In Dining

Rosati's Chicago-style deep dish pizza. (PHOTO: Lori Fredrich)

The deep dish on Chicago-style pizza: Rosati's Pizza

"Where do I find Chicago-style deep dish pizza in Milwaukee?"

It's a question I'm asked on a regular basis. It's also one that's become far easier to answer in recent years as Milwaukee become home to various Chicago-style deep dish pizza brands. But, even among those popular brands – think Uno, Pizano's, Rosati's and (soon) Lou Malnati's – there are variations.

So, I decided to take the time to explore the Chicago deep dish pizza scene in Milwaukee, visiting each spot and giving you a full report on the flavors and textures you'll encounter at each location. To keep things consistent, I ordered a small (generally 10-inch) pizza with sausage, mushrooms and pepperoni at each location, and then tasted each pizza component (from toppings to crust) to give you the full lowdown.

If you're a lover of Chicago-style deep dish, my hope is you'll read along and maybe find a spot or two you haven't tried. If you're curious what all the fuss is about, this series might well assist you in finding your ideal pie.

But first, a few words on what Chicago-style deep dish really is.

Not every deep dish is Chicago-style

"Deep dish" pizza can come in various forms. But there is really only one type of pizza that qualifies as Chicago-style deep dish. Much of what you'll find in Wisconsin is more akin to "pan style" pizza featuring a soft, thick dough that's cooked in a deep pan. It looks a bit like Chicago-style pizza, but the top is likely covered with cheese.

When you break it down to basics, there are three ways to identify a classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza:

  • The crust: Chicago-style deep dish features an almost biscuit-like crust, which nearly always gets a boost from butter or corn oil. Note: Stuffed pizza is a category all its own. If there is a second, often very thin layer of crust in between the toppings and the sauce, it's not classic Chicago-style deep dish.
  • The toppings: they are applied in reverse order from most pizzas. The cheese is layered right on top of crust, with meat and vegetable toppings to follow; this prevents the cheese from scorching during the longer cooking time.
  • The sauce: You will definitely find the sauce on the top of your pizza.

For the purpose of this series, I made a grand attempt to focus on true Chicago style deep dish. But, as you'll find ... not every "Chicago-style" pie is created equal.

Rosati's Pizza

145 W Oklahoma Ave., Bay View, (414) 489-7191
rosatispizza.com

The first Rosati's Pizza was established in the Chicago suburbs in 1964 by Alfred Rosati and his brothers. The brothers were among 10 children in the Saverio family, which had owned and operated Italian restaurants in Chicago since the 1920s. A second Rosati's was opened in 1967 in Niles, Illinois, followed by one in Arlington Heights.

As locations expanded and the business was passed along to the next generation, the Rosati's Pizza concept was franchised. Today, Rosati's operates locations in 15 States, including five in Wisconsin. The Bay View location opened in April of 2018 and serves up a menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and pizza, including their Chicago-style deep dish.

Rosati's is carry-out and delivery-only. But the Bay View location does have limited counter seating. On our visit, we ordered a 10-inch Chicago-style deep dish with sausage, mushrooms and pepperoni. Despite the small quarters, we opted to dine-in, ensuring our pizza would represent as best possible.

The crust

Rosati's crust was slightly thick with a classic biscuit-like texture and a crisp exterior. Impressively, it maintained its crispness throughout the pizza, even on the bottom (which didn't suffer from any notable sogginess).

Its flavor was rich, with the most distinctly buttery flavor I've encountered thus far.

The toppings

As for the toppings, the sauce was fresh and chunky with an acidic fresh tomato flavor. It was applied generously to the top of the pizza. Beneath the sauce, the pizza was littered with a generous amount of flavorful sausage, which was well spiced with a nice fennel presence and thinly sliced pepperoni, which offered a slight amount of spice and a bit of saltiness.

The mushrooms were fresh, but not watery, and there was enough cheese to offer both balance in the pizza's flavor profile and a nice pull when pulling out each slice.

Verdict

As expected, this is a solid example of a Chicago-style deep dish pizza, from its flavor to its build. If you love a crisp, buttery crust augmented with nicely flavored toppings, Rosati's is an excellent choice.

Rosati's Pizza is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.


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