If there’s one culinary staple that the Chicago Southland is known for, it would be pizza. The debate could go on forever about deep dish vs. thin crust, but there’s no need to take sides. We have them both! So when in the Southland, you might want to wear your stretchy pants and indulge in the best of the best.
Starting in a small storefront with four tables in 1959, Joseph Aurelio, Jr. started a pizzeria that would become Chicagoland’s first established franchise pizza chain, Aurelio’s Pizza. He later moved to a larger location in downtown Homewood that is still going strong, serving up their popular thin-crust the “Old World Way” with a recipe that would lead to their growth to six states with 42 locations. If you really want an old-school treat, request that your pizza be made in the “old oven.” You’ll also find stuffed and thick-crust pizza on the menu and can find additional locations in Tinley Park, Crete, Chicago Heights, Frankfort, Mokena, New Lenox, Palos Heights and South Holland.
The original Beggars Pizza opened in Blue Island in 1979 and has become a large regional chain of 20+ restaurants. The original location at 127th & Western is still open, along with a second Blue Island location on Kedzie Ave. The Lansing location, housed in a former movie theatre, features a pipe organ that is played on Tuesday and Friday evenings. Known for “laying it on thick,” the chain offers thin-crust, deep-dish, gourmet-stuffed and gluten-free varieties. You can also visit Beggar’s locations in Oak Forest, Mokena, Orland Park, Harvey and Richton Park. You’ll also find Beggar’s Pizza being served at Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.
Lou Malnati’s is synonymous with Chicago-style deep dish. The chain started in 1971 and now has 53 Chicagoland locations and three in Arizona. In the Chicago Southland, you can try a pie in Flossmoor, New Lenox, Tinley Park, Homer Glen and Palos Heights.
Known for their stuffed pizza, Giordano’s began on Chicago’s south side in 1974. There are now more than 50 locations nationwide, but if you want to try it out in the area it originated in, you can get a taste in Matteson, Orland Park or at their Midway location on Cicero Avenue near Midway Airport.
If you love stuffed pizza, another local chain to try is Arrenello’s, who touts their sweet sauce and can be found in Glenwood and Tinley Park. A local chain known for classic crispy thin crust is Waldo Cooney’s, with Southland locations in Worth and Lansing.
Aside from chains, there are a number of mom-and-pop pizzerias, carry-outs or Italian sit-downs to find authentic Chicago pizza - thin, thick or deep dish, among them Ed n Joe’s Pizza in Tinley Park, Rico’s Pizza in Lansing, Papa Joe’s of Orland Park and The Original Papa Joe’s in Oak Lawn.