Most major cities in the United States have one particular dish that they are known for. Chicago’s culinary claim to fame is their pizza. In recent decades, it has gone from a local specialty to a nationwide favorite. Even a few worldwide pizza chains have offered versions of Chicago style pizza. Familiarizing yourself with the dish before visiting the Windy City’s pizzerias can help you enjoy it to its fullest and avoid looking like an obvious tourist.
In 1943, a small restaurant called Pizzeria Uno began serving the dish now known as Chicago style pizza. Who exactly invented the dish is the subject of debate. Restaurant founder Ike Sewell is most frequently credited with inventing the dish, but some say that it may have been Rudy Malnati or Alice May Raymond, who were both cooks at Pizzeria Uno at the time. In the next few decades, several restaurants began offering their own modified versions of the Chicago style pie.
Deep Dish Pizza
Deep dish pizza is the best known of any Chicago pizza variety. As the name suggests, it is baked in very deep pie dishes, resulting in a pizza that is well over two inches tall. Deep dish pizza is assembled in the reverse order of ordinary pizzas; the toppings are placed on the pre-baked crust, the cheese is layered over the toppings, and the sauce is poured over the cheese. These hefty pizzas require a longer baking time, which would most likely burn the toppings if they were left exposed. The upside-down assembly process mitigates this problem.
With its generous amount of toppings, Chicago’s stuffed pizza truly blurs the line between pizza and a casserole. Stuffed pizza begins almost the same as a deep dish pizza; the difference is that after the toppings and cheese are placed in the deep bowl formed by the crust, another layer of dough is placed over the top and sealed around the edges. Typically, a layer of tomato sauce is spread over this top layer of dough. It is said that the proprietor of Nancy’s Pizza, a man by the name of Rocco Palese, invented the Chicago style stuffed pizza based on a dish from his native Italy.
Thin Crust Pizza
Thin crust pizza is the least known of all Chicago style pizza varieties. It is often mistaken for a New York or St. Louis-style pizza owing to the thin crust and conservative amount of toppings. However, Chicago style thin crust pizza can be distinguished by its crunchy crust. It is most frequently cut into squares as opposed to wedges.
If you are ever in Chicago, take some time to enjoy the pizza. Many food aficionados even make special journeys to Chicago just for the pizza. Whether you enjoy the deep dish, stuffed or thin crust varieties, eating Chicago’s fantastic pizza is a culinary delight.