Is Deep Dish Pizza Really Pizza?

By all straightforward definitions, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is pizza. It has a crust, sauce, and (lots of) cheese, so it certainly meets the traditional requirements-and, more to the point, it's marketed as pizza. If restaurants call something "pizza" and customers agree, it's pizza.

With that said, there's a heated debate as to whether Chicago-style deep dish is a good representation of what pizza should be, and that's a more difficult question to address. As Meredith Heil of Thrillist noted, the experience of eating deep dish is more like eating "pizza soup in a bread bowl than a slice of actual pizza."

We'll mention here that Heil is from New York, where thin crust is mandatory. Still, countless others have echoed her opinion: Chicago-style deep dish is its own thing. Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia even weighed in on the debate, reportedly telling The Chicago Sun-Times that deep dish is "very tasty, but it's not pizza."

The debate reached its boiling point in 2013, when comedian Jon Stewart of The Daily Show ranted against Chicago's most famous culinary creation.

"Let me explain something, deep-dish pizza is not only not better than New York pizza," Stewart said. "It's not pizza, it's a f*****g casserole!"

Rahm Emanuel, then the mayor of Chicago, tried to change Stewart's mind by sending a deep-dish pizza to The Daily Show's headquarters. Stewart responded by serving the pie to a dog...who wouldn't touch it.

While he might have been somewhat blunt, Stewart effectively outlined the culinary argument against deep dish: From preparation to consumption, pizza is traditionally considered a simple food. It's cheap, easy to make, and diners can grab a slice on the go.

Deep-dish pizza doesn't have any of those qualities. A single pie takes about 45-60 minutes to bake, since all the layers of cheese, sauce, and toppings-which aren't on the top, but we'll discuss that in a moment-need time to cook. Diners usually eat it with a fork and knife, and they typically order full pies, not slices.

But the biggest difference between Chicago-style pizza and its thin-crust brethren is also the most obvious: Deep-dish pizzas are usually served with the sauce on the top. The cheese doesn't form a nice crust, and the toppings are buried deep in the pie. The process of making a deep-dish pizza is fairly similar to the process of making a lasagna or casserole; there's a lot of layering, and that results in a very different texture. Some people enjoy it, but it's a very different dining experience from stopping by a pizza shop for a quick slice.

For what it's worth, Chicagoans seem to agree that thin-crust pizzas are better for everyday dining. According to 2013 data from food delivery site Grubhub, Chicago pizza lovers only ordered deep dish about 9 percent of the time they ordered out.

Does that mean that Chicago-style deep dish pizza isn't actually pizza? Not necessarily. Many foods have extreme varieties, and they don't always elicit this amount of debate. Raisin Bran and Lucky Charms are both breakfast cereals, but they provide very different experiences. Angelfood cake is quite distinct from carrot cake, but both are types of cakes.

If you love Chicago-style pizza, don't let anyone tell you that it isn't the real thing, and if you prefer a wafer-thin crust and a single layer of cheese, that's fine, too. Either way, you're eating pizza.