Dear Mr. Gold:

Where can I find Chicago-style deep-dish pizza? My favorite in Chicago, Lou Malnati, does mail order, but I don’t exactly trust it this time of year. And don’t tell me Zelo’s. It’s good, but it’s not the same thing at all.

—Helen S., L.A.

Dear Helen:

For years, I have been hearing about Chicago Pasta House, a semilegendary joint way out toward Hemet, run by an apostate of one of the great Chicago pizza houses and featuring the truest deep-dish pizza outside Cook County, a pie that regularly wins Inland Empire polls. The restaurant is also pretty far, 20 miles past Riverside and at least an hour from almost anywhere in Los Angeles, which meant that it has remained on my “to do” list, along with the late Imperial Dynasty up in Hanford and the 40-ounce steaks at Johnny McNally’s in Kernville, for the better part of a decade at least.

But I finally stopped by last week, and the pizza is as formidable as advertised, “stuffed” in the manner of Chicago restaurants like Giordano’s and Edwardo’s, which is to say that the sausage, peppers and onions are trapped between the brawny crust and a thick mantle of gooey, sauce-glazed molten cheese instead of being layered on top of the pie. The oily, dense crust is actually better than it tends to be at most of the famous Chicago places, which are prone to overbake it into something resembling stale biscuits. You can also get the South Jersey specialty called panzarotti, which is a thin, crisp sort of fried empanada stuffed with pizza fixings and served with a dipping sauce — the concoction may remind you of a Lebanese bourek gussied up to taste like a pizza. And the restaurant has a minor specialty in that other unobtainable Chicago foodstuff, Italian beef sandwiches. If you are headed for Palm Springs, Chicago Pasta House is directly on the way, just a few yards from the Perris Boulevard exit of the 60 freeway. 24667 Sunnymead Blvd., Moreno Valley, (951) 924-5777.

—Jonathan Gold

LA Weekly