Monday, May 18, 2009

Pizzeria Uno (Chicago, IL)

Pizzeria Uno
29 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611
Mon 05/18/2009, 11:55p-12:25a

A visit to Chicago just wouldn't be complete without a sampling of the City's pizza. After dinner at L2O, we were full, but not stuffed--we had pizza on the brain. We'd actually asked our servers at L2O, Christina and Christine, for some recommendations, and they'd tossed out names like Pie-Eyed, Piece, and Pizano's. Thus, on our cab ride back, we made some phone calls, but none of the places would take our order! Exhausted, we told our cabbie to head over to the grande dame of Chicago pizza: Pizzeria Uno. On my last trip to the City, I'd tried Giordano's and Gino's East, so this time around, it seemed fitting to try a pie from the last member of the Chicago pizza triumvirate.

Yes, according to the official company line, the famous Chicago-style deep-dish pizza was created in 1943 by Uno's founder and University of Texas footballer Ike Sewell. Some, however, claim that Uno's employee Rudy Malnati invented it (his son Rudy Jr. runs Pizano's, while another owns Lou Malnati's)--that actually seems more plausible to me. Or, perhaps, the pizza was the creation of co-owner Rick Ricardo; this would corroborate the assertion that Pizzeria Uno was actually known as Pizzeria Ricardo originally. I'm not sure which line to believe; perhaps the truth has been lost to history.

In any case, due to the restaurant's success, Sewell opened Pizzeria Due just up the street in 1955, and also launched Mexican eatery Su Casa in 1965. Uno's started franchising around 1980, and currently operates over 200 restaurants in the US and abroad. The company is now based in Boston and, ironically, doesn't have any restaurants in Chicago proper outside of the three mentioned above. Uno also runs concessions at airports and stadiums, and markets a brand of frozen pizzas.

As for the restaurants themselves, menus have expanded to include scores of non-pizza items, and the original deep-dish is only a small part of the selection. However, it is important to note that the flagship Pizzeria Uno retains, for the most part, the original menu. Because of this, it offers up a slice of pizza history, and as a result, is a popular destination for both tourists and native Chicagoans. I've heard that a pizza order can take nearly an hour to fulfill, so I guess there are benefits to showing up at midnight!

Pizzeria Uno Interior Pizzeria Uno Interior
Once the cab dropped us off, we entered and promptly took a seat at the bar. The decor is about what I expected--charming in its own way, albeit a bit cramped.

Uno Amber Ale Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA
Knowing that the pizza would take a while, I ordered up a pint of the house amber ale [$5.99]. It was solid, though not stellar, with a slight malty sweetness, balanced with an overarching mild hoppiness. Since we'd be taking the pizza to go, we also picked up a six-pack of Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA from Ben'z Liquors a few doors down. As expected, it was a bitter, hoppy beer with some sweet citrus and vegetal flavors to balance it out; it went well enough with the pizza.

Small Deep Dish with Sausage and Pepperoni Small Deep Dish with Sausage and Pepperoni
Small Deep-Dish Pizza with Sausage and Pepperoni [$16.08]
So here we are, back at the hotel, eager to tear into some pie. Uno's pizza is pretty prototypical of the traditional Chicago deep-dish style. It starts with a substantial crust, laid out into a pan, with the sides pulled up high. This "bowl" is then covered with cheese, meats, and various other toppings, before being finished with tomato sauce. The end result was a tasty contraption, with a pleasing interplay between meat, cheese, and sauce. While the pepperoni was fairly typical, the sausage was something special: it was more like a patty and had a nice herbal tang to it. The sauce, meanwhile, could've been tarter, but that wasn't a big deal. My only real complaint was the crust, which was a bit too buttery, a bit too tough, and a bit too imposing for my tastes. Despite that, the pizza on the whole was quite enjoyable--I wouldn't mind one now in fact! Nevertheless, I think I still prefer Giordano's.


Blogger weezermonkey said...

I don't know why I find it shocking that you went to Pizzeria Uno, but I do! I guess it *is* the original. I just can't get out of my mind, however, that this was one place that I frequented back in Harvard Square when I hadn't yet...hmm..."broadened my horizons" regarding food. kevinEats at a chain! Gasp! ;)

Thursday, June 04, 2009 8:30:00 AM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

You mixed L20 with PIZZA? OH LORDY! LOL.

I'm one for enjoying after-tastes and (excuse me) but some gentle belches and burps after a grand meal (usually sprawled out on the bed).

"Was that Tuna & Foie Gras I'm tasting (burping) under the Pepperoni?"

: )

Thursday, June 04, 2009 9:08:00 AM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

I guess this is the In-N-Out post Urasawa isque, but the Chicago edition! LOL

You're making me want to eat some deep dish pizza right now. I should stop by Zachary's on my way home next time....

Thursday, June 04, 2009 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Jai Kohli said...

Wow, you're a beast Kevin (in a good way)! What you won't do for your readers, eh?

I can't wait to see the Moto review. I've heard mixed things about the food but I really enjoy watching clips of the kitchen in action and seeing all their nifty toys.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 2:32:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Sharon: I eat at chains all the time--In-N-Out is a staple for me! Thankfully though, the original Pizzeria Uno is quite a bit different than the myriad of Uno Chicago Grills around. I was experiencing a slice of pizza history so to speak.

Jo: It was a dangerous combination indeed, but my belches and burps were far from gentle!

KFD: As I was heading over to Uno's, I was thinking the exact same thing about Urasawa. ;) When I was at Cal, I actually wasn't a huge fan of Zachary's, much preferring the thin crust pies at Cheeseboard.

Jai: Like all great artists, I suppose I suffer for my craft lol. ;) I've just started on the Moto post, which should be up in the next few days--it actually wasn't as wild as I thought it'd be.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 4:34:00 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

I am working on getting this blog some advertising from Zantac or Prilosec. Could offset some of the medical bills or food costs as well. Keep up the amazing work.

Seriously, you are a man of extraordinary appetites, I dont know how you do it.

Friday, June 05, 2009 4:02:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I really hope it doesn't get to the point of medical bills! I guess I can thank Asian metabolism?

Sunday, June 07, 2009 12:08:00 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

brotha you're crazy! you remind me of uhockey, who did a tru dessert tasting after charlie trotter's marathon degustation!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 1:01:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Yep I saw that post of his. I wish I would have thought of doing that after my meal at Trotter's!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 4:41:00 PM  
Blogger uhockey said...

Wow - Rich and Kevin bantering about my TRU post Trotters (with second helpings of dessert, no less)...I'm honored. :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009 6:48:00 PM  

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