This Chicago institution permanently altered our culinary history with the invention of deep-dish pizza.
When people think of Chicago, they often think of deep-dish pizza: layers of toppings piled high and baked into a bucket of crust that customers need a knife and fork to dig into. The source of this often-imitated (and, some would say, never duplicated) style? Pizzeria Uno, which opened its doors in 1943 on 29 E. Ohio St. in Chicago’s River North district, was the first to offer the deep-dish style of pizza that has been so closely associated with the Windy City. As its popularity swelled, owner Ike Sewell opened a second location (Pizzeria Due) one block from the original in 1955 and attracted even more customers.
Flash-forward to 1978, when Aaron Spencer (later to become Uno Chicago Grill chairman) convinced Sewell to expand into other markets; the first location outside Chicago opened in Boston in 1979, and the first franchise unit opened in Washington in 1980. Over the years, many changes have taken place: The company’s name changed to Uno Chicago Grill in 2005, and its headquarters moved to Boston. The company now operates more than 140 stores in far-flung locales such as the United Arab Emirates, Honduras and South Korea. But the two original locations in Chicago still churn out deep-dish pizzas for throngs of fans in much the same way as those first pioneers 65 years ago.
With the new launch of Uno Due Go! in 2008, the pizzeria giant entered the quick-serve industry with several locations in airports and universities across the country. But the company’s greatest success has been spreading the pizza gospel on a global scale. As one company executive puts it, “We proved that a worldwide, successful business could be built from the modest beginnings of a specialty, albeit world-class, item—deep-dish pizza.”