Uno Chicago Grill (Pizzeria UNO)
789 Franklin Mills Circle, Franklin Mills Mall.
“Corporate pizza? C’mon doughboys…you’re better than that.” I know what you’re thinking, but hear us out first. I watched a pizza special on the travel channel a while back which highlighted the origins of deep dish pizza and it got me thinking. “Are there any places in Philadelphia area that serve truly authentic Chicago style deep dish pizza?” A quick google search proved Negative results. However, a sponsored link led me to Pizzeria Uno’s homepage. Scrolling through pictures on their site made me realize that Uno may be the boys of dough’s only hope to scarf deep dish pizza aside from a roadtrip to the windy city.
Let me learn you some knowledge. Deep dish pizza originated in Chicago in the early 1940’s. Word on the street is this style of pizza was invented by Ike Sewell, an All-American linebacker for the University of Texas. Ike loved the taste of pizza, but it was never enough to fill him up. He wanted to create a pizza that could fill a person of his stature up without having to consume 2 pizzas at a time. In 1943, Ike rented out the basement of a corner mansion in busy downtown Chicago in hopes of bringing his idea to life. Ike ultimately named his restaurant “Pizzeria UNO.” It was in that dingy basement that deep dish pizza was born. Deep dish pizza’s crust is crazy thick and resembles a pie crust more than the average crust you’re accustomed to. The pizza dough is pushed into a 3″ cake pan. The dough is pre-baked before the toppings are added, to ensure it’s completely cooked by the time it hits your mouth. The dough is buttered and spread with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese. The toppings are then piled in. Typically, heaping portions of meats are used to give it that authentic Chicago touch. Finally a layer of sauce, using chunky crushed tomatoes, is spread out with another sprinkling of cheese.
Today we decided to go with their signature pie, “The Número UNO.” It’s essentially just a works pizza (sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, onions and mushrooms). It was hand delivered by their manager with a giant pair of steel vice grips and slammed on our table. “Be careful, the pan is extremely hot” says she. Thank you ma’am, but I’ll be the judge of what’s hot and what’s not. Yeah, so after I burnt my hand on the pan, we gave it a minute to cool off. This allowed all the ingredients to settle in the middle. It was like lifting a piece of grandma’s lasagna onto your plate. Extremely heavy. Massively thick. Carefully prepared. Don’t even think about trying to eat a slice with your hands. Things will not work out in your favor. Flatware is essential to conquering this beast. I was quite surprised with how much I enjoyed it. The many different toppings gave it a unique taste. The buttery, flakey crust was a change to the normal crunchy, blackened crust were used to. The sausage was my favorite part. Giant slabs of spicy pork sausage to give you the meat sweats that every man deserves to get a few times a month. One deep dish pie is more than enough to feed you and 2 of your sloppy friends.
I’ve always favored UNO as a local spot to sit down and grab dinner before a movie or just to have a few drinks. Recently, they’ve done some renovations and added a shitload of rarities to their beer menu. Not to mention, their artisan thin crust pizzas have some pretty solid street cred. I usually find myself getting a “create your own pie” when I go. UNO’s deep dish pizza makes me wish Philly had a wider selection of deep dish restaurants to choose from. Until that day arrives, let UNO fix you some T.L.C in their Número UNO. DDP for life.
I think it’s no secret that I don’t particularly like touching the food I eat. I know, I’m a weirdo. If the opportunity presents itself, I always try to eat with utensils. But given the fact that pizza is primarily eaten by hand, I usually just grin and bear it. However, since tackling a deep-dish pizza requires the use of a fork and knife, my germaphobe demeanor was left at the door at Pizzeria Uno.
We try to avoid chain restaurant pizzerias when it comes to our reviews, but we figured it doesn’t hurt to visit one of the few that stand above the rest. Pizzeria Uno, along with California Pizza Kitchen, is an establishment that transcends the mediocre competition such as Pizza Hut or Domino’s. My last visit, nearly 10 years ago, didn’t really impress me. But my tastes have changed since then, and everyone deserves a second chance.
Don’t let the size of the pies at Pizzeria Uno fool you; their deep and topping filled pizzas are more than hearty. Even though this pie was only about 10 inches in diameter, it could still feed two fat Americans or an entire Ethiopian family. “The Número UNO” seemed to be right up our alley, combining all the ingredients of a classic works pie. Being a fan of peppers, onions and sausage, I was actually impressed with how the combination really popped. Most toppings at chain restaurants are bland and anything but fresh, but this was not the case. The one distinguishing characteristic of Uno is their flaky and pie-like crust. When I say pie-like, I mean it’s buttery and flaky almost like that of a chicken pot pie; different than anything I’ve had in a while.
I’ll forever be a thin crust, east coast pizza guy. You can never take that away from me. But if you’re forced to visit a chain pizzeria, give Uno a chance. You might be as surprisingly impressed as I was.