Much to my endless chagrin, I totally missed the boat when it came to the late, lamented—and highly lauded—Great Lake Pizza in Andersonville.
I just couldn’t deal with the lines, and the uncertainty that they could run out of dough while I was standing in said line, which translates to (horror of horrors): NO PIZZA.
So this year, my mission is to seek out pizza perfection. Listen, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta take one for the team. Here are some of the pizzas I recommend so far, chosen from all around Chicago and the North Shore.
Tony Mantuano’s wood-burning oven sends out some wild combinations, like this one with Caprino goat cheese, hazelnuts, melted leeks, dates and thyme, drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar. Wow. 110 E. Pearson St., 312-266-3110
I’d be terrified to leave this off the list, ‘cuz this place has a serious following. I’m fond of spinach and mushroom on their thin cornmeal crust. 960 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, 847-498-3900
Order ahead, and your pizza will greet you. Otherwise, you’ll wait awhile. Load up with veggies and you’ll be a happy camper (spinach, mushrooms, mixed peppers, onions). 8541 N. Ferris Ave., Morton Grove, 847-965-7997
The thin-crust Candlelite White pizza is sassy. Your breath will be, too. Roasted garlic spread, caramelized onions,mozzarella, provolone, parmesan and goat cheeses. Hello, lover. 7452 N. Western Ave., Chicago, 773-465-0087
I’ve got a thing for their Napoletana pizza, topped with arugula, cherry tomatoes, garlic, EVOO, provolone and shaved Parmesan, especially if you add prosciutto for an extra $2. 293 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest, 847-735-9235
I was not expecting this to be as tasty as it was. We went simple with prosciutto and arugula. Well, kind of simple. 581 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park, 847-266-0600
My favorite summer pizza combination: this indulgent white pizza romances with burrata cheese, fire-roasted Nichols Farm summer squash, and cherry tomatoes. 59 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-329-0400
Head straight for the Artisan-Style Pizza section on the menu, and order the Capricciosa: fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, artichokes, roasted cremini mushrooms, prosciutto, Kalamata olives and EVOO. 1968 Dempster St., Evanston, 847-475-6200; 28 S. Fairview, Park Ridge, 847-823-3450
This is the only New Haven-style pizza in town, so treat it with respect. Go for the classic White Pizza with clams, bacon and fresh garlic. No, really. 1927 W. North Ave., Chicago, 773-772-4422
This thin-crusted pan pizza is mighty fine, especially when topped with crispy pepperoni, fresh garlic and hot peppers. 601 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, 847-777-6878
Even if I wasn’t infatuated with Chef Fabio Viviani, I’d still crave this Pear and Prosciutto Pizza, slathered with roasted garlic cream and topped with oozy mozzarella and taleggio cheeses, grilled pears, and fresh arugula. And the crust… yum! 51 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, 312-595-1322
I’m in love with the combination of Salsiccia e Broccoletti: Italian sausage, broccoli rabe and provolone cheese. É molto bello. 1769 W. Sunnyside Ave., Chicago, 773-878-2420
This Neapolitan-style, thin-crust pizza needs a minute to sit on your table before you dig in. I like the Gustosa: fresh mozzarella, asparagus, ham, egg and shaved Parmesan. 706 Main St., Evanston, 847-475-1111
There’s something about their BBQ Chicken Pizza. Maybe it’s the addition of gorgonzola cheese and cilantro… 501 Chestnut St., Winnetka, 847-441-1700
I dream of their wood-oven pie, especially the Pinn-Oak Lamb Sausage with roasted eggplant, greek olives and rosemary. Forgive me for my sins. 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-475-2400
Try the Chicken Bravo, with marinated chicken breast, tomato, broccoli and roasted garlic on whole wheat crust. 1905 Glenview Rd., Glenview, 847-724-9500; 1431 Peterson Rd., Libertyville, 847-573-0001; 300 S. Happ Rd., Northfield, 847-784-9500; 1960 1st St., Highland Park, 847-266-8300; 2773 Pfingsten Rd., Glenview, 847-498-3888