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CHICAGO-STYLE PIZZA! How It Began? Many Questions Remain!

In Chicago, who actually developed Classic Deep-Dish, Chicago-Style Pizza?  Well, that depends on who you ask!

There is now talk across Chicago to give Landmark Status to the building in which world-famous Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza was invented.   Well, actually, that makes good sense - we're very proud about our legendary native dishes here you know!

But, really, where did deep dish begin?  Where did it evolve from that thin-and-oft-soupy thin-pan stuff that New Yorkers fold over before they eat it, to inch-thick tributes to mozzarella cheese and thickly-sliced sausage?  (Sorry, New Yorkers - but I am from Chicago, you know!)

Check out James Janega's story in the February 11th Chicago Tribune, and you'll find some clues, thanks to Chicago Cultural Historian Tim Samuelson. 

Samuelson's investigation strongly suggests that what we now know today as Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza was first served out of what is now the original Pizzeria Uno, at 29 E. Ohio Street, in the River North Neighborhood of Chicago.  There is no conclusive proof, however - old photos or dated recipes - to prove this without a doubt.

Those who founded the legendary pizza joint at the Ohio Street location included Richard Pavarotti, also known as Ric Riccardo, the flamboyant owner of the famed  but now-shuttered Riccardo's Restaurant at Rush and Hubbard Streets, and his friend and business partner, Ike Sewell, at the time, a Chicago Liquor Distributor.

City records and historic phone directories dating back to the 1960's identify the tenants of the pizzeria building as Ricardo, Rudy Malnati, Sr., who subsequently founded the separate Chicago Pizzeria that bears his name, and one "Pizza Restaurant."  When the restaurant first opened, in 1943, it was simply called "The Pizzeria,"  followed by Pizzeria Riccardo, then, in 1955, after the partners opened "Pizzeria Due" one block north, at Wabash and Ontario Streets, its current name - Pizzeria Uno.

Ono's was not the first pizza restaurant in Chicago, of course.  But this new restaurant offered a very distinctive dish - a pie nearly one-inch thick, and very heavy and filling.  The actual recipe is hard to attribute, although it was thought that Novaretti came up with the idea, and Sewell developed it, refined it, and spread the word around.

But wait - there's more!

As quoted in the Janek story, Rudy Malnati, Jr., brother of subsequent Chicago Pizza innovator Lou Malnati, suggested their father, Rudy, Sr., actually formulated the recipes.

Malnati, Sr. is said to have been manager of Pizzeria Riccardo in the early 1950's.  However, again, there is no actual documentation or recorded interviews from that era that confirms he came up with the original formula.

Over the years, many of the early Ono's employees went on to found many of the most famous pizza places across Chicago, including the famed Gino's East, now on Ontario Street, Delisi's Pizza, and Louisa's Pizza. 

In 1955, Rudy, Sr.'s brother Lou Malnati became manager of Pizzeria Due.  He later went on to establish the original Lou Malnati's Pizza on Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln wood IL - now a regional chain run by his sons Marc and Rick.

But Landmark Status for the original Uno's and Due's Buildings?  Many agree!  They feel the pizza is legendary, and help put us on the U.S. Culinary Map, and we should protect and honor the places where it came from.

See our post today via BlogChicagoHomes.com.


Comment balloon 2 commentsDean Moss • February 20 2009 12:52PM
CHICAGO-STYLE PIZZA! How It Began? Many Questions Remain!
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