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According to the experts, Pizzeria Uno is the birthplace of the deep-dish pizza. The story goes that Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo opened Pizzeria Uno in 1943. But it wasn’t called that …yet. In 1955, the two restauranteurs opened another restaurant down the street and called it Pizzeria Due, and renamed the first one the only way that made sense: Pizzeria Uno. Legend has it that Sewell and Riccardo planned to open a Mexican restaurant at first. But when Riccardo, a native Italian, tasted Mexican food for the first time, he nixed the idea and suggested pizza instead. It was Texas businessman, Sewell, who suggested taking the classic Neopolitan pizza concept and turning it on its head.
But here the plot thickens: the Malnati family (of the famed Lou Malnati’s Pizza) claim that their dad, Rudolph Malnati, Sr. had a major hand in developing the concept and recipe for the first deep-dish pizza while he worked for the Uno and Due restaurants. In fact, Malnati wasn’t the only Uno employee who went on to found his own pizza empire – others include Gino’s East, Delisi’s Pizza, and Louisa’s Pizza, all established by former Uno employees.
But let’s get to the good stuff: the pie! The Uno crust is famously crumbly and dense, more in the vein of a pastry. Another specialty of this joint is that pies with sausage get a whole patty of sausage that goes on top of the cheese and is the exact size of the pizza. So, there’s pretty much no way you’re getting a bite that isn’t loaded with sausage, which is a major selling point for some.
Vegetarians should not despair. Uno and Due also offer a variety of non-meat specialty pizzas like the Spinoccoli with spinach and broccoli, the four cheese pesto, the spinach pie, and your classic veggie. One of the great things about having the substantial, thick crust is that you can (and should) load it up with your favorite meats and veggies to get a nice balance between crust, cheese, sauce, and toppings.
Although they may have had an old school pizzeria vibe and pizza-centric menu, the interior and menu have had recent makeovers. Don’t worry, the pizza recipe remains the same. But now you can also find an expanded list of appetizers, burgers and even flatbread pizza if, for some crazy reason, you fancy something a bit lighter. The décor has a more upscale bistro vibe with a bar serving up craft beers and the like.
Make a reservation in advance or prepare to wait an hour or more for a table at peak meal times. Also keep in mind that these dense pies take about 45 minutes to bake, so they let you order while you wait. And some say that their dough tends to expand in your tummy, so eat slowly and take a few beats before deciding if you’ll have that third slice.
Cover photo from Paul Martin via Flickr