6/29/2012 01:16:00 PM

Pizza Wars: Where Was Classic Chicago-Style Pizza Born?

Whose deep-dish pizza is legit? 
Chicagoans are serious about their pizza. You insult their pizza, you insult them. Even more heated than the everlasting Chicago-or-NY-style pizza debate could be the rivalry within Chicago itself. Who invented the thick deep-dish style and who has the best pie? In a place that is said to have the highest ratio of bars per person, the debate can get heated. People have even dueled about what spot to declare a landmark as the birthplace of the dish, according to the Chicago Tribune. Could anything else make it seem more sacred?

Most people believe that deep-dish pizza was invented at Pizzeria Uno in 1943, when Ike Sewell opened this restaurant at the corner of Ohio & Wabash in river north. Rudy Malnati (father of Lou Malnati) actually started out at Uno, and some believe him to be the genius behind the deep dish, taking his recipe with him when he left. His son Lou opened Lou Malnati’s much later in 1971, while his other son Rudy opened Pizano’s. So basically the Malnati name rules deep dish history, even if Pizzeria Uno holds the official birth certificate. A veritable first family of pizza, can you imagine the 3-sided pizza fights at family dinners?

Two more major names were a big piece of the puzzle that is Chicago pizza history: Gino’s East (opened in the ‘60s) and Giordanos’s (opened in the ‘70s). And there you have the four biggest players in the game that is deep dish. So people largely agree on the birthplace: Pizzeria Uno. According to April McRaven, General Manager at the Pizzeria Uno on Ohio St,, that’s not the point of most historical debates. “What’s less clear is whose dough recipe was used in the process, that is the question,” she said. Meggie Lindberg, marketing manager at Lou Malnati’s, believes they’re the ones with the real recipe. “Malnati’s has really stayed true to the original, if you tasted it now and when we started, it would taste the same. Uno’s is a franchise, you’ll know that the food is not the essence of what it originally was, but at Malnati’s that’s something that’s important.”

After years of speculation and about a thousand more pizza joint openings, Chicago pizza names have grown popular enough for Uno and Lou Malnati’s to face off in the Travel Channel’s Food Wars, and you can even take city tours solely devoted to Chicago-style pizza. According to Mauricio Terrazas, lead cook at the Ohio St. Pizzeria Uno, people come from all different countries on a regular basis to gawk at their pies. Terrazas embodies the loyalty that’s embedded in this Chicago tradition. He’s been with Uno for 20 years, and clearly stated, “Uno’s, I like. I don’t like the other ones.” While everyone has an opinion about this, it seems to be something that’s more about hometown pride, that both deep dish eaters and the people behind it have fun with. “We love it, there’s room for people to put a different twist on what we do,” said McRaven.

Many loyally love the thinner crust varieties these pizza giants pump out as well. Uno’s artisan thin crust pizza regularly gets shoutouts and Pizano’s also has a great reputation. Other pizza styles around town are considered favorites like Great Lake’s artisan pizza or Piece’s pan pizza with several topping choices. But everyone thinks of that beautiful vat of cheesy tomato filling when they think of Chicago pizza.

Whatever way you slice it, people love it. Uno now has over 150 restaurants found in the US and beyond, and one location can feed up to 1,500 people per day, so outsiders could definitely contribute to the debate. But one fact remains: the only way to truly find out which is closest to the deep dishes being made back in the day is to try them all yourself.

1 comment :

  1. Lou Malnati's is highly over-priced and even more over-rated - besides the long wait. It's actually a "tomato pie" but it's certainly NOT a pizza. NY or New Haven style is where to go for REAL pizza. Coal or wood fire is the best. You need to use yeast in the dough, dammit! Lou and all of Chicago deep dish make a biscuit dough crust. Only in the midwest would they cut a pie (not pizza) into little squares and expect you to accept it.