Pizzeria Uno was created in 1943 and still has a nostalgic mid-century ambience. When Ike Sewell opened it at the edge of the Chicago Loop and introduced deep dish pizza to the world, Italian food was, to most Americans, exotic and adventurous. Non-Italians who knew anything of pizza considered it a little beat, a slightly eccentric sort of dish for coffee-house types and Bohemians. Those of us old enough to remember that era are reminded of those attitudes when we step down the couple of stairs into the semi-subterranean bar and dining room of Uno’s. It’s dark in here; the floor is vintage black-and-white tile. On the wall above the bar are hoary maxims celebrating The Good Life, as swingin’ epicures wanted it in days of yore:
Fill the glass if it is empty
Empty the glass if it is full
Never leave it empty
Never leave it full.
A man should hear a little music
Read a little poetry
& see a fine picture
Every day of his life.
If you hear bongo drums in the background, you understand.
Now, about the pizza. It’s great. And it’s unique. The crumble-crusted, richly-topped pies served at the original Uno’s are in a class above those you’ll get in any of the mediocre Uno’s franchises around the country. This is truly soulful pizza, its crust as fine and fragile as savory shortbread, its layer of cheese crowned with a great drift of savory sausage which, in turn is blanketed by chunky crushed tomatoes. It is knife and fork food, for sure.
As in any pizza parlor, many ingredients are available, including anchovies and broccoli, extra garlic and extra cheese. Our favorite is the rugged, clumpy sausage that covers virtually the whole pie. There are other items on the menu, including Italian beef and a really good Italian salad topped with giardiniera, but it’s pizza that has put Uno’s on the map for almost sixty years.
Warning: Even on a slow night, you will wait a minimum of forty-five minutes from the time you walk in the door until the pizza arrives at your table. These big circular meals are that thick, and unlike traditional flatbread pizzas, need to be slow-cooked like the savory pies they are.
"This is a single individual pizza. You don't see the sausage, which is spread in abundance under the thick tomato topping. In our opinion, it's the rich, crumbly crust that puts this one in a league of its own."
"Until you've eaten at the first Uno, you cannot know the true glory of Chicago deep-dish pizza. Uno franchises around the country are mere shadows of the original."
"In the history of pizza in America, this corner bar is a landmark: home of thick-crust pies ... and the beginning of Chicago's rich pizza culture."