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.
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.