped with some sort of fish that was very salty to my taste.

    I did eat some excellent deep-dish pizza from an “American-cuisine” restaurant off Brompton Place in London. And the menu called it Chicago-style pizza.

  47. A_nonymoose says:

    Whenever we visit my wife’s family in Chicago, we usually go to Barraco’s Pizza on West 95th Street, close to her family home in Beverly. Better than anything in Nashville.

  48. dommyluc says:

    Palermo’s Pizza, on 63rd St. on the South Side of Chicago. We started ordering from there in 1966 (they actually delivered a bunch of pies to us on the night of the Big Snow in 1967), and they have a sauce that is absolutely indescribable. The crust is thin but not cracker-like, just firm and crisp without that raw biscuit-like texture a lot of pizzas have that makes them seem undercooked. They put tons of cheese and Italian sausage and whatever else you want, and it’s hard to eat anything else once you try it. But this kerfuffle about pizzas is useless. All big cities have great pizza places. It’s just personal taste. I’ve never been to New York, but I’m sure I would find pizza that would satisfy me. And I don’t know where this “deep dish” moniker comes from – my old hometown of Chicago is basically a thin-crust town.
    Now I live outside of Paris, TN. (City of Light! City of Magic! h/t Randy Newman) and we actually used to have a phenomenal pizza joint, which will remain nameless. People used to come in from Memphis and Nashville because the pizza was so good. But the original owners sold it to some born-again Christians, and the quality quickly went downhill after being so good for over 12 years. I guess you don’t have to worry about making a good-tasting pie when the Rapture is coming anyway.

  49. TonyT says:

    Have you had any thin crust pizza in Chicago? That’s the point John A. was trying to make.

  50. ComradeRutherford says:

    ‘Deep dish’ is Sicilian while thin crust is Neapolitan. NYC is famous for it’s Neapolitan, and Chicago is famous for it’s Sicilian. It’s like comparing a granny smith apple to a red delicious. Sure, they are the same fruit, but they are very different.

    Me? I like pizza when I eat pizza, not bread, to I go for the NYC-style Neapolitan. If I wanted to eat a huge amount of bread, I’d go for the Chicago-style Sicilian.

    Pizza means ‘pinch’, and you can’t retrieve a Chicago-style Sicilian pie out of the oven by pinching it, therefore Chicago-style Sicilian isn’t really pizza.

  51. Buford2k11 says:

    My wife is from Cicero…and when we visited the family, I would try to sample as many pizza places as I could…then there is the Italian beef sammiches…..mmmmm…BUT, growing up in Ct. we had Zupardi’s Appiza…since 1932…now I am drooling on the keyboard, they make their own sausage…I knew the father, and now the sons are cooking, and well that was/is the best pizza in the world…West Haven, just a little north of NYC is Pizza Nirvana…I will mention Sally’s Appizza in New Haven, that is where we went if we were feeling special…I would wager that either place would challenge NYC’s and Chicago’s finest…Here in the West, we are Apizza challenged…It seems there are few folks around here who have experienced that feeling of, of, of Pizza Rapture…

  52. Phred says:

    Jesus probably had a higher tolerance for beer than I do. :-)

  53. keirmeister says:

    Costco? COSTCO?!?

    Jesus Wept! ;)

  54. keirmeister says:

    There’s a chain in Columbus, OH named Donato’s Pizza. I grew up on their zesty sauce and slices cut in rectangles. I’ve never been to Chicago, but I would pick Donato’s over anything NYC has to offer.

  55. keirmeister says:

    Ahh, that late night cruising scene….trying to hook my friends up while I chomped down on delicious Spiritus Pizza! That pizza had a zesta sauce and an overall flavor I hadn’t experienced in ages. Those were the days. Good call!

  56. Phred says:

    I know full well that I’m going to get flamed into oblivion for posting this, but Costco makes a really good deep dish pizza. Add some mushrooms (real ones–not those tasteless things from a can), some oil-cured olives, and some Flying Dog Double Dog beer to go with it–wonderful! And since my wife can’t drive at night, I won’t drive after even one Double Dog, and we live in Maryland just over the DC line, our choices are limited.

  57. microdot says:

    I need a sample before I could give an opinion, because I think I make the best pizza! Though I do admire your attitude!

  58. moujahid says:

    the fact that it was a Hawaiian pizza (ham and pineapple) was entirely
    the fault of the friend who ordered it (and my not protesting).proxy sites But I
    contend that no Italian restaurant should offer a Hawaiian pizza. And
    whatever it is

  59. Drew2u says:

    Doesn’t quiche have eggs as its base?

  60. olandp says:

    Spiritis Pizza in Provincetown, I live on it for a week, then it takes two for the swelling in my hands and feet to go down.

  61. Drew2u says:

    Chicago-style is okay, it just depends on where you get it from.
    Me, personally, I’m a continual fan of brick oven pizzas, like Punch’s Pizza in Minneapolis.

  62. Drew2u says:

    The best part of the rant comes later when Key & Peele show up for the interview segment and talk about being from Chicago/Second City.

  63. John Salmons says:

    Yeah, but it’s still pizza. Chicago style pizza isn’t pizza, it’s quiche.

  64. microdot says:

    When I was kid in Detroit, the Woolworth’s would always try to push Chicago style pizza on you…It’s sloppy, filling stuff, but in my book, this ain’t Pizza! The best pizza I ever had was made a little joint on Schoolcfraft Rd and Kentfield in Detroit in a brick wood oven by an old guy who took the secret with him when he died…my buddy had a chain of Pizza carryouts in Detroit called Pizza Boy in the 70’s..he grew up a block from the little place and was devoted to recreating the legend. Since then I’ve been back to Detroit and had fabulous pizza in a little place near the Eastern Market a few times. But, I lived in NYC for 30 years and as a starving musician, I lived on New York pizza. I make pizza now and I am my own cruelest critic. My quest is to recreate the crust of the little hole in the wall joint in Detroit…Thin, crispy big bubbles dusted with semolina…the most important ingredient is great pizza crust? TIME!

  65. SlimSam says:

    I was born and raised in Chicago. Never had a deep dish til I was in my 20’s. All Chicago neighborhoods have great pizza joints and all sell regular pizza, virtually none do deep dish. It’s for tourists.

  66. markpkessinger says:

    I’ve been a New Yorker for over thirty years (virtually all of my adult life), and while I can enjoy a “deep dish” style pizza-that-isn’t-pizza on its own terms,, I, too, perfer New York-style pizza IF AND WHEN — and this is a major caveat — it is well-prepared. But I am also honest enough to admit there’s a whole lot of really mediocre New York-style pizza sold in NYC. Ideally, the thin crust should have a nice, crispy texture, but at the same time be very light and not drenched in grease. All to often, New York style pizza sold in NYC is either excessively greasy, or the dough is as heavy as a brick..

  67. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I’ve never been impressed by either, but I’m certain there are great places in both places. When visiting NYC, we were grabbing slices while on the go. They were okay, I guess. We were able to find great pizza places in both Baltimore and Philadelphia, but it took a whole lot of looking to find them. I only had Chicago pizza once. We were traveling across country with a u haul, a car, two grumpy teenagers, a golden, and two cats. I have never had a deep dish pizza, because I’m a type one diabetic. I just wanted the moving ordeal to me over, so I agreed to a deep dish. It was a total shock to me, and I never wanted to try it again. However, our teenage son inhaled it. We eventually found a place or two in Minneapolis that had great pizza. I’m originally from North Carolina, and I never found good pizza there.

  68. Joe Bosse says:

    Screw you guys, I make the best pizza, and I do not need a whole city to back me up.

  69. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Stewart is right. It’s not pizza.

  70. BeccaM says:

    Whatever the merits or lack thereof concerning the quality of the pizza, I still felt it was one of Jon’s funniest rants in a long time.

  71. Tatts says:

    The worst pizza I ever ate was in Chicago. i don’t claim that all Chicago pizza is bad, or that this proves anything, but OMG, t was horrid. It was at a large Italian restaurant on N. Pulaski Rd. Apparently it was St. Louis style–a crackery, matzoh-like crust, and cut in squares, not wedges.

    Now, the fact that it was a Hawaiian pizza (ham and pineapple) was entirely the fault of the friend who ordered it (and my not protesting). But I contend that no Italian restaurant should offer a Hawaiian pizza. And whatever it is, a pizza should have a crisp, chewy crust, not something that approximates soda crackers. Blech!

  72. TonyT says:

    Jon is just wrong. NY may be #1 in a lot of things but not pizza. Connie’s, Nancy’s, there are hundreds of them. Most residents don’t eat deep dish because one slice is a meal. I’d rather have multiple slices of thin crust. Also, we have Portillo’s hot dogs and chocolate cake shakes!

  73. grandpamike1 says:

    Jon is correct, as usual, Chicago, in everything will always be second city, and for good reason, in all types of cuisine, New York has it over Chicago, always will.

  74. keirmeister says:

    As a former NYer, “real” NYC pizza is utter crap: thin-ass slices, gobs of cheap cheese, toppings added as an afterthought…and the sauce? Straight from a can with no additional spices or flavor.

    Every person I know who says NYC pizza is “the best,” is a NY native that hasn’t travelled much.

  75. bbock says:

    I found pizza in New York to be largely overrated and disappointing. But I haven’t done an exhaustive amount of research. But the pizza I’ve had there has been disappointing at best. Stewart is right that Chicago style pizza is a casserole, not a pizza. It is pretty good although very heavy. But as you point out, that’s not the only kind of pizza Chicago has.

    But for my taste, California has the best pizza. Wolfgang Puck and California Pizza Kitchen are really tasty.

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