History of the Deep Dish Pizza

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We continue our celebration of the Chicago-style deep dish pizza with a trip down memory lane. Regional pizzas in the United States came from somewhere, and one would assume via the name that the deep dish pizza originated in the Windy City. Pizza historians all agree on this fact, but within the city’s pizzarias is where the lines get blurred on who invented the thick crusted pizza we know and adore.

Theory No. 1: Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo through Pizzeria Uno

Photo by the Chicago Tribune

Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, Neapolitan pizza makers left Naples, Italy, and began to immigrate to the United States in search of factory jobs, BBC.com shares. Chicago became the home to first- and second-generation descendants who craved the flatbread pizza of the homeland. However, Sewell and Riccardo possessed an entrepreneurial spirit. They wanted to create an Italian-American hybrid pizza, and in 1943, according to BBC.com they opened Pizzeria Uno near Chicago’s North Side. The first deep dish pizza was created with a deeper pan, crunchier crust and inverted layers. It was something different, and it lasted. Today, Uno Chicago Grill still stands not only in Chicago, but it’s franchised out to New Jersey and even South Korea and Pakistan. 

Theory No. 2: Adopho “Rudy” Malnati Sr. 

BBC.com reports that Malnati worked at Pizzeria Uno and actually created the original deep dish recipe. Although he would hand out slices of the deep dish creation on street corners with Riccardo, the Malnati’s maintain that Sewell entered the picture later. BBC.com reports that “records of either Sewell or Riccardo making pizza, or even showing any ability in the kitchen are noticeably absent, fueling the claims.”

Theory No. 3: Pizano’s

BBC.com also poses a further theory involving the Malnati family, when Lou Malnati’s half brother Rudy Jr., opened Pizano’s in 1991 in downtown Chicago. This story goes that Rudy and Lou’s mother, Donna Marie, gave Rudy Jr. the original recipe developed by Rudy Sr. “Donna Marie spent nights in the kitchen rolling out dough from the secret recipe at Pizano’s. Who is using the original recipe today remains a point of debate,” the BBC reports.

Theory No. 4: Giordano’s

While a 2020 blog on the famed Giordano’s website pays homage to the heavily-debated theories of the origin of the deep dish pizza, they went in-house with their story. The story of Giordano’s deep dish begins with Mama Giordano, who lived in Torino, Italy. Her popular recipe was “Italian Easter Pie,” a double-crusted pizza stuffed with cheese. Her sons, Efren and Joseph, brought the recipe to Chicago’s south side in 1974. Giordano’s is one of the most popular deep dish pizza destinations in Chicago to this day. 

No matter what theory you subscribe to, the fact of the matter is we can still enjoy deep dish pizza not only within Chicago’s borders, but beyond! Want to add deep dish pizza to your menu? Don’t forget to add the LloydPans Chicago Style Deep Dish Pan to your pizza pan collection.

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