New York has steak. Chicago has deep dish pizza. I had to try it while I was in the Windy City. My mom, Laurie and a beautiful Italian lady named Marta (on our bus) and I headed across town to the famous Pizzeria Uno. Located at a main intersection, I half expected to see a line up out the door and around the block. After all, Uno is the originator of deep dish pizza. However, it was only 5:30 pm and we got a table right away.
The inside of the restaurant was quite small, but it had character. I examined the dark, gilded ceilings, the checkered floors and the wooden tables. On each table were two canisters, one of Parmesan cheese and one of red chili flakes. The bar, in keeping with old Chicago speakeasies, stretched the length of the restaurant. Our table was located by the window under a ceiling fan, much to my Mom's delight. We had just come in off the sticky streets.
Our party of four ordered the pesto and cheese pizza, recommended by someone on the Internet. Then we sat back and chatted, knowing that our pizza would take a good 45 minutes to bake. Pizzeria Uno is proud of its recipe and its history. It was started in 1943 by two men, Ike Sewell, a University of Texas football star, and a World War II G.I. named Ric Riccardo, a native of Italy. Riccardo had toyed with the idea of opening a Mexican restaurant but upon trying the food decided against it. They went ahead with an Italian eatery. Their specialty would be pizza, but not the Neapolitan version, their own American version, deep dish.
But how could a football star and an ex-soldier bake a top quality pizza? They hired someone who was a food expert, Adolpho Malanati. He created a version of pizza, named from the Italian verb "pinsere" (to pound, to stamp), which included inverted layers of cheese, meat and tomatoes. Malanati coated a pan with olive oil, then pounded out the crust, then added the layers. Then he popped it in the oven fro 45 minutes.
Et voila, deep dish pizza!
Back at our table, my mouth was beginning to water in anticipation of the pizza. My husband Rob was back home watching the Germany versus Algeria soccer game at his cousin's house. I wondered who won the game. I asked the bar tender, who looked like he might be a soccer fan. Sure enough, he said they won 2-1. Yeah! In the meantime, another waiter approached the bartender saying: "They've ordered all boats off the lake. A storm is coming from Iowa." I thought: It's going to be a doozy.
Finally our pizza arrived. Our waitress cut us each a slice. The cheese was so thick it oozed off of the pie onto the plate. The crust had the texture of a real pie. We took our knives and forks and dug in. The first mouthful was heavenly -- everything I'd hoped for and more! We took our time, savouring every bite. Outside, the storm was rolling in from the west. Shoppers scurried back and forth past the window.
We paid the bill, which was very reasonable and then headed north to where our bus was waiting. With every step, the sky seemed to get darker, even though it was only 7 pm. We had almost reached our destination when Laurie said "Stop!" She pointed and we noticed a small fire station. It's garage door was open and inside sat a firefighter, his feet up, smoking a cigar. "I've got to get a picture," announced Laurie. The friendly firefighter, named Tom, obliged. It turns out he gets 20 calls a day. No wonder we heard so many sirens! He had just sat down for his first rest of the day when we walked past.
We made it to the bus with five minutes to spare. At 7:30 pm sharp, the raindrops started. Our bus was full. No one got soaked. The drops turned to sheets. The trees started to bend under the weight of the wind. Our bus driver told us to put on our seatbelts. We were in for a rocky ride. We made it back in one piece to the hotel, our day complete. The next time I'm in Chicago, I'm definitely eating at Pizzeria Uno.