Focus On: Chicago’s US Pizza Museum

Photo by U.S. Pizza Museum

When it comes to pizza, Chicagoans will not hesitate to point out that the city’s pizza reigns supreme. Both deep dish and tavern-style thin crust are a point of pride and passion for Chicago residents. No doubt, pizza is an essential delicacy in the city, with an abundance of famous pizzerias scattered throughout the area. Thus, when Chicago became the site of the US Pizza Museum, many were not surprised–though New Yorkers certainly had much to say! When it was announced that the US Pizza  Museum would be in Chicago, angry New Yorkers aired their complaints very openly on Twitter, bringing up the usual talking points–“New York pizza is better,” or “Deep dish isn’t pizza.” The bottom line as to why the museum is here in Chicago though, is much more simple. Its founder, Kendall Bruns, lives in Chicago, and so the museum is here.

Opened in August and remaining until the end of October, the US Pizza Museum allows visitors the opportunity to explore the history behind different styles of pizza, observe famous pizza memorabilia, and learn just why pizza is as nationally loved as it is in the United States.

The museum can be found at the Roosevelt Collection, an outdoor shopping plaza that is located in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. The US Pizza Museum began online in 2015 before transitioning to its now 2,910-square-foot space. Throughout the pop-up museum, you’ll find all forms of pizza memorabilia– from pizza related menus, vintage ads, and toys to T-shirts, and even pizza-inspired artwork. While the museum does not actually serve pizza itself, it strongly encourages all visitors to go out and explore the many surrounding neighborhood pizza joints after visiting. Favorites like Lou Malnati’s and Pat’s Pizza are both nearby.

The museum was founded by Kendall Bruns, a lifelong pizza aficionado who has amassed such a large collection of pizza-related items that he felt fit to share with the rest of the world. Though he maintains that he has long collected pizza menus and boxes, Bruns truly began his collection on a trip to New Haven during the Fourth of July weekend in 2013.

Photo by U.S. Pizza Museum

“I specifically went there to eat pizza because I had read about all the famous pizzerias in New Haven, and New Haven has a specific style of pizza” Bruns told us. Depending on the region or city you’re in, you’re going to find differences in how the pizza is styled, prepared, and presented. It’s these very differences that gave Bruns the spark to share his love for pizza with the rest of the world, saying that “all these layers of things inspired me to want to pay more attention and learn more about it and share these regional differences with other people.” Eventually that passion took shape into the online museum, before expanding to its new physical location.

An art school graduate, Bruns was also inspired to pursue his dream of opening a museum wholly dedicated to pizza from watching the development and growth of museums like the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and the Design Museum of Chicago, both smaller museums with a specific topic of interest at their core. Bruns became encouraged as these museums picked up steam, thinking “Yeah, I could open a museum. It doesn’t even need to be that big and fancy. It can just be a manifestation of your passion for the thing you like.”

Another museum that inspired Bruns was Philadelphia’s Pizza Brain, the world’s first pizza museum and restaurant. Though Pizza Brain beat him to opening the first pizza museum, Bruns insists that pizza is such a fascinating subject with so many layers to cover that it deserves more than just one museum to showcase its significance.

Since opening the U.S. Pizza Museum, a number of other pizza related museums have popped up throughout the country, including The Museum of Pizza in New York and The Pizza Experience in Los Angeles. While some could argue that more pizza museums might be bad for business, Bruns is more than happy to see more pizza museums, noting that “they’re celebrating pizza and they’re doing it in different ways and I think that’s great. I think there should be a pizza museum in every city. There’s plenty to talk about. There’s plenty to celebrate and we’re all going to do it in different ways.”

Photo by U.S. Pizza Museum

Admission to the US Pizza Museum is free, and people of all ages are welcome. Visitors are encouraged to reserve a space ahead of time, which you can do by signing up here. To ensure that there aren’t long waits and that everyone has a chance to explore the museum, you’ll only be able to visit for up to an hour. Bruns assures any interested pizza fans that there is plenty of time and space for everyone to come in and explore though. The museum is only open on weekends, starting on Fridays from 5:00-8:00 P.M. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00-6:00 P.M. 

If you haven’t had your fill after exploring all the pizza paraphernalia the pop-up has to offer, the museum has a number of upcoming events. On October 20, Appizzaclypse Now LIVE will feature the hosts of the Films of the Future podcast sitting down to discuss the 1989 film, Loverboy. The film stars Patrick Dempsey as a college sophomore and pizza delivery boy who finds himself seduced by an older woman. The event is free with doors opening at 7:00 and the event starting at 7:30. Additionally, in time for Halloween, the museum is hosting its Spooky Pizza Party on October 27. Visitors are encouraged to dress up in their best pizza costume and face off against fellow pizza enthusiasts in a costume contest and a pizza box art and pizza box folding contest. The time is still to be determined.

While the US Pizza Museum is scheduled to remain open until the end of October, there is a chance that it will extend its stay if the museum remains a popular attraction, a goal that Bruns is very optimistic for. If the museum does stay open, pizza lovers will have even more time to go in to learn, explore, and indulge with fellow enthusiasts in their love for all things pizza.

To learn more and stay up to date on all of Chicago’s museums, stay tuned to Third Coast Review. Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by becoming a patron. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support!

Adam Prestigiacomo
Adam Prestigiacomo