I recently visited Chicago and had my first real bite of a true, Chicago deep dish pizza. I tried it from a famous chain called Lou Malnati’s first, but then one of my friends recommended Uno’s. I thought, “I know Uno’s. I’ve eaten (and loved) their pizza since youth. But they’re a huge chain in Boston. Why would I EVER eat them here in Chicago?” Turns out the pizza from Pizzeria Uno Chicago is quite different from the Uno’s Pizzeria in Boston.
So history goes that the first Uno’s was founded by Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo in Chicago, Illinois. Pizzeria Uno claims to have created the deep dish, but there’s some controversy there. Anyhow, Sewell ended up franchising the name in 1978 in Boston - hence Uno’s headquarters being based in Boston, Massachusetts (my hometown).
After Sewell died in 1990, his family sold the original Uno’s properties to the Uno Restaurant Holdings Corporation and Aaron Spencer, the CEO at that time, promised not to tamper with the pizzas at the original locations in Chicago. That however did not stop the pizzas in all the other Uno’s restaurants around the country from getting its makeover.
And so we head to present day, or rather a week ago, when I found myself asking my Uber driver to head over to 29 East Ohio Street, the home of the original Pizzeria Uno (properly titled “first pizza restaurant”). The outside of the restaurant was made of brick with a huge “Pizzeria Uno” sign in red and green neon lights (well, red neon lights with a green backdrop)…pretty much what I thought it would look like.
Inside though was different - I mean, sort of similar, but much more old school. The ceilings were much lower than what an Uno’s chain would look (somewhat cave-link) and ceilings were adorned with decorative tiles.
But I guess what y’all are wondering is whether there is a difference in taste is between a deep dish in Chicago’s Uno’s and Uno’s around the country? The answer is, yes there is, but it’s all in the crust.
Keeping in mind that I grew up with the Uno’s in Boston, I found both the flavor and texture of Chicago’s deep dish crust to be quite different. Flavor-wise, it was much more “basic” - in a pH sort of way, than the Uno’s chains. Maybe it was because the Uno’s in Chicago do not put much salt in their crusts, but I found the Uno’s chain’s crusts to be a lot more flavorful.
Texturally, Chicago’s crust was a lot more cracker-like. Compared to the Uno’s chain’s crusts, which is very rich - almost pie like and flakey, this difference in Chicago’s crust jumped out at me right away. I think in a way, the Chicago crust probably uses a lot less fat than the chain would. It’s still not a hard crust, but definitely more crumbly than flakey.
I’m sure the review sounds like I prefer the chain more, but I actually think it’s really just a difference in preference. I fully appreciated the more neutral tasting crust of Chicago, which enabled the ingredients to be highlighted more. I know many friends that prefer a crunchier, less rich crust and found the Chicago version to be quite pleasing…so it really depends on your taste.