Chicago Deep Dish Pizza & Golf Weekend

by Fat Guy

First, a little history lesson on Chicago deep dish pizza.  Back in 1943, former University of Texas football star Ike Sewell and his war buddy Rick Ricardo decided to open a Mexican restaurant, since Chicago didn't have any good Mexican places back then.  Legend has it that their chef, Rudy Malnati, invented the recipe for deep dish pizza while working at the restaurant.  Soon the pizza was more popular than the Mexican food, and Pizzeria Uno ( www.unos.com , corner of Wabash & Ohio) was born.  Their pizza took off as a Chicago staple, and within 10 years there was more demand than there was restaurant.  Unable to expand the original location further, Sewell opened a second store, Pizzeria Due , across the street in 1955.  Both shops are still open for those who want the full Chicago deep dish experience, although the lines at the original Uno often run in the hour-plus range.  In the 1980's, Uno went corporate and now has over 200 restaurants nationwide and a full line of frozen pizzas.

Much like Lombardi's in New York, the success of Pizzeria Uno spawned a hoard of disciples and imitators who opened their own deep dish pizzerias.  In 1955, two cab drivers Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli, along with their friend George Laverde, decided they were tired of sucking down exhaust fumes and opened Gino's East Pizza (Superior St, www.ginoseast.com ).  In case you're curious about the name, Gino was a fictional Italian-sounding name they came up with, and the location was east of Rush Street.  Sam and Fred didn't know anything about making pizza when they opened, so they stole one of the pizza chefs from Uno's, who added a signature twist on deep dish by lining the crust with ground sausage, and Gino's became it's own Chicago staple.  They now have multiple Chicagoland locations.  It's tradition at Gino's to carve your name or graffitti into the tables and walls.  The current owners also own Edwardo's Natural Pizza .

Original Uno chef Rudy Malnati labored for Sewell for 20 years under the assumption he'd one day get a piece of the restaurant, which never materialized.  So Rudy's son eventually opened Lou Malnati's in the Lincolnwood suburb in 1971 ( www.loumalnatis.com , 32 Chicagoland locations), and using his Dad's original recipe, quickly became one of Chicago's best deep dish pies.  Lou was a grand host and showman until his death in 1978, when his oldest son Marc took over the business.

In 1974, immigrants Efren and Joseph Boglio were discouraged at the lack of authentic pizza in Chicago and opened Giordano's Pizzeria ( www.giordanos.com , 43 Chicagoland locations and 6 franchises in FL), based on their mother's recipes growing up in Totino, Italy.  The emphasis in Giordano's pizza pies lies on the "pie".  Each of their 4-1/2 lb. pizzas have both a lower and upper crust, with the cheese and toppings baked in between, then the sauce goes on top of the upper crust.  It remains one of the "Chicago Deep Dish Triumvirate" and a Travel Channel favorite.

When GQ food critic Alan Richman set out to determine the best pizza in America in 2009, he hit 10 cities, categorized American pizza into 7 distinct styles, and sampled 386 pies at 109 of America's best-rated pizzerias.  Richman recommends the Mortadella pie at Great Lake Pizzeria as Chicago's deep dish best. "I stood inside, watching for twenty-five minutes as he fashioned three pies, mine among them. No man is slower. He makes each as though it is his first, manipulating the dough until it appears flawless, putting on toppings one small bit after another. In the time he takes to create a pie, civilizations could rise and fall, not just crusts. His cheese pie, prepared with fresh mozzarella made in-house, grated Wisconsin sheep’s-and-cow’s-milk cheese, and aromatic fresh marjoram instead of basil, was slightly shy of unbelievable. The next day I returned to try the same pie topped with fresh garlic and mortadella, the dirigible-sized Italian sausage that looks like bologna, tastes like salami, and is usually cut into chunks. He sliced the meat very thin and laid slices of it over the pie the moment it came out of the oven. The mortadella, with its combination of burliness and creaminess, was a meaty addition to the earthy, bready crust. This pie—creative, original, and somewhat local—represents everything irresistible about the new American style of pizza-making."

These days the deep dish tradition has spread throughout much of the upper Midwest, including Loui's in Detroit.

If you're not the world's biggest deep dish fan, after the novelty of a couple Uno's slices wears off, hit Chicago's best thin-crust New York-style pizza at Vito & Nick's Pizza ( www.vitoandnick.com , original store at 8433 S. Pulaski in Chicago, or at Lemont Lanes in Lemont).  It's a favorite of Guy Fieri and was featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives .

Metrowalkz ( http://metrowalkz.com/Findit/pizza.html ) offers this map for a walking tour of Chicago deep dish pizza (assuming you can still walk after a few slices of deep dish):

#1 - Bacino's Pizza
75 E. Wacker
312-263-2350

#2 - Exchequer Restaurant & Pub
226 S. Wabash
312-939-5633

#3 - Gino's East Pizza
162 E. Superior
312-266-3337

#4 - Gino's East Pizza
633 N. Wells
312-943-1124

#5 - Giordano's Pizzeria
223 W. Jackson
312-583-9400

#6 - Giordano's Pizzeria
310 W. Randolph
312-201-1441

#7 - Giordano's Pizzeria
703 N. Rush
312-951-0747

#8 - Lou Malnati's
439 N. Wells
312-828-9800

#9 - Pizano's Pizza & Pasta
61 E. Madison
312-236-1777

#10 - Pizano's Pizza & Pasta
846 N. State
312-751-1766

#11 - Pizzeria Due
619 N. Wabash
312-943-2400

#12 - Pizzeria Uno
29 E. Ohio
312-280-5120

Not Numbered-

Edwardo's Natural Pizza
521 S. Dearborn
312-939-3366

Aurelio's Pizza
506 W. Harrison
312-994-2000

Connie's Pizza
700 E. Grand (Navy Pier)
312-832-3010

Where To Play: See Chicago IL Golf Weekend