Many people love pizza. But not many love pizza as much as Steve Dolinsky.
A familiar face to many Chicagoans as the former “Hungry Hound” on ABC-7 for 17 years, the award-winning, Chicago-based food reporter does pizza tours, hosts the “Pizza City” podcast, and has now written his second book on Chicago pizza.
The book is called “The Ultimate Chicago Pizza Guide: A history of Squares and Slices in the Windy City.”
Dolinsky, who recently joined NBC-5 to host the weekly series “The Food Guy,” explores the world and history of Chicago pizza. And from tavern style, Roman, to artisanal – Dolinsky shows there’s a lot more to Chicago pizza than just deep dish.
Below, an excerpt from the book.
HOW DEEP IS YOUR SLICE?
Deep-dish was created here at a place called The Pizzeria (nee Riccardo’s) in 1943. Partners Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo wanted to offer something a little different from the competition. Sewell wanted to have a Mexican restaurant, since he missed that from his native Texas. Riccardo convinced him to do pizza instead. Deep-dish was Sewell’s answer to the thin “tavern-style” pizzas locals had been used to up to then. As a former University of Texas football player, Sewell believed the “bigger is better” mantra and, frankly, those puny squares weren’t substantial enough for his Texas-sized appetite . Riccardo, and more likely Rudy Malnati Sr., their general manager, helped develop a pizza made in a deeper pan, built in reverse: dough, then cheese, followed by toppings, and finally a reduced, chunky tomato sauce.
The owners changed its name to Pizzeria Uno in 1955, when they opened Pizzeria Due just down the block. Riccardo had passed away the year before, and so Sewell, now the sole owner, sold franchises to a Boston-based company in 1978 and the brand began expanding in Massachusetts. After Sewell died in 1990, his widow sold the two Chicago pizzerias plus an adjacent Mexican restaurant, Su Casa, to the same Boston-based corporation. There are still just the two pizzerias in Chicago; the rest are scattered throughout Massachusetts and along the East Coast. The building at Ohio and Wabash may have given birth to deep-dish pizza, but the company that owns the brand abandoned the city more than thirty years ago (with a bankruptcy in 2010 for good measure).
The ironic thing about deep dish is that despite its relative youth (compared to Chicago thin) and more limited exposure, at least historically in Chicagoland, it has, like a Japanese tsunami, completely obliterated any cogent discussion of Chicago’s most ubiquitous pizza style. Chicagoans don’t help their cause when they automatically default to a defensive crouch when ever a tweet or a late-night comedian or a Packers PR rep makes an offhand comment. In late 2020, Jimmy Fallon asked Barack Obama which pizza style he preferred, New York or Chicago? It would have been so cool if Obama would have asked for clarification: “Are you talking about tavern-style thin, deep, or stuffed, Jimmy?” He should know better! He and his family frequented Italian Fiesta on Forty-Seventh Street when they lived in Hyde Park-it was one of Michelle’s favorites from growing up. But as long as people keep assuming “Chicago-style= deep-dish;” there’s going to be a perception problem. For the record, Obama chose a New York slice in what can only be described as a very political answer: preceded by a lot of love for his adopted home, but in the end, the simple logic of foldable portability won out.
Dolinsky, Steve. "How Deep is Your Slice?" In The Ultimate Chicago Pizza Guide: A History of Squares and Slices in the Windy City Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2021. pp. 16-17.
Copyright © 2021 by Northwestern University Press. Published 2021. All rights reserved.