What It's About
Breaking News — a reporter helps others get a taste of the best pizza Chicago has to offer.
Words of Wisdom
I think the key to long-term success here is getting listed in guide books and city directories and all of the promotional tourism materials that are distributed every year. For most of those things, getting listed and endorsed can take a while, but once you’re there, you’ll just be renewed every year.
Working as a food reporter since 2003 with 13 James Beard Awards under his belt, Steve felt that he had to set the record straight about Chicago’s pizza scene. So, like any great reporter, Steve spent time in the field gathering research. He spent the better part of a year sampling pizza from 185 locations which led to a shocking revelation: Chicago is a “thin town” with the majority of pizzerias specializing in tavern-style pizza that’s thin, crisp, and square-cut—not deep-dish!
Notes from Chris
Steve Dolinsky wears many hats. He’s the food reporter for Chicago’s ABC 7 news team. He runs two podcasts, and he offers media training outside of Chicago for chefs. He’s a veritable curator of culinary experiences. He’s also the new owner of Pizza City USA Tours, offering weekly pizza tours, by both bus and foot. Why did he start this side hustle when he’s already got so much going on? Well, he had a book coming out in the fall of 2018 called Pizza City USA. Oh yeah, he’s also an author. Steve figured, “Hey, why not start a tour business to help bring the book to life?” There was only one other dedicated pizza tour business in Chicago, and a lot of pizza … not to mention a lot of visitors passing through. He knew that Chicago pizza had been reduced to the deep-dish and stuffed cliches. But hold the pepperoni—there’s more to midwest pizza than only deep-dish and stuffed. What about thin? Tavern? Artisanal? Neapolitan? Roman? Sicilian? Detroit? Steve dared to challenge the status quo with these questions. He estimated there were at least 10 distinct styles in his Chicago pizza roundup. So, he decided to launch a weekly tour that highlighted these differences, showing guests four styles of pizza in three hours. He started with a Saturday bus tour to four neighborhoods. Next, he added three walking tours that each focused on a single neighborhood. Throughout the tours, Steve dazzles guests with his encyclopedic knowledge of Chicago history while leading his groups into the belly of the beast… the fiery kitchens themselves to show people exactly how the pies are made. Here, one can expect to engage in lively discussions with the owners and gain a better understanding of the families behind the sauce. So far, business has been pizza-rific with Steve adding five tour guides to the mix. This salty bunch are affectionately referred to as "doughcents” (experts who know Chicago pizza and would love to tell you all about it). They were trained by Steve and help lead other tours, as well as private events. In the colder months he offers bus tours only (after all, this is Chicago we’re talking about). When warmer weather returns in the spring, he’ll bring back the walking tours as well as a 3rd Thursday Pizza Crawl. What’s next for Pizza City USA Tours? Steve’s considering a 2nd edition of his book, as well as working towards consistent sell-out tours. Once he achieves that, he’d like to add another walking tour. That would be a slice of heaven.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Pizza City USA Tours: Take a slice out of Chicago's pizza scene—learn more over on Steve's website!
- Food Tour Guide Chomps Down on $100,000 Profit: After first beginning with private cooking lessons, this former marketer discovers an even bigger opportunity in the world of food tours
- Food and Travel Writer Creates Food Tours in Marrakech, Earns $60k Annually: In the North African city of Marrakech, an American expat starts a project that she hopes will earn $200/month in spending money. It ends up earning more than $5,000 a month
- London Chocolate Tours Lead to Sweet Success: Banking on a universal love of chocolate, a former temp worker creates a unique side hustle leading guided tours that allow tourists to eat their way through London’s chocolate shops
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