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SMALL PIZZA CHAINS WE WISH WERE EVERYWHERE

August 3, 2018

There is no shortage of pizza chains in America, ranging from lightning-fast gourmet joints to pepperoni-stained juggernauts. But for many, the true heart of pizza beats in small regional chains. Some define the very idea of pizza for generations, serving as community centers with checkered tablecloths. Some expanded out of big cities to transform the notion of pizza in other markets. And all of them have cemented themselves as staples of slumber parties, late-night snacks, and special occasions, even if the occasion is simply going out for pizza. These are some of the best small pizza chains in America, ones that we wish would expand nationwide… though that might dilute some of the appeal.

Aurelio’s Pizza

Where it is: The Chicagoland area, with satellites in Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, and Nevada
Why it’s great: Chicago’s got a wealth of pizza chains, some of which have gone on to become all-out ambassadors of deep dish (Uno’s, Malnati’s, Gino’s). But real Chicagoans know that tavern pie  — thin crust, sliced into squares — is real actual crown jewel of the city’s Italian pie jewelry box, and Aurelio’s is the king. With over 40 locations, this is the kind of place that has spent the past 60 years building an empire of nostalgia for its classic pies whose cracker-thin crust manages an engineering miracle by not buckling under the pressure of all those toppings. They also do a thick crust and stuffed pie, though the original is still the draw. It’s the kind of pie that draws tourists and locals in equal measure, something that can’t necessarily be said about the bigger, showier pies out there.

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