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The History of Deep Dish Pizza

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, waves of Neapolitan immigrants arrived in the U.S. Many of them settled in Chicago and, of course, they brought their culinary traditions with them. Neapolitan-style pizza became popular in the area. Then in 1943, entrepreneurs Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo opened Pizzeria Uno and began selling a unique, Italian-American version of pizza that featured a deeper dish, crunchier crust, and inverted layers – deep dish pizza, otherwise known as Chicago-style pizza. Pizzeria Uno later grew into the well-known restaurant chain, Uno Chicago Grill, but the first Chicago location retains its original name and is considered the birthplace of deep dish pizza. However, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo probably didn’t actually invent the pizza style. Adolpho “Rudy” Malnati, Sr. was once an employee at Pizzeria Uno and claimed that he created the recipe for deep dish pizza. According to the Malnati family’s claims, after Riccardo passed away, Rudy Malnati and his son, Lou, co-managed Pizzeria Uno until Rudy also passed away. After that, his son Lou reportedly struggled to find his place at the restaurant (the family claims he was told he was just an employee like everyone else) and left to open his own deep dish pizza shop in 1971 — the now-famous Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. Lou Malnati’s quickly became popular (it is still a juggernaut in the Chicago pizza scene today) and the restaurant even patented their rich “Buttercrust.” But the story doesn't end there: Lou had a half-brother named Rudy Jr. who also opened his own deep dish pizza joint in 1991 — the wildly successful Pizano’s. According to a waiter there, Rudy and Lou’s mother, Donna Marie, supposedly gave Rudy Jr. the original deep dish pizza recipe developed by Rudy Sr. However, who exactly is using the original recipe today is still hotly debated. Gino’s East is another top name in Chicago deep dish pizza — and also a historic one: opened in 1966, Gino’s East is the second-oldest restaurant among the “big four." The pizzeria was founded by Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli, who wisely hired former Uno cook Alice May Redmond and her sister Ruth Hadley, creating yet another deep dish pizza restaurant with a direct link to the original Pizzeria Uno. The very rivalry that exists between these different pizza joints today demonstrates how completely Chicago has embraced the deep dish pizza, which is now synonymous with the city’s culinary scene. Of course, deep dish pizza is no longer only found in Chicago. Today, many pizza places across America (and even in some other countries) make their own versions of Chicago-style deep dish pizza — however, many die-hard fans believe the best and most authentic slices can only be found at one of Chicago’s famous deep dish pizzerias, right where it all began.

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