Time capsule: Pizzeria Uno

When people think of Chicago, they undoubtedly 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 fi rst to offer the deep-dish style of pizza that has been so closely associated with the Windy City; due to its immense popularity, owner Ike Sewell opened a second location (Pizzeria Due) one block from the original in 1955 and succeeded in attracting even more customers.

Flash forward to 1978, when Aaron Spencer (current 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, is currently headquartered in Boston, and now operates more than 200 stores in far-fl ung locales such as the United Arab Emirates and South Korea—but the two original locations in Chicago are still churning out deep-dish pizzas for throngs of fans in much the same way as those first pioneers 65 years ago. And, with the new launch of Uno Due Go!, the pizzeria giant enters the quickserve industry with hundreds of planned openings in airports, malls and other locations across the country, serving up deep-dish and flatbread pizzas. But the company’s greatest success, says Richard K. Hendrie, senior vice president of marketing for Uno Chicago Grill, is spreading the pizza gospel on a global scale: “We proved that a worldwide, successful business could be built from the modest beginnings of a specialty, albeit world-class, item—deep-dish pizza.”