The history of pizza dates back to the Italian Renaissance. In the 1500s, hardworking Neapolitans embraced pizza as the perfect grab-n-go meal.
Today, it’s a treat enjoyed all over the world. Few types of pizzas have garnered as much international acclaim as Chicago’s deep-dish style: a soft, doughy pizza that is cooked in a pan or a “deep dish” rather than a pizza peel and is usually eaten with a fork and knife.
But how did this iconic pie first make it onto the pizza scene? Today, we look into the origins of the Chicago deep-dish pizza and where you can find the city’s best saucy slice.
Origins of Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza
There’s little doubt that the arrival of iconic Chicago deep-dish pizza dates back to the 1940s. Its exact origins are somewhat obscured by the years. Author and food critic Jeff Ruby spoke of the historical uncertainties when he quipped, “It’s an enigma, wrapped in a pie crust.”
It is really more of a debate over which individual should get the credit. Is it one-time liquor distributor Ike Sewell? Or is it Sewell’s business partner Ric Riccardo? Or was it one of their employees, Adolpho “Rudy” Malnati Sr. or Alice May Redmond? Sewell and Ricardo were mainly businessmen. Malnati and Redmond, on the other hand, had serious experience making pizza. It makes sense to give the nod to the actual pizza makers. In opposition, Pizzeria Uno’s website unabashedly credits Sewell, saying “he created Deep-Dish Pizza.”
The founders of Gino’s East were smart enough to hire Redmond. While it is likely that she and Malnati should get the credit for the original recipes, Sewell and Riccardo deserve credit for promoting the innovative deep-dish pizza concept.
In any case, the birthplace of Chicago deep-dish is clear. It is a 19th-century mansion built with lumber money at 29 East Ohio Street. It was there that Sewell and Riccardo opened The Pizzeria in 1943. Soon thereafter, the founders renamed it Pizzeria Riccardo. In 1955, it became Pizzeria Uno. A second location, Pizzeria Due, soon followed. The enterprise grew into a global chain now called Uno’s Pizzeria & Grill.
What is certain is that Chicago deep-dish emerged from a pretty tight-knit group. All have roots traced to the original Ohio Street pizzeria. Also, Rudy Sr.’s son, Luciano “Lou” Malnati, was a bartender at Pizzeria Uno. He opened his first pizzeria in Lincolnwood in 1971. In 1991, Rudy Malnati Jr. opened Pizano’s, a downtown pizzeria.
Where Can Hungry Diners Find the Best Deep-Dish in Chicago?
The options are many when you’re craving that deep-dish delight. Choose from old mainstays like Gino’s East, Pizzeria Uno (or Duo), or Lou Malnati’s. There are pizzerias with terrific pies that are of somewhat more recent vintage, as well. Labriola and Pequod’s are two examples. If your goal is to conquer the thickest of the thick, consider Giordano’s.
162 E. Superior Street
In 1966, two Chicago taxicab company owners started Gino’s East on Superior Street, a single block from the Magnificent Mile. Today, it’s the one Gino’s East location where customers can still add their signatures to the walls. You’ll also find a Gino’s East in the River North Neighborhood. Corn oil adds to the flavor of Gino’s distinctive deep-dish crust. Cooks make sausage pizzas using a full disc of fennel-spiced sausage. This ensures that every bite is a meaty one.
1955 W. Addison
Year after year, Bartoli’s has been a perennial “best pizza” award winner. The Chicago Tribune and USA Today are among those who have recognized Bartoli’s pizza excellence. Its spinach deep-dish pie is a worthy alternative to more meaty fare. Garlic adds some flare to the green veggie topping. The crunchy bottom crust contrasts with the melted cheese and chunky sauce.
2207 N. Clybourn Avenue
Pequod’s creates a deep-dish with a flaky crust that’s crispy on the outside. Look for a charred cheese ring around the rim. We’re talking about great taste here. Consider a Pequod’s sausage pizza. The pieces of meat are large, numerous, and very juicy.
29 E. Ohio Street
Pizzeria Uno has been around for three-fourths of a century. It is still located on the ground floor of a historic three-story mansion. Meat lovers enjoy fresh sausage accompanied by a chunky tomato sauce. Or, skip the meat and try a broccoli and spinach deep-dish creation. Uno’s sister location is Pizzeria Due, located in a Victorian mansion at 619 N. Wabash Avenue.
1120 N. State Street
Lou Malnati’s Gold Coast location is one of many. Today, Lou Malnati’s is known worldwide for its deep-dish pizzas. Its pizza is less dense than Pizzeria Uno’s. The ultra-crispy crust is actually trademarked as “buttercrust,” which is a crust that stands up well to any and all toppings.
864 N. State Street
Pizano’s was founded in 1991 by Rudy Malnati Jr. Pizano’s pie comes with a lighter, buttery crust that’s golden and caramelized on the outside, and flaky to crumbly on the inside. The tomato sauce is sweet, yet garlicky. Pizano’s walls are generously adorned with memorabilia. Items commemorate Chicago icons like Michael Jordan, the Blackhawks, and the Blues Brothers.
730 N. Rush Street
Giordano’s is another Gold Coast pizzeria serving distinctive pies. Chicago Classic Deep-Dish is a worthy entry if you’re measuring your pizza’s vertical ascent from the table. There’s cheese, cheese, and more cheese in this stuffed-crust marvel. The crust’s fluffy, pliable interior is tastefully protected by a crispy exterior. Pizzas arrive amid an old-school Italian restaurant vibe where vintage photographs grace the walls.
535 North Michigan Avenue
Labriola is an Italian cafe and bakery. It began as the Labriola Baking Company in 1993. Today, it is an able contender in the competitive Chicago deep-dish scene. The focaccia-like crust includes a rim of darkened cheese. Distinct pieces of crushed tomato enhance the sauce. “Danny’s Special” includes heaping amounts of sausage, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers.
Draper and Kramer Properties in Chicago
Residents living in Draper and Kramer’s Chicago properties are minutes away from an authentic deep-dish pizza adventure. Check out our Gold Coast properties like 61 Banks Street and 1350 Lake Shore Drive. Our River North residences include Hubbard 221 and Grand Plaza Apartments. In the South Loop, we offer Eleven Thirty and Aspire.
Browse our complete selection of luxury Chicago properties today.