Ask Casey: Chicago Deep-Dish in New York?

Ask Casey: Cooking and Kitchen Questions Answered

A friend of mine just moved to New York City (Queens) from Chicago and really misses Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. We’ve been forbidden to even talk about pizza around him! Is there anywhere in New York where a man can get a slice of pizza like they make back home?

You may not want to hear this, but no. As crazy as it might seem, there is no truly authentic Chicago deep-dish in New York. Even the pizza completists at Slice say there’s no real comparison (and of course, we all are pretending that the Pizzeria Uno on 6th Avenue in the Village doesn’t exist.)

If you’re looking for an overwhelming load of cheese underneath a layer of sauce on a quiche-like crust, it’s just not going to happen. However, if you are willing to play fast and loose with New York’s options, you might be able to find something that satisfies the deep dish need until your next trip to Lou Malnati’s.

There are two slice styles found in New York that may help: the Sicilian, better known as the “square slice” in many local pizza joints, and a little something called the “grandma slice.” Less doughy than its Sicilian cousin, the grandma usually features a square, pan-baked crust with the mozzarella cheese residing underneath a diced tomato sauce. The cheese-under-sauce falls more into the deep-dish category, but you’re still not going to get it an inch thick like you would in Chicago. Here are the two best slices I found:

Maffei (686 Sixth Ave. at 22nd St., 212-929-0949) has the best grandma slice in the city, according to Ed Levine (a man who knows; he wrote an entire book on the subject, Pizza: A Slice of Heaven). The tomatoes on the grandma are freshly crushed, which is an excellent touch, and the crust is thin and crisp. But the Sicilian comes closer to a deep-dish; it’s a little more substantial, with a thicker, more buttery crust and rounds of fresh mozzarella. If you like Giordano’s, these could be the slices for you.
[UPDATE: as of February 2013, Maffei has closed.]

Maffei's Sicilian slice
Maffei's Sicilian slice

It’s hard to do a pizza roundup in this city without including Di Fara (1424 Avenue J, Midwood, Brooklyn; 718-258-1367), the undisputed champion of New York artisanal pizza. The square slice comes with the same cheese mix as the round, thin-crust pies (two kinds of mozzarella and Grana Padano), but with a bouncier, chewier crust and nicely burnt edges. There’s no real one-on-one Chicago comparison, but it’s outstanding. Maybe you should just give up the idea of approximating deep-dish and just join the hordes of followers. Note that DiFara is only open Wednesday-Sunday, and even then only from noon to 4:30 pm and 6:00-9:00 pm. When you’re as critically lauded as owner Dom DeMarco, you get to make those kind of rules.

Di Fara's square slice
Di Fara's square slice

Finally, though I haven’t sampled it myself, word from the Chowhound contingent is that Nino’s (9110 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn) also makes a mean grandma slice. Plus, Tony Sirico apparently lives in the neighborhood, so if you see him, please ask what kind of ‘za he prefers. It would be a public service!

Readers, I now turn to you. Ignore the Neapolitan blistered thin-crust pizza for a second! Forget your Motorinos, your Lucalis, your Gruppos, and tell me: what’s your favorite pizza out of a pan?

Freaking out about holiday baking? I have never set a stand mixer on fire and am more than happy to help. Send your irrational questions to Ask Casey at caseyATgoodfoodstoriesDOTcom.

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  1. Once I get a NEW stand mixer that doesn’t light up like Dyker Heights at Christmas, we should figure out how to best make our own Chicago style pizza.

  2. Is Nino’s the place that was on Man vs. Food? .. where they put the cheese under the sauce sort of like deep dish?

  3. Laura: Thanks! You know, this research biz is tough. Eating pizza all the time-what a drag!

    Dan: no, I don’t think it’s weird to want more Di Fara’s. Hell, I wanted another slice as I was eating the first.

    Christina: the interwebs tells me that Man vs. Food was at L&B Spumoni Gardens, which I also tried but didn’t feel it measured up to Maffei or Di Fara. But it’s out near Coney Island, if you feel like taking a detour at the seashore.

  4. if you’re taking a detour at the sea shore i think totonno’s (actually in coney island) is way way better than spumoni gardens. i think they only have thin crust. but its goooooood.

    now i’m sad, because the pizza in ann arbor is terrible. sigh.

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