An American G.I., just back from World War II, and his buddy changed the course of pizza—and Chicago—history. Rick Ricardo, the serviceman, and his friend Ike Sewell decided to go into business together in a downtown city bar on the corner of Ohio and Wabash.
“At first, they were going to do Mexican food,” says Aaron Spencer, pizza historian at Uno’s. “Then, the idea came to them—what about the stuff called pizza that Americans who were stationed in Italy had been served?”
Both Ricardo and Sewell took a liking to that idea, and they took to experimenting, finally coming up with a pizza they made in a frying pan. Since pizza was a new and exotic food to Midwesterners, they had to give it away to bar patrons. Soon, though, a following developed for this gooey, cheesy, deep-dish concoction.
Ricardo passed away before acclaim reached Pizzeria Number One, as it was called when it first opened in 1943. Sewell eventually changed the name to Pizzeria Uno, and in 1956, he opened up Pizzeria Due, just kitty corner from Uno’s, to relieve the crowds that wound their way around the building. Eventually, other pizza pioneers spread the deep dish to other corners of the city in the 1960s, and Chicago pizza became a staple.
The key to making deep-dish pizza at home is in the formation of the crust. “It’s formed more in the pan, and you have to have a deep dish pan or a baking pan with a high rise to it,” says Chris Gatto, vice president of food and beverage at Uno’s. “It’s more labor intensive than just spinning out a pizza disc and tossing it up in the air.”
After the dough reaches the proper temperature of about 80 degrees (any lower and it will tear), you have to put it in an oil-coated pan and work it out to and up the sides of the pan. Despite the deep-dish name, the dough shouldn’t be too thick; a thick crust pizza is Sicilian, and it’s more of a bread-like pizza. Proper Chicago deep dish actually has a thinner crust. After forming the crust, bake it, without any ingredients, for at least 10 minutes so that the crust sets. Let it cool, pile on the cheese, chunky tomato sauce and toppings, and bake.
—By Jeanette Hurt