Debunking the Neapolitan Myth: Why Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Is Still Pizza

There’s a long-standing debate among pizza enthusiasts about what truly constitutes a pizza. The Neapolitan pizza, originating from Naples, Italy, is often held as the gold standard. However, this has led to some critics claiming that variations such as the Chicago deep dish pizza aren’t “real” pizzas. This argument, however, is fundamentally flawed. Just as language, music, and other cultural elements evolve and diversify over time and across regions, so too does food. The Chicago deep dish, with its unique characteristics and rich history, is as much a pizza as its Neapolitan counterpart.

The Origin of Pizza

The concept of pizza originated in Naples, Italy, in the late 18th century. The original Neapolitan pizza was a simple flatbread topped with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. This pizza was cooked in a wood-fired oven, giving it a distinct charred and smoky flavor. The Neapolitan pizza is recognized by the European Union as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed product, and the art of its making is listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.

The Evolution of Pizza

As pizza made its way across the globe, it evolved to suit local tastes and available ingredients. In the United States, pizza took on many forms, including the New York-style thin crust pizza and the Chicago deep dish pizza. The Chicago deep dish, invented in the mid-20th century, features a thick crust that can hold large amounts of cheese, sauce, and toppings. It’s baked in a deep round pan, giving it its characteristic high edges.

Why Chicago Deep Dish Is Still Pizza

The argument that Chicago deep dish isn’t pizza because it isn’t Neapolitan is flawed for several reasons. Firstly, it assumes that the Neapolitan pizza is the only “true” pizza, disregarding the fact that food evolves and diversifies over time and across regions. Secondly, it overlooks the fact that the Chicago deep dish shares the fundamental elements of a pizza: a yeasted flatbread base topped with cheese, sauce, and various other ingredients.


In conclusion, the Chicago deep dish pizza is indeed a pizza, despite its differences from the Neapolitan pizza. It represents the evolution and diversification of pizza as a culinary concept, adapting to local tastes and available ingredients. The debate over what constitutes a “real” pizza is ultimately a matter of personal preference and cultural perspective. Rather than dismissing one style as “not pizza,” we should celebrate the diversity and creativity that pizza, in all its forms, represents.