The Wind City is known for a lot of things, like the Bears football team, the perpetual underdog Cubs, Second City comedians, and of course, pizza. This isn’t your average slice or pie. This is the legendary deep-dish Chicago pizza.
Most pizza joints serve up a thin crust slathered with tomato sauce with a litany of ingredients all topped with oozing, gooey melted mozzarella cheese. Sounds delicious, right? Yes! It’s the standard most Americans expect when that pizza craving hits. Then there are those times when you don’t want the same old slice. Sure, you could change up the toppings, or you could go deep dish, which is a completely different pie construction.
Layer It Own
The Chicago-style pie is not simply a thicker version of a traditional pizza. Instead it’s an inside-out pizza. In order to be called “Chicago” deep dish, the pizza must have a thick crust that’s pressed into a deep dish pizza pan with high sides. There’s usually a light coating of olive oil or butter between the dough and pan that will essentially fry the crust’s outer layer to a nice crisp brown in the hot oven. Next comes the cheese. Yes, the cheese is placed directly on top of the crust. Then layer on the toppings, which tradition demands include Italian sausage. On top of it all is a smothering of crushed tomatoes seasoned with garlic and oregano. Finally, it’s baked.
That arrangement may seem out of the ordinary, but Chicagoans are diehard loyalists to this style of pizza.
Of course, taste is the ultimate test, but knowing the history behind the dish makes the city’s favorite food even cooler. Just like people declare which pizzeria is their favorite, Chicago citizens have chosen sides about who they believe came up with the original recipe.
Both versions of the story begin when a new restaurant opened in the early 1940s on East Ohio Street at Wabash Avenue in a mansion originally built by the wealthy lumber tycoon Nathan Mears (local historians have uncovered documents that confirm this fact). It’s also a conceded fact that the eatery was owned by Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo and the two hired Adolpho “Rudy” Malnati Sr. But that’s pretty much the end of the agreement. From this point, the known, undisputed facts get a little fuzzy and opinions turn divisive.
Apparently, Sewell was a liquor distributor and Riccardo already owned a restaurant. The new partners at first thought a Mexican food restaurant was needed in the city, but supposedly, the test menus didn’t fare very well. So pizza it was. One story credits Riccardo with suggesting the unique layering idea while another says it was Malnati. Unfortunately, there is no documentation or handwritten recipes that could clearly state one way or the other.
Those who believe Malnati was the originator point to a few indicators, such as the fact that neither Sewell nor Riccardo had a reputation of having a lot of kitchen experience, but the employee did. Also, the Malnati family lore says that Rudy’s wife gave Senior’s recipe to their son to open his own pizzeria. In fact, Mrs. Malnati went to work for Rudy Jr.
Regardless of who finessed the final recipe, Sewell’s and Riccardo’s Pizzeria Uno became a smash with the citizenry of the Windy City, spawning a food craze that has lasted more than 70 years.
The key to making Chicago-style pizza is the crust.—it has to be sturdy enough to hold everything, but not so doughy that it becomes a thick, chewy piece of bread. According to Realdeepdish.com, this is an authentic dough recipe:
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup warm water
- 4 tablespoons corn oil
- ½ teaspoon active yeast
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
Tip: Add the yeast in the warm water and let sit for a few minutes to activate before adding to the dry ingredients.Chicago Metallic Non Stick 14-Inch Deep Dish Pizza Pan
This pan measures 14 inches in diameter with 1 ½-inch high walls, which will definitely hold a true Chicago pie. The nonstick coating also means the pan will release the hot pie, but it’s still dishwasher safe.