Pizza Hut tavern-style pizza

Review of Pizza Hut’s Tavern-Style Pizza

This summer, Pizza Hut is launching its modern take on Chicago’s nearly 100-year-old tavern-style pizza. No, not the deep dish pizza that the Windy City is most often associated with. This is Chicago’s unique thin-crust pizza, which is cut into squares and preferred by many Chicago locals. Look was on hand at a mid-June press event in New York City to sample the new tavern-style pizzas, learn about choices the company made in deciding on flavor options, and garner some insight from Rachel Antalek, Pizza Hut’s chief food innovation officer. 

Why is this a big deal? Well, for starters, the four new Chicago Tavern-Style Pizza offerings make Pizza Hut the first globe-spanning pizza chain to offer this style of pie. Additionally, alongside the launch of these new pizzas, the company added eight new toppings and sauces to its menu, which can be customized for any pizza already on the menu.

Pizza Hut’s quartet of new tavern-style offerings is comprised of the Pesto Margherita, Spicy Chicken Sausage, Double Pepperoni, and The Ultimate. The eight new toppings are a spicy marinara sauce, a pesto sauce swirl, chicken sausage, fresh diced garlic, grape tomatoes, caramelized onions, fire-roasted peppers, and crispy cupped pepperoni. With these updates, Pizza Hut is executing a major overhaul of its toppings and pie options — but are they worth trying? Here are our firsthand impressions and recommendations.

Recommendations are based on firsthand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by Pizza Hut. 

What are Pizza Hut’s new Chicago tavern-style pies?

Pizza Hut box lid display

Each of the four new tavern-style pizzas has a thin crust and is loaded with cheese, toppings, and a new seasoning blend — which Rachel Antalek calls “Hut dust” — all the way to the edge of the pie. The pizzas are cut into square slices, so each pie has 16 slices instead of the typical eight. According to Pizza Hut, this slicing style originated during the 1930s in Chicago taverns that would offer thin-crust pizza slices for free to keep patrons in the bar, and thirsty for more beer.

This slicing style makes these pizzas great for sharing. Antalek tells us that thin-crust pies are gaining in popularity, and it was time for the global pizza chain to debut these new renditions. “We tried to make every pizza, in its own right, taste as delicious as it could as a recipe,” says Antalek.

While the newly launched sauces and toppings are fresh additions for the chain, the crust — interestingly enough — is not. Since 2012, Pizza Hut has offered pies with its Thin ‘N Crispy crust, and this is used for the base of all four new tavern-style pizzas. However, Pizza Hut’s array of novel sauces and toppings are thoroughly integrated into the tavern pizza lineup. For example, on the Spicy Chicken Sausage pizza, the culinary team utilizes the new spicy marinara sauce, caramelized onions, and fire roasted peppers. 

Where can you get the new pizzas, and how much do they cost?

Pizza Hut's Chicago skyline decoration

According to Rachel Antalek, these Chicago Tavern-Style Pizzas were soft-launched earlier this year in Orlando, Florida, but they are now sold nationwide at participating Pizza Hut locations. This also means that each of the new toppings and sauces are permanently available to be added on any type of pizza, although the four new tavern-style recipes will not be offered with gluten-free crusts, or for The Big New Yorker style of pies.

Antalek tells Look that the company has been toying with the idea of a tavern-style pizza for years, but only really took the project head-on last September. It was a very fast turnaround, which shocked some of the company’s suppliers, but Pizza Hut was happy with the product and felt it was ready to launch ASAP.

As for the cost? For a large-sized pie, the four new Chicago tavern-style pizza offers — or a tavern pizza with one topping of your choice — are available at participating locations for $12. That said, pricing may vary depending on your location. (For us in New York, it’s closer to $18 for a medium.)

Taste test: The Ultimate

Pizza Hut's The Ultimate pie

Matt Turner/Look

First and foremost, let me say that I liked each of the four new tavern-style pies, and would order them again. However, there are some that I would order again sooner than the others. 

The Ultimate is topped to the edge with sausage, pepperoni, fire roasted peppers, onions, grape tomatoes, and a Parmesan-oregano seasoning. If you’re hungry, this is definitely the tavern-style pie for you, as it has the most toppings and is the most filling. In general, I really liked the style of this variety: the thin crust was perfectly crispy; the toppings spread to the edge meant that every bite had lots of flavor, and the seasoning creates a really great aroma and flavor.

While The Ultimate’s fully loaded slices don’t feature my typical go-to toppings, I can certainly get behind them. In this case, I was pretty happy with the slice — but if it’s going to the “The Ultimate,” then I say go all the way with the toppings, and add that new fresh diced garlic. All of the toppings on this pie blended together, and a kick from that garlic would do the pie a big favor.

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Taste test: Spicy Chicken Sausage

Pizza Hut's Spicy Chicken Sausage

Matt Turner/Look

I liked the Spicy Chicken Sausage a bit more than The Ultimate. Unique to the new tavern-style pizza lineup, this one has the spicy marinara sauce, which I thought played very well with the chicken sausage, fire roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and Parmesan-oregano seasoning. I felt that this pie really leaned into being spicy — not overly so, but enough to have a clear flavor identity. According to Antalek, Gen Z consumes more hot sauce than ketchup, so creating a spicy pizza was a must. (In fact, Pizza Hut recently developed a hot honey pizza catering to fans of popular “swicy” foods featuring sweet-and-spicy flavors.) 

“We loved that spicy marinara for the chicken sausage with the peppers, but you could put that spicy sauce on any one of [the new pizzas] and it would be delicious,” she says. Honestly, I have to agree. It may be my sauce of choice going forward.

Like The Ultimate, it is commendable that despite the number of toppings, this pie’s Thin ‘N Crispy crust lives up to its name, not getting soggy or floppy. Pizza is meant to be a handheld food, and if you add so many toppings that it becomes a fork-and-knife situation, you’ve defeated the purpose. Pizza Hut deftly avoided that situation with this new lineup. 

Taste test: Pesto Margherita

Pizza Hut's Pesto Margherita pie

Matt Turner/Look

While I am not typically a fan of loading too many toppings on any type of pizza, I tend to opt for meaty additions, such as pepperoni or sausage. I expected that I would like the Pesto Margherita tavern-style pizza — which combines the sweet marinara sauce, grape tomatoes, a garlic and basil pesto sauce, and the Parmesan-oregano seasoning — but I certainly didn’t expect to like this pie as much as I did. 

The pesto swirl brings a much-needed herby quality to the pizza, while the grape tomatoes offer a little fresh sweetness, and they both play nicely with the garlic included within the sauce recipe. Similarly to my impression about the new spicy marinara sauce, the pesto swirl will be included in many of my future Pizza Hut orders, as it really fills an important role. Consider me a fan of this new meat-free pizza variety. 

Taste test: Double Pepperoni

Pizza Hut's Double Pepperoni pie

Matt Turner/Look

The Pesto Margherita was briefly my favorite among Pizza Hut’s new releases. But then I tried the Double Pepperoni, which features one of my go-to pizza toppings. I was really expecting the Pesto Margherita to come out on top. Well, it was close, but the new crispy cupped pepperoni makes all the difference. 

I find this style of pepperoni to not only have a better taste, but a much better texture, bringing a great crispy bite into the mix. We don’t need to get into the food science that explains why some pepperoni curls when cooked, but it’s important to note that this style of pepperoni gained popularity in the Midwest long ago, making it a very fitting topping for Pizza Hut’s new Chicago-influenced lineup. 

This pizza, simply enough, uses the new sweet marinara along with both classic pepperoni and crispy cupped pepperoni. (Is it just a coincidence that I most enjoyed the two pizza varieties with the fewest toppings? Maybe.) I also found that the seasoning stood out the most on this one, contrasting with the spicy pepperoni and sweet marinara sauce. All in all, it was a great slice, and it would be the first that I reorder. It turns out that I inadvertently saved the best for last in my taste test. 

Are Pizza Hut’s Chicago Tavern-Style Pizzas worth it?

Pizza Hut box and beverage

Matt Turner/Look

If you live in Chicago and already have a preferred pizzeria for authentic tavern-style pies, maybe these new Pizza Hut specialties aren’t for you. For the rest of us, it’s a welcome addition to Pizza Hut’s menu, and a unique offering among fast-food pizza chains. 

As a New Yorker, I differentiate “pizza” from the likes of what’s produced by Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and their ilk. Generally, if I’m craving a slice, I will go to a local spot for genuinely unique New York-style pizza. But I also get cravings for stuffed-crust pizza, just like the rest of us. The next time I’m in the mood for a Pizza Hut-style pie, I may just order one of these thin-crust tavern pies, most likely the Double Pepperoni or the Pesto Margherita. Perhaps I’ll try my hand at customizing a pie — because that’s where these quick-service pizza restaurants stand out, in their ability to create a unique pie from the crust up.

If you’re already a big fan of Pizza Hut’s offerings, you will certainly like the Chicago Tavern-Style pies. An extra bonus of this new lineup is that with its toppings spread all the way to the edge of the crust, you no longer end up with “pizza bones” — aka dry pieces of crust devoid of toppings or sauce, which are often discarded. I’ll take that any day.

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