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In a city famous for its deep-dish pizza tourists wouldn’t know that the locals more often eat a thinner-crust, tavern-style pie topped with homemade Italian sausage and cut into squares, not slices — unless they went on a pizza tour.
Chicago is one of a handful of cities across the country, like Boston, Milwaukee and New York, with companies that offer tours of the local pizza scene. Chicago Pizza Tours owner Jonathan Porter takes his customers on a bus ride around the city that includes four stops over 3 1/2 hours to sample deep-dish, the tavern-style popular in Chicago neighborhoods and other eclectic pizza variations.
“It’s just a different way to see the city,” Porter said. “Eat your way through the city. It was always designed to get people off the beaten path.”
Bonnie Burchett, 64, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was on a recent weekend vacation to Chicago with her husband when they took the pizza tour.
“I like that sausage,” she said after taking a bite at Pizano’s, a downtown pizzeria with a buttery crusted deep-dish pizza and tavern-style that was the first stop on the tour.
Elizabeth Goodwin, 33, of Columbus, Ohio, was on a weekend trip with her husband too. They were able to try Pizano’s, thin crust at Coalfire west of downtown, tavern-style with sauerkraut at Flo and Santos on the city’s South Side, and Pequod’s deep-dish on the North Side.
“I’ve always wanted to try Chicago deep-dish pizza, it’s famous,” Goodwin said. The couple took the tour, she said, because “otherwise we wouldn’t know where to go.”
The tour guide offers fun statistics as the bus travels from pizzeria to pizzeria. There are 2,200 pizza restaurants in Chicago. Thin crust outsells deep-dish in Chicago even though deep-dish was invented in Chicago in the 1940s.
Miriam Weiskind, a tour guide with Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York, happened to be on the recent Chicago tour, wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a slice of pizza. She said she tries to focus on a particular pizza’s ingredients and explain to people on her tours “what goes into it so at the end they understand why they like it.”
— Chicago Pizza Tours offers bus tours most days at 11 a.m. for $60. Check availability at http://www.chicagopizzatours.com
— Slice of Chicago Pizza Tours offers tours Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for $45. Check availability at http://www.sliceofchicagopizzatours.com
— Boston Pizza Tours offers two-hour guided walking tours of pizzerias in historic neighborhoods. There’s a Pizza and Little Italy Tour and a Pizza and Historic Tavern Tour. Both are $39. Check availability at http://www.bostonpizzatours.com
— Milwaukee Food Tours offers a three-hour pizza bus tour on select Fridays and Saturdays at 6 p.m. for $55. Check availability at http://www.milwaukeefoodtours.com/pizza-tour.php
NEW YORK CITY:
— Scott’s Pizza Tours offers bus tours for $60 and walking tours in Little Italy, Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side for $38. Check availability at http://www.scottspizzatours.com
— A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour offers a four and a-half hour tour for $80. Check availability at http://www.asliceofbrooklyn.com/pizza.html
Follow Caryn Rousseau on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/carynrousseau