What is Chicago Style Pizza?

There is extensive research to point to the ancient Pompeiians as the creators of the first pizza, who formed a coarse bread dough in a round or rectangular shape and baked it in crude but effective wood fired ovens. Naples is still the center of pizza in Italy, but many areas of Italy have some form of pizza.

The history of Chicago style deep dish pizza began in 1943, when Ike Sewall and Rick Riccardo opened a bar and restaurant called Pizzeria Uno. In 1955, Pizzeria Due opened a block away. It is not clear whether either of the owners had anything to do with the cooking, but it is likely that Adolpho “Rudy” Malnati, Sr. and Alice May Redmond did. Not only did both work at Uno’s but each of them unquestionably knew how to make deep dish pizza. For years, Alice May Redmond, as well as her sister, Ruth Hadley worked at Uno’s, then were hired to work at Gino’s East. A 1956 article from the Chicago Daily News asserts that the original deep-dish pizza recipe was created by chef Rudy Malnati Sr. The recipe for the pizza was a closely guarded secret, but it consisted of a thick doughy crust, slices of mozzarella cheese, and canned tomatoes made into a sauce. If you wanted sausage, instead of bits of sausage, the meat (made by Anchini Brothers) was applied in a layer.

This type of pizza was a departure from the thin Neopolitan type pizzas, and it became famous. How the restaurant worked is that you ordered your pizza when you came in, and by the time you got a table (some 25-30 minutes later), the pizza was served. Cooked in steel pans that have developed a patina with use, it is brought to the table in the pan and served.

Uno’s has spawned many imitators, most notably Gino’s East, but I don’t like the Gino’s crust, which uses a lot of cornmeal. I guess I can’t get past the one time I had a pizza at Gino’s and found a large fly baked into the pizza. Yuck!

Pequod’s is a variation on the thick crust theme, with the cheese overlapping the crust so that it forms a caramelized cheese, and often burnt edge. Not bad, but not to my mind an improvement on the prototype.

It is the crust that defines what makes a great deep dish pizza, and I prefer the original from Uno’s or Due’s or Lou’s, and I also like the butter crust option available at Lou Malnati’s. Lou Malnati’s is by far the other best pizza in Chicago and is a restaurant chain started by Rudy’s son Lou of both sit down restaurants and takeout shops.

Lou Malnati’s sit down restaurants operate on the same model as Uno’s. Order the pizza, then wait for a table. It sounds more difficult, but it works. Salads are excellent, but the other offerings are OK, but, hey, you are there for the pizza, darnit!

Lou make a decent thin crust pizza as well, so if you must, you can try it. The sausage is in bits, not like the thick crust, but it is still good sausage. I’m an anomaly in that I don’t love pepperoni so I am not the one to ask about a pepperoni pizza,

Lou’s, Uno’s and Due’s provide the reason that Chicago style deep dish pizza is an iconic food. Forget thin crust, forget coal oven or brick oven or cracker crust, and especially forget pizza that folds when you pick up a slice. Now, before you all jump on me, I should state that I have been known to like a Neopolitan type slice as long as the crust is good. Still, when I dream of pizza, it is a deep dish pie from Lou’s that materializes. Despite what they claim, New Yorkers don’t understand great pizza. They have been brainwashed from childhood to think a pizza folds. Here we eat pizza with a knife and fork! That’s the Chicago way.

Now to the nitty gritty:

Authentic Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

This recipe is from Pat Bruno’s “The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook” with some modifications by me.  It creates a deep dish pizza that is a clone for Uno’s or Due’s.  To create a Lou Malnati buttercrust version, substitute at least one half of the vegetable oil for unsalted butter.  Watch the cooking time carefully as it is easy to go from perfectly done to over cooked.  As noted below, I don’t mix in the cornmeal in the dough, and often leave it out entirely.
Equipment needed: 14 inch round steel pan with 2 inch high sides.
1½ packages (3/8 ounces or 10.5 grams) active dry yeast
½ cup warm water (105-115°F)
1 tablespoon sugar
3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup yellow corn meal
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup warm water
28 ounces canned tomatoes either Italian style plum tomatoes or 6-1 brand crushed tomatoes, or an equivalent amount of fresh, ripe plum tomatoes that have their skins removed, then crushed by hand.
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tsp. chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon oregano
to taste salt
10 ounces mozzarella cheese (sliced thinly) I prefer whole milk mozzarella, and it is not necessary to get fancy water buffalo Italian mozzarella
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
½ pound Italian sausage, casing removed buy mild, not hot and let people add red pepper flakes to their slices if they wish
as needed extra-virgin olive oil

1. Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water.  Add the sugar and stir well. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combinbe 3½ cups flour, salt, and cornmeal. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the yeast mixture, the vegetable oil, and ½ cup water. If making the butter crust, instead of the 1/4 cup oil, use 2 or 3 tbs unsalted butter plus 2 or 1 tbs oil.  I suppose one could use 4 tbs butter and no oil, but I haven’t tried that.  Stir and mix thoroughly until the dough cleans the side of the bowl and a rough mass is formed. (SDR modification–don’t put the cornmeal in the dough, use it on the bottom of the dough just before it goes in the pizza pan to get a bottom dusting of cornmeal).
3. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a well-floured work surface. Knead and pound the dough (using a bit of flour if the dough is sticking) for 5-6 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it proof for 1½ hours until it doubles in size.
4. Turn out on to the work surface and knead for 1 to 2 minutes. At this point, the kneaded dough could be refrigerated and used up to 24 hours later (not longer or the dough will lose strength needed for baking). Weigh dough portions to 26 ounces for a 14 inch pizza.
5. Oil the bottom and sides of the pizza pan with oil to get a thin layer. Spread the dough with your hands in the bottom and up the sides of the pizza pan. Do not use a rolling pin! It will spread more easily if left to rest in the pan for 10 minutes prior to spreading out to the sides. Pull the edge of the dough up to form a lip (very important). Cover the pan completely with a towel and let the dough rise in the pan in a warm place for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475°F.
6. Prick the entire crust with the tines of a fork, then parbake the crust for exactly four minutes to give the dough its initial “spring.” Remove from oven and brush the crust with a pastry brush and olive oil.

1. Lay the thinly sliced mozzarella over the crust, leaving a ½ inch edge around the perimeter.
2. Combine the tomatoes with the basil, oregano, and salt. If using canned plum tomatoes, drain off all the liquid and crush the tomatoes with your hand, then add the seasonings. Spoon the tomatoes over the cheese. Sprinkle the parmesan over the tomatoes.
3. Add the sausage evenly over the tomatoes by flattening the sausage pieces between your thumb and forefinger to get complete coverage of the tomatoes. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil on top. Most restaurants like Lou Malnati’s, Uno’s or Due’s will put the raw sausage on top of the cheese, then the tomatoes, then the parmesan. This works due to the high heat of the restaurant’s ovens will allow for the sausage to cook properly. Depending on the fat of the sausage, it may be necessary to partially cook the sausage before placing on the pizza, to decrease greasy accumulation in the pie. I would definitely recommend this additional step.  Pat’s recipe as written puts the sausage on top of the crushed tomatoes, then the Parmesan.  Because I partially precook the sausage, I put it over the cheese, then the tomatoes, and finish with the Parmesan.  This give a more authentic “Due’s/Lou’s result.
4. Bake at 475°F for 5 minutes on the bottom rack, and another 30 minutes on a middle-high rack, until the crust edge is browned and the sausage is cooked through.  The edge is done at golden brown, be careful not to over cook.

DISCLAIMER: I have not tried the following recipe yet.

Clone of Lou Malnati Pizza

Here is a post I found on the web for an attempt to make a clone of Lou Malnati pizza:
Posted by JazzmanJazzman
April 2009 edited 2:25PM in EggHead Forum:

“I have become obsessed with making the perfect Chicago-style deep dish pizza over the past few months (specifically Lou Malnati’s), I have gone on pizza-making forums, bought supplies from pizza-making online stores, and experimented with several types of dough. The last 5-6 pies I have made are (IMHO) near-perfect, and I wanted to share this info with you. I read almost every post regarding pizza, and some of you are making wrong assumptions about authentic Chicago-style pizza.
#1 There is NO CORNMEAL in a Lou Malnati’s crust. I have this on good authority (I live 5 miles from a Lou’s), and you can also check the ingrediants in the pizzas they ship – NO CORNMEAL.
#2 You must use about 25% (by weight) Semolina Flour, and the other 75% bread flour. It’s the semolina that has people confused about the cornmeal – it gives the pizza a “yellowish” cast, and a nice cornmeal-y tasting crust.
#3 I always grease the bottom of the pan with Crisco, not olive oil – another trick I picked up on the pizza forum.
#4 the cheese MUST go on the bottom of the crust, followed by the ingredients, then the sauce LAST. Otherwise, the sauce and ingredients make the crust soggy on top.
#5 If you are a nut for authenticity, you must use the 6-in-1 brand of tomatoes, add some honey, garlic and spices.
#6 True Chicago-style Lou’s is not really super deep dish, so don’t roll out your crust too thick – roll it out like a normal crust and it will come out just fine.

OK – enough lecture 🙂 Here is the best Lou Malnati’s clone recipe you will ever find. I stole this from the pizza-making forum (with a few minor tweaks added by me), and I am not alone. Over 200 posts on the forum rave about this particular crust. This is for a 14″ sqaure pan, and it will make a bit too much for a 15″ round pan, but you can make some nice garlic braids from the extra!. On the pizza forum, they use ONLY weights, but I also included the “normal” measurements – and they are close enough to work perfectly.”

(Now my {SDR} comments–The original Uno’s pizza did use the 6 in 1 brand of canned tomatoes. Lou Malnati’s uses canned tomatoes from California made to order for them, but they are plum tomatoes harvested at peak ripeness, peeled and canned. If you are making a sausage pizza, slightly precook the sausage to rend out some of the fat. Use mild rather than hot sausage and let people add red pepper flakes to their own piece. The sausage should be enough weight and volume to cover the entire pan surface to the edge of the crust. Use whole milk mozzarella in slices, not grated, and layer to completely cover the crust. Don’t make a rectangle, get a large 14 inch round pan with 2 inch sides. Do not roll out the dough, just flatten it with your palm and fingertips and take the dough up the sides for about 3/4 inch. I do not prebake the crust. SDR)

Here goes:

14” square
Flour (75%) 3 cups (hold back ½ cup)/ 407.85 g /
Semolina (25%) ¾ cup / 136.25 g
Water (47%) 1 cup / 255.58 g / 9.02 oz / 0.56 lbs.
Active Dry Yeast (0.70%) 1 tsp / 3.81 g / 0.13 oz / 0.01 lbs. / 1.01 tsp / 0.34 TBSP
Salt (0.50%) ½ tsp / 2.72 g / 0.1 oz / 0.01 lbs. / 0.49 tsp / 0.16 TBSP
Olive Oil (6%) 3 TBS / 32.63 g / 1.15 oz / 0.07 lbs. / 7.25 tsp / 2.42 TBSP
Corn Oil(18.5%) ½ cup / 100.6 g /3.55 oz / 0.22 lbs. /7.45 TBSP/ .47 cups
Butter (1%) ½ TBSP / 5.44 g / 0.19 oz / 0.01 lbs. /1.15 tsp / 0.38 TBSP
Sugar (1.5%) 2 tsp / 8.16 g / 0.29 oz / 0.02 lbs. /2.05 tsp / 0.68 TBSP
Cream of Tarter (0.75%) 1 tsp / 4.08 g / 0.14 oz / 0.01 lbs. /1.36 tsp / 0.45 TBSP
Total (175.95%) 956.78 g / 33.75 oz / 2.11 lbs. / TF=0.126875

I mixed the semolina and salt with the sifted flour, but withheld 1/2 cup of the flour. I added the water with the previously proofed Active dry yeast, mixed with a wooden spoon and by hand, covered and let rest for around 25 minutes in a warm part of the kitchen. Then added the rest of the flour along with the oil and the small amount of melted and cooled butter. After kneading for a very short time (est. 1 min.), I again found that I needed a teaspoon or two more of the flour, and then put the formed dough ball into a Ziploc bag and into the refrigerator for 24 hours. (NOTE: the dough will appear too oily, and you will question your sanity – this is NORMAL – it’s an oily dough!)

Taking it out of the refrigerator the next day about 2 hours before baking, I patted out the dough ball into my previously “crisco’ed” 14″ Pizza ware deep dish square pan with 2″ high straight-sides. I crimped or pinched the edges of the crust very hard to give the crust a nice real thin edge, as opposed to a thicker or fatter rim. Pre-bake the crust only 4-5 min I then put in a layer of sliced Mozzarella cheese (use whole-milk mozz), then added some provolone cheese pieces, then cooked sausage (you cook it first so it doesn’t add any “juice” to the pie – other wise things can get messy). I then added some drained 6 in 1 sauce (important to use the “6-in-1” sauce, and important to drain first!) to which I added Italian spices, minced garlic, sea salt, and a good dash of honey (key ingredient) then added a good amount of grated parmesan, and then baked the pizza at 450 degrees (make sure your grate temp is no more than 450, or you’ll burn it!). After 15 minutes I turned the pizza 180 degrees and continue to bake for about 10 minutes more.

Sorry for the long post, and sorry for no pictures, but I swear this is a perfect Lou Malnati’s clone. I grew up in Chicago, and have eaten Lou’s and Connie’s and Uno’s and Gino’s all my life. My wife swears these are the best pizzas she has ever eaten in her life.”

Mark Malnati gave Food Network the following recipe when asked about the buttercrust recipe. I can’t believe that it is the full true recipe (why give away something worth millions) but here it is:

Chicago Style Pizza from FoodNetwork Show Follow That Food, Episode Follow that Pizza

Recipe courtesy Marc Malnati, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, Chicago, Illinois

Prep Time: 20 min Inactive Prep Time: 4 hr 0 min Cook Time: 40 min Level:
Easy Serves: 6 serving

Pizza Dough:
16 ounces water
1/8-ounce yeast
1/2-ounce salt
2 pounds bread flour
1/4 cup olive oil (or melted butter for Buttercrust)
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 cups tomato sauce, jar or homemade
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup spinach, shredded
1/2 cup grated Romano
1/2 cup sliced pepperoni
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

In a mixer combine the water and the yeast and allow the yeast to dissolve. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cornmeal and begin to mix the dough using a dough hook on low speed. Once a ball is formed mix on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes until the dough becomes elastic and smooth. Remove from the mixer and place in a bowl coated with olive oil. Allow the dough to rest for approximately 4 hours. Once the dough is rested, place on flat surface and dust with some flour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a deep baking dish or deep dish pizza pan, spread the dough using your fingers at the bottom of the pan and make sure to have enough dough to come up the sides of the pan approximately 1/2-inch high.

Begin by placing a layer of the mozzarella cheese on the bottom of the crust. Add the tomato sauce and all of the toppings. Place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden and crispy.

Serve pizza straight from the oven to the table.

Good luck and happy pizza making!


About trustforce

A well trained amateur chef, I have learned by taking some master classes and doing a lot of reading and experimentation. I cook and enjoy many different cuisines. The fun is getting it right, with great taste and presentation. The smells and appearance add to the pleasure of eating well. I can enjoy a great Chicago style hot dog or an Italian beef sandwich, or have equal pleasure from haut cuisine. All my recipe postings are extensively tested by me unless I state otherwise. I will sometimes post a recipe that sounds like it should be good before I actually make it myself, but I will always come back and revise the "untested" recipe after I've made it, with valid comments to keep old posts accurate and current. If I am not the originator of a recipe I will always correctly attribute the source author, even if I have modified the recipe. I will occasionally post reviews of local restaurants on the site. The big problem that I have with eating out is that I know too much about restaurants and I find it hard to ignore or forgive sloppy technique or bad ingredients. I pull no punches in my restaurant reviews!
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