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Caputo Cheese Shares the Cheesiest Dishes That Define Chicago

Deep dish makes the cut along with other delicious foods.

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker

Wisconsin may take the title for cheesiest cuisine in the Midwest, but if you snag a taste of local Chicagoan fare, dairy shines just as bright. 

Cheese adds savory notes and creamy textures to Chicago’s most popular dishes. “The secret ingredient is always cheese,” Jason Herbert, ACS CCP, Head Cheesemonger at Caputo Cheese, tells culture. Think about the heaping mounds of mozzarella that make up deep-dish pizza, which ironically is how Caputo got started in the business. 

Caputo Cheese has a solid connection to the Windy City. During the 1980s, Pasquale Caputo launched the processing of pre-shredded packs of mozzarella for local pizza joints in the area. Since then, the business has expanded significantly, handling over 35 million pounds of cheese annually, Natale Caputo, the son of Pasquale and current president of Caputo Cheese, explains to culture

Caputo Cheese is known for its focus on Italian styles such as burrata, Romano, and mozzarella, with the latter winning ‘Best of Class’ at the World Championship Cheese Contest this year. However, the company also understands the importance of serving Chicago’s diverse culinary community. “Caputo Cheese has always looked beyond our own walls to find the best cheeses and ingredients,” Herbert says. “From the beginning, we have sourced cheese from around the globe and around the country, developing long-lasting bonds with cheesemakers allowing us to fine tune our selections of wheels and blocks,” he explains.

Photo Credit: Caputo Cheese

Chicago is renowned for its delicious cheesy dishes, extending beyond pizza to classic bites like jibaritos—a Puerto Rican plantain sandwich filled with Chihuahua or American cheese and stewed meats, plus other culinary gems. Below, you’ll find some dishes that the Caputo Cheese team believes embody the essence of Chicago, with cheese at the forefront.

The Cheesiest Chicago Dishes According to Caputo Cheese

Tavern Style Pizza (Mozzarella + Parmesan)

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker

“The tavern-style, square-cut, thin crust pizza that real Chicagoans know is the REAL Chicago pizza also carries its share of mozzarella and grated Parmesan,” Herbert says. Its thickness (or, in this case, lack thereof) separates tavern-style from other slices since this type is cracker-thin, allowing the cheese to shine. 

Italian Beef Sandwich (Mozzarella)

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker

“The iconic Italian beef sandwich is always offered with melted mozzarella (and one of my secrets is adding Parmesan rinds to the juice [or au jus which you dip your sandwich into] to make it even better),” Herbert says.  

Elotes (Cotija)

Photo Credit: Cla78

Salty cheeses offer a savory addition to this creamy dish that traditionally combines corn, mayo, sour cream, cilantro, chile powder, and a spritz of lime juice. “Recognizing Chicago’s Mexican population, the second largest after L.A., and its influence on our local cuisine, we have added grated cotija cheese to our repertoire, perfect for adding a finishing touch to a wide range of dishes from street food like Elotes,” says Herbert.

Deep Dish Pizza (Mozzarella + Provolone + Parmesan)

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker

This classic may vary with the add-ins, but the cheese blend typically stays the same. “Deep dish pizza isn’t deep dish without a couple of pounds of mozzarella and provolone on the inside and a blizzard of grated Parmesan or Romano on top,” Herbert says. 

Chicken Vesuvio (Pecorino Romano)

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker

Chicken Vesuvio is a well-known Chicago recipe that involves roasting chicken and potatoes and finishing them with a white wine sauce. According to Herbert, a dusting of Pecorino Romano can give this dish savory and salty notes, which will help tie its ingredients together.

Stuffed Melrose Peppers (Pecorino Romano)

Photo Credit: altitudevisual

“A local specialty, the Melrose pepper, was cultivated from seeds brought from Italy by immigrants who settled in the suburbs of Chicago. Resembling a Hatch chile or a shishito pepper, but milder and sweeter than both, Melrose peppers are perfect for stuffing with Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, and Romano before shallow frying in good olive oil,” says Herbert.

Tacos (Cotija)

Photo Credit: Adrienne

You cannot talk about Chicago food staples without highlighting the diverse array of tacos available in various neighborhoods of the city. If you take a trip to Pilsen, located on the lower west side, you’ll find countless taquerias. Typically, if you find cheese on a taco, it’s usually cotija, explains Herbert. 


Ashia Aubourg

Ashia Aubourg is culture's Assistant Digital Editor. She received her BA in Food Studies and Policy Studies from Syracuse University, where she researched components that make up equitable food systems. She previously held print and digital roles at Food & Wine, Cuisine Noir, America's Test Kitchen, and others, where her writing unearthed underrepresented narratives within food, travel, and culture. Before starting her writing career, she held food policy and social impact roles across various nonprofits and companies. Ashia currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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