Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Uno "Chicago Grill"

It had been quite a long time since I last indulged in a Chicago-style deep dish pizza from Uno (I was probably 11), so last weekend while in Worcester, MA I decided it was time to give it another go and put it under the pizza microscope.

(Courtesy of Hilton Garden Inn)

The first thing I noticed about Uno is that it's not called "Pizzeria Uno" anymore, but "Uno Chicago Grill." When did this happen? That explains the massive amount of non-pizza foodstuffs on the menu. The history of Pizzeria Uno in a nutshell is as follows: Ike Sewell founded Uno in 1943 in the River North neighborhood of the Windy City. Allegedly, Sewell had wanted to start a Mexican restaurant, but never having eaten such a cuisine before, gave up and opted to reinvented the (pizza) wheel by making deep dish pizza.

...Or should I say a deep dish pie. Woof. Since opening it's doors in '43, Uno spawned Pizzeria Due, Su Casa (both in Chicago), and some 216 Uno franchises around the globe. Just like any other restaurant chain, the menu (and I'd bet the food quality) becomes increasingly bastardized in conjunction with it's expansion.

Let's dig in-

I... am at a loss for words. I am so unaccustomed to slices of this girth. While I will (begrudgingly) call this a pizza, you'd have to be crazy to deny it's casserole-leaning attributes. The crust is arguably the strangest aspect of (Uno's) deep dish pizza; it uses corn or vegetable oil in addition to olive oil (plus soybean oil to coat the pan) which yields a flaky, pastry-like crust. And yes, it is delicious, albeit outlandish.

In my opinion, the cheese isn't anything to write home about. I'm not sure how fresh the mozzarella is, but as you can tell by the above picture it's plenty stringy (and devoid of any real character). Very similar to Papa John's.

The sauce, however, I do think is relatively tasty- I'm pretty sure they're using Roma tomatoes. Unfortunately, it tastes like they're throwing in some sugar, something they could definitely do without.

After two slices I was filled to capacity (but to be fair, I had just come from eating pizza elsewhere...). What I found most interesting about the preparation of the Uno's deep dish was what I found underneath the pie- a wire rack elevating the pie from the bottom of the pan.

I tried asking my waitress what it was for, but she had no idea (fail). I then sought out the manager who informed me that the wireform is inserted underneath the pizza as soon as its out of the oven to keep the crust crisp and away from the excess soybean oil in the pan (I'm still scratching my head about that soybean oil). I then asked him how he liked the pizza at Uno and where his favorite local pizza joint was, to which he responded, "I don't really eat much pizza."

Epic fail.

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