Deep-Dish Chicago

Chicago’s deep-dish pizza—a manly pie, thick enough to lose your car keys in—has more to do with the city’s hearty meat-and-potatoes past than its stylish, locavore present. But Chicago’s love for its deep dish hasn’t dimmed, and neither has the local debate over the best version of the behemoth. How to choose from the contenders?

Take a historical approach to your pizza sampling. Start at the original Pizzeria Uno on East Ohio Street, opened in 1943 by friends Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo. Here, the claim goes, is where deep-dish pizza got its start. Though Uno has gone national, changed its name to Uno Chicago Grill, and added new menu items, purists stick to the original Chicago Classic, a buttery bowl-like crust filled with mozzarella, grated Romano, Italian sausage, and chunky tomato sauce.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is packed at any hour. (Photograph by Alex Goykhman, courtesy Lou Malnati’s)

Others, though, suggest that it was Uno chef/manager Rudy Malnati, father of Lou Malnati, who invented the deep-dish pizza. Who knows?

In the end, only taste matters, and the newest location of Lou Malnati’s, opened on North State Street in 2011, joins the competition with its own take on the Malnati Chicago Classic, made with sausage, fresh mozzarella, and sauce from vine-ripened tomatoes. “It will convert even the thin-pie lover,” says local pastry chef Malika Ameen, who salutes the pizza’s flaky, delicate crust.

If you can’t choose between the originals, consider Pequod’s Pizza in leafy Lincoln Park, where cheese is added to the crust and becomes caramelized during baking. In the tradition-bound world of deep dish, even an innovation that small rates as a minor revolution.

This piece, written by Raphael Kadushin, appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler.


  1. […] pizza. It may have been invented by friends and co-restaurateurs Ric Riccardo and Ike Sewell of Pizzeria Uno in 1943, or it may have been the brainchild of the restaurant’s chef, Rudy Malnati. Either way, […]

  2. Mitchell
    United States
    December 17, 2012, 12:07 pm

    I think there are at least a few other places to choose from when it comes to deep dish pizza in Chicago. Giordano’s is one of them and definitely in any Chicagoan top 3 list. Gino’s East is another excellent choice for tourists to try. Very crowded on a weekend but worth the wait. According to our Chicago limo service drivers, tourist just want to try a pizza, the name doesn’t matter too much. To b honest, it is quite difficult to choose among them because there are so many things to take into consideration. Then, you have so locations that are not for regular travelers, they are hidden within the neighborhoods and suburbs. A couple of less popular examples but delicious nevertheless would be Great Lake on Balmoral ave and Castle Gandolfo on Dearborn. Bon appetit!

  3. Nikole Fairview - ExploringLifesMysteries.Com
    Washington, DC
    August 5, 2012, 8:31 pm

    Why is it that certain cities just seem to have an incredible food culture to them? Certainly one of the best examples of this is Chicago, Illinois. Anyone who makes the trip to the windy city cannot even thinking of leaving without trying their specialty: deep dish pizza.

    The thing about this dish is that it is probably made differently from any other pizza you have experienced. The cheese and the toppings go on the bottom and the sauce on top. Try it where they say it all started at Pizzeria Uno on East Ohio Street (in operation since 1943).

  4. Muddy
    July 28, 2012, 9:51 am

    The best pizza in Chicago is at Edwardo’s!!!