The Story of our Chicago Pan Pizza

I have been following this thread and the whole this isn't REAL Chicago Pan Pizza hoo hah and am going to set the record straight.

My name is Allen and I grew up on Chicago Pan Pizza. This exact recipe that is featured at Chi-Town Pizza.

Here is the TLDR story.

Yes haters, this pizza falls into the category of "you can't much more authentic Chicago than The Sear's Tower, The Cubs, and Buddy Guy and this pizza." Yes, it's Chicago style.

But first let's have a quick history lesson on Chicago Pizza shall we. Once we are caught up we can go into the history of how it came to be in Spanaway.

PIzza landed in NY and came to Chicago as immigrants from Naples in the late 1800s and early 1900s came their for work in the busy factory industry. After birthing babies for a couple generations they missed and sought out the pizza of their culture. Nothing really exciting happened until much later.

In the 1940s Ric and Ike opened Pizzeria Uno's. Their Americanized version of the pizza of yore was a new style called Deep Dish. It's a freaking pie. They layered the crap out of it.

From top to bottom, Chicago-style pizza typically boasts layers of vegetables and meat, a thin layer of tomato sauce, a dense pile of mozzarella cheese, and then that crunchy crust. The finishing touch comes from a layer of sweet, crushed tomatoes on the top.

It was a hit and the rest is Pizza history.

Now let's quickly address the order of things here.

Many Chicago restaurants make their pizzas with sauce on bottom of the dough. Some put it on top.

Brace yourself. It's doesn't matter.

How it's done is up to the restaurant. It's up to the pizza maker to make it consistent.

I think you will start to see it on top here as it really varies from market to market. Chi-Town started with it on the bottom if y'all want it on top I am sure they will give it to you.

What kind of pizza is this your are eating? Where did it come from?

A true Chicago pizza legend. Burt Katz. He made Anthony Bourdain's favorite Chicago pie. You probably saw him on Season 5 of No Reservations.

So what is Burt's story?
Starting in 1962 he became an owner partner of The Inferno in Evanston and introduced to the world Chicago Style Pan Pizza. The crust was different and recognized for its caramelized crust. It was thick, yet light and flavorful, a result of long fermentation. Dough needs to rise. Katz called it simply pan pizza and considered it different from the classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

Chicago-style Pan Pizza was born and it was a hit.

In 1965 he sold his share and opened up Gulliver's on West Howard, a pan pizza restaurant with partner Jerry Freeman. It developed a huge following. Jerry and Burt split up. Maybe it was all the antiques that Jerry filled the place with. He was obsessed. They soon split and Burt went up and got himself a "real job" in futures trading.

In 1970 Burt turned back to the pizza industry and the unique and successful recipe he had created years before and wen ton to open another Chicago legend - Pequod's. He finally burned out in 1986 and sold to the current owner. He still couldn't get away from the pizza bug so he tweaked his recipe and opened up Burt's Place.

Back at Gulliver's Jerry continued to own it until it recently closed after 56 years in 2022.

I was born in Chicago in 1968. My mom was best friends with Jerry's wife. Long story short my Dad was a big shot in the insurance industry and was transferred to Des Moines, Iowa (one of the largest home bases of insurance companies) in 1973 and away from the pan pizza he grew up eating.

Like those early immigrants he longed for the pizza and decided to open up a Chicago Style Pan Pizza restaurant in Des Moines. In 1975 with the Freeman's help he opened Felix and Oscar's Pizza and introduced Chicago Style Pan Pizza to Iowa. Oddly enough we almost moved to Lakewood, WA instead of Des Moines and this area would of had Chicago pizza way earlier.

The pizza was an instant hit with Chicago transplants and locals. It is now a Des Moines institution. Before my Dad sold out there were 4 locations. Delivery trucks everywhere, well before UberEats and GrubHub. Hot pizza delivered anywhere in the city in speical ovens. It is still open today - the current owner was a bus boy my Dad hired back in when it opened.

Like Gulliver's, Pequod's Pizza Chicago, and Burt's Place this pizza grew a following.

56 years for Gulliver's. Pequod's is still open. F&O's - Felix and Oscar's is still open. Burt's closed because he had to stop at 78.

My Dad went on to open multiple restaurants and travelled to over 7O restaurants and chains around the world passing down this pan pizza recipe as an industry consultant. The sh*t they put on pizzas in Korea.

He retired years ago and only came out of retirement after beating prostate cancer at 82 to pass this iconic and successful pizza recipe down to Chi-Town Pizza Tacoma's owner Donny whom now carries the torch.

As they always say Chicago Pizza takes a while to bake.

Let's all celebrate having Chicago Pizza in Western Washington and but our sauce differences aside. Top or Bottom I don't care. I could switch.