While there is some speculation regarding the inventors of the Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, it is generally accepted that the first deep-dish pizza appeared at Pizzeria Uno in 1943. Even though most people attribute the pizza’s origins to the owners Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, a 1956 Chicago Daily News article suggests that it was Rudy Malnati, Uno’s original pizza chef, and possible co-owner, who created the recipe.
Sewell originally wanted to open a Mexican restaurant, but after trying a test meal, Riccardo became violently sick, and the two decided on pizza instead. While there were already other pizza places that existed in Chicago, Sewell and Riccardo were determined to serve their pizza with a twist. The two most likely worked in collaboration with Malnati and their other employees to create a new pizza that would take parts of traditional Italian and American-style pizzas but become something so magnificent and delicious that it was unlike anything else.
The Chicago deep-dish pizza is different from other types of pizza in that it does not sport an Italian-style thin crust or an American-style fluffy pizza crust, but rather, the crust is so deep that it resembles a pie. It is baked in a round pan, like a cake or pie pan, and cooked until it is crispy. The crust itself is usually thin, but the dough is pressed up onto the sides of the pan, so a type of pizza ‘pie crust’ is created, allowing for a very thick layer of toppings.
Due to the nature of the deep crust, the toppings became so thick that the whole pizza had to be cooked in the oven for a longer period of time. In order to avoid burning the cheese on top, the creators decided to flip the toppings upside down. So, from the bottom to the top, the deep-dish pizza starts with cheese, usually mozzarella, then meat, usually sausage, then vegetables, and finally, the rich tomato sauce is added on top. The entire meal requires a fork, knife, and lots of napkins, but you’ll enjoy every second of it.
Many of the original cooks and employees from Pizzeria Uno went on to create some of the best pizza places in Chicago, like Gino’s East, Pizano’s, Delisi’s Pizza, and Louisa’s Pizza. And thankfully, now we don’t have to walk more than a few feet before we can feast our eyes and our stomachs on the deliciousness that is the Chicago deep-dish pizza.
And luckily, for those of you just passing through the city, there are a few restaurants in Chicago, including Lou Malnati’s, that will even ship their world-famous deep-dish pizza right to your front door.