The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Every Chicago Deep Dish Pizza: Part II

by and | Feb 26, 2024 | Humor, Spirituality


We begin with the basics. Whether you consider them Chicago Classics, Venerable Originals, or Big Pizza, Chicagoans must have an opinion on these heavy hitters. Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s, Pizzeria Uno, and Pizano’s are the bedrock of Chicago deep dish, with traditions reaching back to a time before Chicago had Bulls. They are as much a part of the city’s fabric as the green river, The Bean, and rumors about where Oprah does or does not live. These four places define Chicago deep dish pizza and, by extension, define Chicago.  



Let’s start with the most popular. With 20 locations in Chicago and 64 nationwide, Giordano’s is what most people picture when they think of deep dish, and for many visitors, it’s the first and only pie they try. A Giordano’s pizza is the deep dish equivalent to a Quarter Pounder. It’s the most common, so it’s easy to hate on, but it’s also the most common because it’s easy to like. What sets Gio’s apart from the rest of the pies on this list is that it’s actually a “stuffed” pizza, meaning there is a second layer of dough above the cheese and toppings. This method results in a pretty bready pizza, but they top it off with plenty of sauce to make up for it. Because of the extra breadiness, it’s not our top choice, but it does hold a special place in our hearts (right next to the plaque in our arteries from two years of “researching” pizza). 

Gio’s was our first deep dish pizza. We moved to Chicago in the middle of the pandemic, and we had to quarantine in our rooms for two weeks upon arriving. On one of our first nights, our community ordered Giordano’s, and we ate it in our rooms while we talked over Zoom. During that first year of the pandemic, Giordano’s became a food for special occasions. We couldn’t go out to restaurants, but there was a Gio’s just up the block where we could pick up a few pies for a Saturday night. Pizza brings people together, and we found a way to gather over Giordano’s even when we couldn’t be in the same room. It gave us a sense of community at a time when we really needed it.

Stuffed pizza: 6/10

Eating over Zoom: 4/10

Bringing people together: 10/10

COVID: 1/10


Lou Malnati’s

Although it has more total locations (81) than Giordano’s, Lou’s is generally agreed to be the second most popular pie in town. Which is curious, considering that the Malnati family supposedly invented deep dish pizza. The history is a bit fuzzy but generally agreed upon. In the 1950s, Rudy Malnati was a cook at Pizzeria Uno, and he started making pizza in a pan with walled sides, filling it to the brim with dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings. Lou Malnati, Rudy’s son, opened his own restaurant in 1971 and improved upon his father’s original recipe. Lou’s pie is known for its “buttercrust,” which is thinner and flakier than most other deep dish crusts. It’s built like a regular pizza, with sauce on top of the crust, and cheese and toppings on top of the sauce. And there’s lots and lots of cheese. It’s quite greasy, and the sauce soaks into the crust, making for a bit of a soggy mess if you don’t eat it fast enough. 

We ate Lou’s together after we ran the Shamrock Shuffle, a 5-mile run through downtown Chicago the weekend after St. Patrick’s Day. The run had been canceled the previous two years due to COVID, so this was our first opportunity to participate in the event that kicks off the outdoor recreation season in Chicago. It’s an important fixture in the city’s public life, and part of what we do as Jesuits is become a part of the communities in which we live. We ran the Shamrock Shuffle not as visitors, but as Chicagoans ourselves (however temporary). Naturally, we celebrated by doing another thing Chicagoans do: going out to Lou’s. The pizza was a little greasy and soggy, but so were we after running five miles. It was the perfect way to replenish our nutrients after pounding the pavement on a cold March morning with thirty thousand of our closest companions.

Buttercrust: 7/10

Cheese: Too much cheese

Shamrock Shuffle: 0:46:03

Replenishing nutrients: 9/10


Pizzeria Uno

Pizzeria Uno, appropriately named, takes credit for being the first place to make deep dish pizza. As we mentioned above, Rudy Malnati started making pizza in a deep dish at Uno’s in the 1950s, and everything that’s developed since then has been a modification of his basic concept. As we have learned from MySpace, Blackberry, and AOL, the inventor of a new concept is often surpassed by those who innovate upon the original idea. Yes, we are stating publicly that Pizzeria Uno is the MySpace of deep dish. It’s a straightforward pizza with the expected order of sauce, cheese, and toppings. The crust is crumbly, almost like shortbread, which prevents sogginess and adds a nice soft crunch. Cheese and sauce are both just fine. 

The veggie toppings on the standard veggie pizza we ordered (standard mushroom, onion, pepper combination) were not pre-sauteed but flung on top just before baking. An afterthought. Such carelessness with the vegetables sent a message to us vegetarians that we ourselves are an afterthought. It ain’t easy being green, especially at a Malnati establishment. But that’s also an endearing feature of the place. They aren’t trying to impress anybody (especially people who turn their nose up at Italian sausage). They make pizza the same way they’ve made it for three generations, and if you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else. As Jesuits at a university, we sometimes get lost in finding what is “best” and keeping up with the leading edges of the culture at the expense of losing touch with the everyday and the commonplace. Pizzeria Uno is not elite pizza. It is working-class pizza. And we like it that way. 

MySpace: 2003-2011

Vegetarians impressed: 0/2

Crumbly crust: 6/10



We arrive at the final establishment in the trinity of Malnati family pizzerias. With only five locations, Pizano’s is the dark horse of the three, lacking both Uno’s fame and Lou’s ubiquity. However, it is the best Malnati pizza. While Lou departed from his father’s original pizza and developed his own type of crust, Rudy Jr. improved upon Senior’s shortbread-like crust. Pizano’s crust is a little thinner and quite a bit crunchier than Uno’s, creating a nice texture differential between the crust and the rest of the pie. I, Michael, must confess: I am addicted to this crust. It gets in my head, and I literally can’t stop thinking about it. It’s hardness, its crunch, its natural suitedness to palming it the following day while standing at the refrigerator with the door still open. I wouldn’t say it’s the best crust, but it is the most captivating. 

The Malnati brothers share a love of cheese, as Pizano’s, like Lou’s, has too much. But the sauce at Pizano’s was perfectly augmented with tomato, basil, and garlic as the toppings. Rudy Jr. learned from his father’s mistake, offering a veggie pie with toppings that add to the synergy of the pizza, rather than “giving the rabbits something to chew on” as the cook at Uno’s might have said about their veggie pizza. Pizano’s toppings were an extension of the sauce, adding both flavor and texture. 

We went to Pizano’s right after mass at Holy Name Cathedral. It’s right up the block. In the world of Chicago pizza, “Malnati” is a holy name. At every mass, we remember the dead, commending their lives to the loving embrace of our creator. We would like to take this opportunity to remember the three members of the Malnati family who have all gone to meet the Lord. Rudy Sr., Lou, and Rudy Jr., thank you for the gift of pizza you shared with us and with this city. May you rest in peace.

Texture differential: 9/10

Synergistic toppings: 8/10

Cheese: Seriously, boys, lay off a bit

Honoring the dead: Amen


Collin Price, SJ   /   All posts by Collin