Illinois Road Trip Round-Up – Best Pizza
By Katie Arvia published September 08, 2020
We’ve been “All In for Illinois” during the pandemic, but now that we're in Phase 4, we’re ready to enjoy our state safely. Check-in every Tuesday for an Illinois Road Trip Round-Up on themed topics showcasing eighteen destinations across Illinois. This week, we’re touring some of the state's best pizza joints! So pack up the family, bring your masks and get ready for a road trip!
Pizza lovers can always grab a little slice of heaven in the Chicago Southland! Visit Aurelio’s Pizza in Homewood, the largest pizzeria in the world, and chow down on their classic thin-crust pizza. Aurelio’s originated right here in the Chicago Southland and has grown to nearly 40 locations. For a crispier crust, be sure to request an “old oven” pizza. Or try delicious deep dish at Beggars Pizza! Famous for “laying it on thick,” Beggars even offers gourmet stuffed and gluten free varieties. Along with their 20+ Chicagoland area locations, you can also find Beggars Pizza being served at Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox. Pay a visit to Ed & Joe’s Restaurant & Pizzeria, located in historical downtown Tinley Park. Locally famous for their taco pizza and delectable BBQ chicken pizza, Ed & Joe’s also offers pasta, sandwiches, salads and more. The Chicago Southland is also home to several Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria and Giordano’s locations. Be sure to take a “pizza tour” through the Chicago Southland soon!
Ask an Auroran where to find the best pizza in the region and you’ll get as many answers as people in your survey. Given our close proximity to the pizza capital of the world, Chicago, you can find authentic tavern-cut traditional pizzas just about anywhere, but they’re especially delicious at Ach-N-Lou's Pizza Pub, an Aurora institution serving happy customers for over decades. Raimondo’s Pizza & Pub in North Aurora offers a more adventurous flavor profile in its pizza-of-the-month selections, which include an Irish-style Reuben pizza (pictured above) in March and in August a fan favorite returns each year, the Big Mac, a topping combo that works surprisingly well on a pizza. Parma Pizza Bar cooks up authentic Napoli style pizza in a wood-fired oven at its spacious, modern location in downtown Yorkville. In downtown Aurora, DeCari To Go offers an inclusive menu catered to all dietary preferences, with delicious pizzas crafted to taste, from meat-lovers to vegans and gluten-free. Plan your visit with our Aurora Area Go Guide, in print and online at EnjoyAurora.com.
You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy pizza and that’s pretty much the same thing! Here in Bloomington-Normal, we have plenty of pizza places that are sure to make you one happy visitor. If you’re traveling Route 66, be sure to stop at two local pizzerias that are located on the Mother Road – Kelly’s on 66 and Tobin’s Pizza. Voted the best pizza in BN for the last three years, Flinger’s Pizza Pub is known for their quality, unique craft pizzas that pair perfectly with their large selection of craft beer. If you’re craving a Neapolitan-style pizza, look no further than Anju Above in Downtown Bloomington. Their globally influenced menu serves big flavors. From thick crust to rustic style, the perfect pie waits for you in McLean County! For a full list of pizza places in BN check out our website.
VISIT CHAMPAIGN COUNTY
We're lucky to have many incredible pizzerias in the greater Champaign County area. A highlight for the downtown Champaign area is Pizzaria Antica, an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria. As a member of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, Antica only utilizes centuries-old traditions of Neapolitan cuisine to prepare their pizza. The dough is prepared daily and cold-proofed for 48 hours to maximize the flavor of the flour. Another favorite, especially for U of I students and alumni, is Papa Del's. Their thin crust and Sicilian pizzas are known to be incredible for game days as well as special occasions. When you’re stopping by Champaign County, pizza lovers aren’t the only ones who can find a great meal. As Midwest Living’s Best Midwest Food Town, Champaign-Urbana is full of Outside of Ordinary options!
CHICAGO NORTH SHORE
According to Eater Chicago, Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza is Luring Out-of-State Tourists into Breaking Quarantine Rules! We are happy to oblige with many great options! Deep dish is the legendary favorite at Lou Malnati’s Pizza. Their pizza is so beloved that after dining, guests can leave with frozen pizzas which can also be ordered online and shipped anywhere in the U.S. Union Pizzeria specializes in wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and their sister restaurant Union Squared, fires up famous Detroit-style pizza which can be enjoyed in their beer garden. Want an old school pizza parlor, D’Agostino’s Pizzeria and Pub has been successfully serving pizzas and traditional Italian dishes since 1968. Grateful Bites Pizza Shoppe takes a new spin on healthful and unique pizza options including a wide variety with red sauce and white pizzas with olive and garlic oil bases.
MEET CHICAGO NORTHWEST
If there is one thing that the Chicago area is best known for besides its sports teams, it’s pizza. However, getting overwhelmed by the options is quite common, luckily, we have you covered. Originally from Torino, Italy, Mama Giordano quickly found a second home in Chicago for her famous pizzeria. Consistently making national headlines, Giordano’s is a Chicago staple - dive into their deep dish and see why. In the mood for thin crust pizza? Moretti's features an award-winning thin crust pizza that will make your mouth water. If you are searching for something a little more, "off the beaten path," try White Cottage Pizza and Italian in Wood Dale. With everything on their menu made from scratch, White Cottage is one of the finest Italian restaurants in the area! Try their giant-sized super stadium (21in x 31 in) pizza! Attempt a dine around of all the Chicago Northwest pizza options.
If you’re looking for some good pizza, come on over into downtown Elgin to Billy Bricks! Aside from great pizza, they’re most known for the wood-fire baking process, making for a delightful smokey irresistible flavor with every bite. With a large variety of speciality pizzas as well as build-your-own pizza options you will be sure to love every slice! There are even gluten-free crust and vegetarian options available to accommodate for dietary restrictions, making it a great place for anyone. This wonderful pizza joint is conveniently located just steps away from the Fox River Bike Trail, and in downtown Elgin where you can find other activities like the Grand Victoria Casino, Escapade 360, and numerous shopping opportunities! It’s the perfect stop on your biking journey. Relax and enjoy the scenic views from the outdoor patio that overlook the Fox River Bike Trail and the Fox River, while leaning back and listening to live music. Plus if you’ve decided to hit the trails with your pooch, well-behaved dogs are happily welcomed on the outdoor patio! And for more excellent dining options in the Elgin area, be sure to visit our website!
GREAT RIVERS AND ROUTES
Thin crust, thick crust, deep dish and stuffed crust. You name it, the Great Rivers & Routes region has it when it comes to pizza. Pizza connoisseurs know that southwest Illinois is king when it comes to pies and creativity reigns supreme. Drop in to Edwardsville’s Peel Wood Fired Pizza where Thai Red Curry, Prosciutto, and Maple Bourbon Pork pizzas top the menu. Don’t miss the daily and weekly specialty pies! In Alton, neighborhood bar Johnson’s Corner has wood oven pizzas that run the gamut from Chili Cheese Dog to a Thanksgiving pizza complete with turkey, dressing and the trimmings. Nancy’s Pizzeria in Litchfield hits the mark with its Chicago-style stuffed crust pizzas. And there are so many more options. Check them out here.
There is no shortage of places to pick up a pizza in ILLINOISouth, but there are a handful of fan-favorite pizza joints you HAVE to try if you’re in the area. Papa Vito’s in the Metro-East is one said establishment that has been serving up pizza for decades. The pie here is great, but one very popular menu item is their take on a pizza roll. While they’re considered to be an appetizer, they’re SO good – you can make a whole meal out of them. In Bond County there’s a staple that has been attracting people from miles since 1980 – Mario’s Pizza. One thing that sets Mario’s apart is their crust. Yes, they have the traditional thin crust and deep dish, but they also have an ‘extra thin’ crust for folks who are into a lighter pizza with more a little more crunch. If you’re ever around McLeansboro, we definitely recommend a trip to Auten’s Pizza House. This joint is hands down the best bang for your buck in ILLINOISouth, you can get a small, three topping pizza for three dollars! If you’re hungry, don’t worry – Auten’s large, all meat pizza will only run $12.50, and it’s tremendous! We’ll wrap up with the award-winning Greathouse of Pizza in Casey. Everything about this place is amazing, from the pizza pot pies (yes, you read that right) to their ever-changing specialty pizzas. But the claim to fame here is their deep-dish, as Greathouse of Pizza is consistently named one of the top ten deep dish pizza joints in Illinois!
It is probably safe to say that there is a Midwest family tradition of having a pizza night once a week! That’s certainly the case here in Jacksonville, and we are keeping that tradition alive by ordering from our local favorite, Leo’s Pizza. Leo’s Pizza, located at 230 South Main Street in Jacksonville, is well known in Central Illinois and offers dine in, carry out and delivery options. Leo’s is a small family owned and operated restaurant and has been operating for over 20 years in Jacksonville, known for their delicious pizza, especially their “stuffed” pizza. Their stuffed pizza is a unique take on pizza, and will satisfy anyone’s pizza craving, we can guarantee all your family members will enjoy it! But don’t stop there, pizzas are known for being able to come in an infinite number of varieties, but are ALWAYS good! Other choices in Jacksonville include the Handle Bar, Barney’s, and even the Irish pub Mulligan’s has their own version (try the Reuben pizza!, it’s great!). The next time you are in the Jacksonville area stop by the Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau office at 310 East State Street for a discount card to enjoy $2 off a stuffed pizza from Leo’s. As always if you would like to know more information, go to JacksonvilleIL.org!
VISIT MCHENRY COUNTY
Georgio's Pizza, located in downtown Crystal Lake, is an award-winning pizzeria specializing in authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza. They also have great crispy thin crust pizza, calzones, appetizers, salads, pastas, sandwiches and made-from-scratch desserts. Come see why Georgio's has been voted Best Pizza in McHenry County over 12 times!
Do you prefer cheese, pepperoni, sausage or a more unique topping combination? Central Illinois is sure to have a pizzeria to satisfy your cravings. If you’re interested in building your own pizza or a delicious lunch buffet, Double A’s Pizza Sports Bar and Grill is a great choice for creating custom pizzas and watching the big game. Firehouse Pizza & Pub in East Peoria is another local favorite with a unique firehouse theme and a number of popular appetizers and pizza options. Check out Hoop’s Pub & Pizza if you’re looking for a relaxed pizzeria where you can enjoy a whole pizza or a single slice, plus, Hoops is open late to satisfy that after bar craving. Visit Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro for their flavorful wood-fired pizzas and handmade desserts. Head to DiscoverPeoria.com for more amazing pizza options.
A well-known fact about the Rockford region is that we are home to many of the most delicious locally owned pizza places around. Our pizza experts toss up authentic ‘Za’ using their very own family recipes passed down from generation to generation. From deep dish to stuffed crust to woodfired, it’s possible to get it made any way you like it. Many of the restaurants use hand-tossed dough, homemade sauces and topped with the freshest ingredients – specifically the cheese! You can always find your tried and true pizza favorites like the cheese and sausage or the Margherita, and if you’re in the mood to experiment with new tastes you can try Alchemy’s Desperado with black bean, chorizo pulled pork, ancho chile sauce, tortilla dust cilantro and arugula or WoodFire Brick Oven Pizza’s Shrimp Bolognese topped with spicy shrimp arrabbiata, Grana Padano and extra virgin olive oil. Any way you slice it, our pizza in the Rockford region is flavorful, rave-worthy and reason enough to come by and visit any time.
Gallina’s Pizza is a Springfield tradition! Located in a historic area of downtown it is a restaurant known for its authentic Italian food and relaxing atmosphere. Gallina's has been family owned and operated since 1978 and is dedicated to providing local residents and visitors to the area with a slice of Italy. If you are in the mood for something unique, head to Abe’s Hideout and let your taste buds sing with their Pulled Pork BBQ pie, piled high with yummy fixins’! Choose from so many awesome eateries, click here.