Papa Del’s: Pizza To Remember

Papa dEL’S pan pizza 1

A couple months back I wrote about my “Champaign Heaven,” the place where I went to school. Since I still have friends there, I visit fairly frequently and during my most recent visit (this past weekend) I realized I left out something quite important.
That something is a legendary landmark of a pizza place called Papa Del’s.

I call it legendary because they undoubtedly serve the best pan-style pizza on campus. I call it a landmark because it represents a part of campus life that’s beginning to cross generations. Having opened in 1970, many alumni parents who visit their children at the U of I (Champaign) eat at least one of their meals at Papa Del’s. Why? Because they remember going there when they went to school, and the pizza is still the best. It’s a connecting thread – a place where the past can reminisce and the future can make its own memories.

Back in Chicago (where I am now), we’re known for our pizza. We’re known for our Lou Malnati’s, Pizano’s, Giordano’s and what have you. It’s “Chicago style,” also known as pan or deep dish. So when I came to Champaign, the only place I found that remotely even compared was Papa Del’s.

But what I eventually found is that I liked it better. I grew to love the sweet sauce, the perfect cheese and the crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside- crust. I began to love it sooo much that when I discovered the “half-off pan slices” at 3 p.m., I’d dart there every day so I could hoard slices of pan cheese or mushroom in my freezer. I’m not kidding, I treated this stuff like gold (ask my former roommates!)

Papa Del’s Menu

So I just wanted to get the word out. Papa Del’s is fantastic. Sure, I could try and make my own pizza whenever I want, but now that I’m an alumni, it’s a rare treat to have my Papa Del’s.

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  • Joy

    I just died and went to heaven just looking at that pizza. That looks SO good and I think I can only eat half a slice of that monster.

  • JDebs

    Glad you enjoyed your Champaign visit!!

  • Emiline

    Oh, man. That looks good.
    They have really late hours, don’t they? Good for the customers/bad for the employees.
    I love deep dish (or any!) pizza. I’ve even been to Girodano’s before.

  • JEP

    What a great phrase…it’s a connecting thread…WOW…the memories of sharing good tasting food with friends & family, so true!

  • Us vs. Food

    Man, I miss living in Chicago; that picture is killing me. I used to live 2 blocks from a Carmen’s (which killed me in a different way).

  • Laura B

    *sigh* I hope they serve pizza like that in heaven…if not…well…. ;-) Being a southerner I don’t know much about Chicago style pizza, but that looks to die for! Now, ask me about pound cake, BBQ and Sweet Tea….I got a lot to say about that!

  • Foodie Cutie

    Wow, that looks so so good. I’ve never had a Chicago Style Pizza. Looks like it would be worth the trip though! BTW I linked this blog to mine (for easy access lol)!

  • Gretchen

    I was in Champaign from ’87 to ’91 and remember Papa Del’s with fondness. It really does taste as good as it looks and a half slice will fill you up.

    Go Illini!

  • ray saxe

    brings back memories of deep dish pizza my son and i had in chicago a coupleof years ago.

  • Hillary

    Joy – Haha, it’s not heaven but it sure is close!

    Jdebs – I did, can’t wait for the next one!

    Emiline – I don’t think their hours are that late actually.

    JEP – Thanks for always reading :)

    US vs. Food and Laura B. – You should visit Chicago sometime for the pizza!

    Foodie Cutie – Thanks for the link – glad you like the pizza picture!

    Gretchen – Woohoo! It’s just not me who loves the stuff! Go Illini indeed :)

    Ray Saxe – Glad I could bring back the memories :)

  • Bobby

    I just made it back to Champaign for the first time in 15 years. My wife and I went straight to Papa Del’s for the worlds greatest stuffed pizza. Now she understands what I’ve been talking about all these years. Before I die, I hope I get one last wish. I’ll wish for just one more slice of Papa Del’s.

  • fintano

    I graduated in 1979. I went back to Champaign this summer for the first time. Of course I made a beeline for Papa Del’s. Unfortunately we were so blown away when our pizza arrived that we dug right in and I forgot to take a picture of it. So I borrowed your photo. Hope you don’t mind. Nicely composed for a pizza photo.

    I think Papa Del’s is better now than it was in the 1970s. I remember about a hour after eating pizza always getting a terrible thirst. Didn’t happen this time, so I guess they cut back on the salt. Still tastes as good as I remember.

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