Well kids, I'm back from Chicago, and while I may be five pounds heavier from all the pizza, I had a total blast. The trip had a tumultuous start in which I nearly missed my flight, but alas I made it to chilly Chi-town unscathed. Where else should I begin than at the birthplace of deep-dish pizza as we know it, Pizzeria Uno?
Located on the corner of Wabash and Ohio St., former University of Texas football player Ike Sewell opened the original Pizzeria Uno in the River North region of Chicago with his partner, WWII vet Rick Ricardo in 1943.
If you can't tell from this picture, the place is pretty tiny and cramped. It's got a real cozy, authentic feel to it (unlike the hundreds of other franchised Uno's). As the story goes, Ike wanted to open a Mexican restaurant in Chicago since the city had none to offer, but his friend Rick, having just returned from fighting fascists and nomming slices in Italy, insisted they open a pizzeria.
Only one problem: neither Ike nor Rick knew how to make pizza. In desperation, the duo found a saucy Italian guy named Rudy Malnatti to come up with a new-fangled recipe the likes of which had never been seen- or tasted before. The rest is history, I give you the birth of the deep-dish pizza:
So what exactly is a deep-dish pizza? In most cases these pies consist of dough pressed into a 1-2 inch deep aluminum pan, followed by cheese and any additional toppings (a bit of a misnomer in this case, isn't it?), then rich, chunky tomato sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
What makes each pizzeria unique is what the ingredients they choose to make their dough. Comparatively, Uno has a relatively basic crust that tastes altogether bready compared to some of its other Windy City counterparts.
Both the menu and the pizza at HQ were significantly different (and simpler) from any of the Uno franchises I've ever visited. I know the chains use soybean oil in order to obtain that pastry-like consistency in the crust, but this did not seem to be the case here. No "Pizza Skins," "Avocado Rolls" or "Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas" either; just pizza, salad, and a few appetizers (the way it should be, in my opinion).
Twelve years after the creation of Uno, Sewell opened Pizzeria Due across the street to accommodate the crowds, and ten years after that, finally opened his Mexican restaurant, Su Casa. While it was refreshing to see that Uno's relatively-new corporate owners left the flagship restaurant untouched, the original Pizzeria Uno left me wanting more.