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Chicago Pizza

Chicago PizzaChicago-style pizza is a deep-dish pizza style developed in Chicago. Chicago-style pizza has a buttery crust up to three inches tall at the edge, slightly higher than the large amounts of cheese and chunky tomato sauce, acting as a large bowl. The term also refers to "stuffed" pizza, another Chicago style. While in Chicago most pizzerias serve thin-crust pizza, generally in a style characteristic to the city, the term Chicago-style pizza is used to describe this deep-dish style of pizza.

Styles of pizza
Deep-dish pizza
The Chicago-style "deep-dish" pizza was invented at Pizzeria Uno, in Chicago, in 1943, reportedly by Uno's founder Ike Sewell, a former University of Texas football star. However, a 1956 article from the Chicago Daily News asserts that Uno's original pizza chef Rudy Malnati developed the recipe.

This pizza is unique because it is far from the roots of an original Italian pizza. It does not include thin crusts or delicate toppings, but rather it is made with a heavy, thick crust and large amounts of cheese, sauce and ingredients.

The pizza begins with a thick layer of dough made with olive oil and cornmeal laid into a deep round pan and pulled up by the sides, then parbaked before the toppings are added to give it greater spring; the pan is oiled heavily in order to create a fried effect on the outside of the crust. The crust is covered with cheese (generally sliced mozzarella) and meats, usually in a solid layer or patty, just above the crust. Italian sausage (a Chicago staple), as well as vegetables such as onions, mushrooms and bell peppers are also used. A sauce, usually uncooked, made from shredded or puréed tomatoes is added.

Another deep-dish restaurant is Uno's companion restaurant Due, opened down the block by Sewell in 1955. However, a year before, the Original Gino's Pizza opened on Rush Street. Twelve years later, in 1966, Gino's East opened. Lou Malnati's was founded by another of Rudy Malnati's sons.

In 1972, the Chicago Tribune reported that a steakhouse chain called "Gulliby's at S.O.P." offered "pub dining rooms that feature deep-dish pizza and sandwiches."
Accordingly, many Chicago deep-dish pizza restaurants ship their partially baked pizzas within the continental U.S.

Stuffed pizza
By the mid-1970s, two Chicago chains, Nancy's Pizza, founded by Rocco Palese, and Giordano's Pizza began experimenting with deep dish pizza and created the stuffed pizza. Palese based his creation on his mother's recipe for scarciedda, an Italian Easter pie from his hometown of Potenza. The Giordano brothers worked for Palese as cooks and split off on their own in the early 70's. Chicago Magazine articles featuring Nancy's Pizza and Giordano's stuffed pizza popularized the dish.

Stuffed pizzas are often even taller than deep-dish pizzas, but otherwise, it can be hard to see the difference until it is cut into. A stuffed pizza generally has much higher topping density than any other type of pizza. As with deep-dish pizza, a thin layer of dough forms a bowl in a high-sided pan and the toppings and cheese are added. Then, an additional layer of dough goes on top and is pressed to the sides of the bottom crust.

At this stage, the thin dough top has a rounded, domed appearance. Pizza makers often tear a small hole in the top of the "lid" to allow air and steam to escape while cooking, so that the pizza does not explode and injure the pizza maker, and also to allow the sauce to permeate the pie. Pizza sauce is ladled over the top crust and the pizza is baked.

Pan pizza
Pan pizza in Chicago is similar to the deep-dish style, and baked in a similar deep-sided pan, but its crust is quite thick—a cross between the buttery crisp crust and focaccia. Toppings and cheese frequently go on the top of a pan pizza, rather than under the sauce as is traditionally the case with deep-dish and stuffed pizza. The placement of the cheese and toppings on top make the pan pizza variety similar to a thin-crust pizza with a thicker and larger crust.

Thin-crust pizza
There is also a style of thin-crust pizza unique to Chicago. The crust is thin and firm enough to have a noticeable crunch, unlike a New York-style pizza.

The crust is topped with a liberal quantity of Italian style tomato sauce, which usually has quite a lot of herbs or is highly spiced, and typically contains no visible chunks of tomato. Next, a layer of toppings is added, and finally a layer of mozzarella cheese. This pizza is cut into squares, also known as party cut, as opposed to a pie cut into wedges.

However, the consistency of the crust and the quantity and choice of the tomato sauce and cheese are what separate this style from East Coast- and Roman-style pizzas, and it makes the pizza from most neighborhood pizzerias immediately distinguishable from that offered by national chains such as Papa John's or Pizza Hut. Aurelios is a chain which specializes in this kind of pizza. Casa Bianca, located in the Eagle Rock section of Los Angeles, is also well known for this style.

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