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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.

2 Responses to “SMALL PIZZA CHAINS WE WISH WERE EVERYWHERE”

  1. Chris

    Visited Winfield store. Bummed that they did not have the cracker crust. What stores in the west suburbs can make the original?

    Reply
  2. flyflv

    Where it is: New York, with satellites in Berkeley and Miami Why it’s great: Cousins Francis Garcia and Sal Basille might have only opened Artichoke Bassille’s in 2008, but the pizzaiolos represent the fourth generation of family restauranteurs. And, truth be told, they’re lucky they came along when they did, because if this was four generations back, there’s no way New York would have embraced artichoke-covered, cream-sauced slices, let alone slices loaded up with crab. Luckily, we live in a post-California pizza environment, one where Artichoke can expand rapidly, surpassing a dozen locations. Most are in New York, but there’s also a shop in Berkeley, a place largely considered the birthplace for experimental deliciousness like this. The thing is, though, that Artichoke feels like a great old-school slice shop, with a great pepperoni slice and knockout Sicilian squares (both traditional and vodka-sauced) for those remaining purists  who still scoff at transforming pizza beyond the basics.

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