I’ve mentioned pizza historian Peter Regas, who has done amazing work tracking down the early history of pizza, in both New York and Chicago. This week he has a terrific piece on the ur-deep dish of Chicago, Pizzeria Uno, in Chicago magazine, well worth reading for anyone interested in anything beyond what opened this week. The legend of Pizzeria Uno tends to start and stop with Ike Sewell’s claims (which only started twenty-some years after the fact) that he devised the iconic pie style.

Regas’ piece not only demonstrates that it was the work of Pizzeria Uno and Riccardo’s owner Ric Riccardo, it has actually changed significantly over the years—and by tracking down the original recipe, he shows that deep dish wasn’t that deep when it started:

In 2013, I discovered what I believe to be the original deep-dish dough recipe created by Pizzeria Uno’s founder, Richard Riccardo. The recipe, detailed in this article for the first time since 1945, produces a thinner, lighter, vaguely cake-like golden-brown crust that’s distinctly different than the thicker, heavier biscuit-like crust now served at deep-dish pizzerias such as Pizzeria Uno, Gino’s East, and Lou Malnati’s.

Indeed, looking at the entire historical record, we can document at least three different versions of Pizzeria Uno’s deep-dish crust throughout the decades. As time passed — and this is the crucial point — each version moved farther and farther away from what we typically think of as a traditional pizza crust. My research focused on how and why these versions came to be, which eventually led to what we have now. Of course, this also included my own taste-test comparison of the new and old recipes, which highlighted their differences.

Great detective work and a fun read, don’t miss it—including the recipe at the end, so you can make a 1945-style Ric Riccardo pizza at home. Curiously, another piece about Regas’ discovery turns up in the New York Times almost simultaneously; of course, it includes the inevitable mention of deep dish supposedly being a casserole (so clever!)—not to mention that Steve Dolinsky came up with the term PIGUE Syndrome (Pizza I Grew Up Eating) to describe how so many people are homers for the pizza they had as kids. It’s an interesting article, though I found the biographical note on author Eric Kim unintentionally hilarious: “Eric spent months eating and researching deep dish pizzas in Chicago and his Brooklyn apartment.” Making him the Work From Home Boondoggle champ of 2024.


Okay, that’s the worst punny headline I’ve ever run here. S0rry! Anyway, Louisa Chu writes about the new Gangnam Market in West Town, Asian grocery store and eclectic collection of food stalls, from the guy behind Strings Ramen, Kenny Yang:

“Gangnam Food Hall is a mix of things I truly love,” said Kenny Yang. The designer and restaurateur owns all seven stalls and Gangnam Market, the attached grocery store. He held a grand opening weekend for the food hall last December.

…“Ramen, tacos, sushi and breakfast sandwiches,” he said. “Growing up in Chicago, I was influenced by every culture.”

What’s the deal with the Trib and midrange sushi, though? On Facebook, Friend of Fooditor Matthew Mirapaul called out Chu for expressing liking—even wonder—for a commonplace sushi roll stuffed with fake Krab™. If anything tempts me there, though, it’s not Krabby Nigiris but the second-generation Chiu Quon Bakery kids launching their own, Matt Bakes. Much as I like Chiu Quon, it’s kind of a factory as bakeries go, and this sounds more interesting—and really interesting to Chu as it features a favorite dish she’s written about before:

At Matt Bakes, the best-selling item has become not the classic Portuguese egg tart, but their take on the 554 from Seven Treasures.

…the 554 is very different. Like the food hall, it’s intense with a neon glow. Thick cut chunks of char siu and sunny side up eggs cover a bed of garlic jasmine rice, with tiny concentrated cups of dark soy sauce and tart pickled vegetables on the side.


John Kessler has words for people’s pictures:

I’m nostalgic for the food photography clichés of times past. Remember the overhead shots of bounteous, messy tables filled with way too many dishes and one hand coming in from the side?… Now it’s all about the eaters, the people who load impossibly large and gooey bites onto forks, hold them in front of the phone camera and open wide. If they like what they’re chewing well enough, they nod their heads appreciatively. If they love it, they bug their eyes too, or stop for a moment to fall back in their chairs in a state of rapture.

Well, any new format is going to give way to clichés. Toward the end of lockdown, I would watch YouTube videos about travel destinations in Mexico, and quickly learned what to expect: A guy walking down the street, pointing his cell phone at his face and announcing “Hey guys, it’s Jason and today I’m in San Whereva,” followed by a drone shot of the biggest building in town. Turning the sound down helped.

Anyway, in that vein, Kessler talks about the taco omakase at Cariño, the Mexican tasting menu from Norman Fenton (Schwa, Brass Heart), which he likes but expresses reservations about the price of, by the end:

I found the experience exhilarating. Even though I was a little bleary when I arrived, the second-wind rush lifted me up and never let go. The menu we tried came out in a handful of rapid-fire courses: a couple of brightly seasoned seafood small plates, a crisp/gooey little bean tetela, and an odd but intriguing lamb tartare tostada lay the groundwork for three brilliant tacos…

Though I loved everything about this experience, especially the vibrancy of the flavors, I should point out that it doesn’t come cheap. Once you factor in service, taxes, and a booking fee, it comes out to about $175 a head.

I don’t know, expensive as things have generally gotten, I feel like “exhilarating” is rare enough to be worth that price. In any case, I’m going there next weekend (for the regular menu, not the taco omakase), so I’ll know what I think pretty soon.


Speaking of tacos that did not exhilarate, I went—late in the evening, as you may recall from past kvetching—to Diego and was very underwhelmed with the few things I could order at that hour. I feel like if you’re open, you should keep your A game till you close, because you never know who’s going to turn out to be an annoying food writer who just won’t let it go. But Michael Nagrant stands up for what they serve during regular hours:

There is also a burrito, but this is not Chipotle where they test the tensile strength of a tortilla by shoving in fifty pounds of innards such that your burr-ista needs the forearms of The Rock just to close the thing.

Diego’s wrapper is lithe, layered with perfect proportions of caramelized beef, golden French fries, a schmear of avocado and bright crema, and a mop top of shredded queso. Each element stays distinct and does not melt down into an indistinct gruel.  The potatoes are crisp and the meat pliant.


Amici is a place doing arancini. Is that enough for a whole meal, or to sustain a business? I don’t know, but Titus Ruscitti makes it sound pretty interesting:

Amici is Italian in origin in that the owner Alfio Sciacca moved to Chicago from Sicily at a young age. But as he’ll tell you – Amici isn’t an Italian restaurant. Amici means friends in Italian but here is short for A-frican, M-exican, I-ndian, C-aribbean, I-talian as Amici is a specialist type of spot and arancini is their specialty. Alfio stuffs mountain shaped balls of rice with African, Mexican, Indian, Caribbean, and Italian flavors. The current menu is a melting pot of rice balls including the “Masalacino” which has chicken tikka masala and the “Dorowattino” comes stuffed with Ethiopian berbere chicken.


“To get a cake, best to come around 10 a.m. to get a number, that will allow you to come back in when the line begins forming at 10:55 a.m.,” says Steve Dolinsky. He’s talking about a place that sells about 600 cakes every morning to a line wrapping around the block. It’s called Pookie Crack Cakes, and it’s on 47th street.


Sandwich Tribunal’s Jim Behymer, in NewCity on sandwiches for spring, starting with a chicken salad adapted from a small town cookbook:

The table of contents has long since worn away. But it is easy to find our favorite recipe, a lemon basil chicken salad—simply look for the most obviously well-used page in the book, stained and worn. The lemon-basil chicken salad described in this cookbook was intended to be served on a plate with greens rather than between sliced bread, but I have adapted that recipe to make a delicious sandwich featuring seasonal ingredients.

8. U MAGA?

The Infatuation checks out two new bakery/cafe spots from different parts of the world. Swadesi Cafe, in the West Loop:

Even if the Indian-inspired sweet baked goods don’t feel representative of the precision and talents of Swadesi’s sibling spots, Indienne and Sifr, the savory food is still pretty good. So avoid the gummy toffee date cake in favor of something like a breakfast sandwich, or a croissant topped with samosa chaat.

While Umaga Bakehouse (not that kind of MAGA, I feel sure) is a Filipino Bakery in Albany Park:

Ensaymadas are light and buttery (the almond one is our favorite), and their lightly sweet pandesal is notably fluffy. We usually go for some non-bread stuff too, like flaky chicken empanadas, or refrigerated, heat-at-home dishes like rich and vinegary dinuguan.


One place where you can count on something new to try is the location on Damen in Bucktown that was Stephanie Izard’s Scylla many years ago, and has since been places like Glory, Dixie, Takashi, and Claudia. The latest inhabitant is Tama, from a Greek-born chef named Avgeria Stapaki, formerly of Nisos Prime. David Manilow talks to her on The Dining Table.

WBEZ’s Reset explores an interesting question: what’s the best way to reconstruct Grandma’s favorite recipe? (I wrote about my own effort with one years ago here.)


Steve Albini, dead at age 61—but you probably saw that in pieces about his importance as a record producer for artists like Nirvana, the Pixies, P.J. Harvey and others. (Here’s an obit at Pitchfork, if you don’t already know about him.) He was also a top poker player—there’s a whole other set of obituaries. And, for a couple of years in the early 2010s, he had a food blog, called Mario Batali Voice/What I Made Heather For Dinner. It’s defunct online (though there’s always the Wayback Machine, and his Instagram account exists here), but here’s a piece from 2015 taking about the outspoken producer’s outspoken opinions on home cooking:

Typically understated and idiosyncratic, Albini writes, “I don’t give quantities or exact recipes because I eyeball and taste everything like anybody who cooks a lot…. We’re not ninjas. Also, some of this food may not turn out that great, so replicating it would be pointless. I have also successfully cooked for our cats.” Nonetheless, even without proportions and exact steps spelled out, “if you cook, you should be able to figure out how to make any of these meals.”

Marc Caro’s interview with Albini on his Caropop podcast is on its main page here; James Van Osdol never had him on Car Con Carne, but he did interview him for a proposed book on Chicago music, and posted that here.


Spring is here and the PR invitations are blooming. Had two nice experiences on the house this week:

The new thing in tasting menus is to do them in a regional cuisine—Indian (Indienne, the Coach Hosuse at Wazwan), Filipino (Kasama, Bayan Ko), Persian (Maman Zari), Mexican (Cariño), etc. I was invited to Moody Tongue’s tasting menu, now under chef James Bingham, who’s not new in the sense that he’s been there since the start, but he’s now the executive chef, and while it’s unique in many ways—it’s driven by pairing the food with, not wine, but beer (and is in fact the only Michelin-starred brewery anywhere), one thing about it seemed nearly nostalgic—it’s a classic tasting menu of the 2010s, the kind where if you’re eating a beef course, you can kind of count on lamb (or maybe venison) coming up next. It’s not exactly what you’d see then—there was a black cod dish built on a curry sauce, which would have been unlikely then but seems right of the moment now. Still, there was something that felt like visiting an old friend in the progression of the menu—several one-bite starters, a collection of delicate seafood courses, and then on to duck, lamb and beef before dessert.

And beer—that’s the point here. Moody Tongue’s thing as a brewery—beers made with culinary ingredients—is fairly common now, there’s a bit of a chase for novelty like that as dozens of breweries compete in Chicago, but I don’t know of anyone who is more effective at making fruit flavors work with malt and (occasionally) hops. The aforementioned one-bite starters came with a Yuzu infused lager that had the effect of an opening glass of bubbly. Subsequent seafood courses went with an Asian pear (from Orianna’s Orchard, of course) saison, bright and delicate to go with delicate bites from the sea. A tiny piece of foie gras tart, almost a dessert course, went with a Framboise, a raspberry beer, while the meat courses went with robust things like a doppelbock and an Oud Bruin (a Dutch style of brown ale).

So: an assured, kind of classical tasting menu (if there is such a thing), which plays well with the fruit-flavored beers that make Moody Tongue something different in the world of fine dining… anywhere. It feels a little overlooked next to other tasting menus, but it shouldn’t be.

I was vaguely aware that there was a Cajun restaurant, which originated as a food truck, not far from me in the strip mall at Addison and Elston, called CheSa’s Bistro & Bar. Their PR person helped connect me with someone for my book, so when they sent out something about it I replied with a friendly note about my intention to try it one of these days. I wasn’t fishing for an invite, but I got one anyway, so a friend of mine and I popped in there for lunch.

The interesting thing about it is that it’s not just Cajun—not that common these days—but it’s also gluten-free. Chesaree Rollins, the owner, developed celiac disease during pregnancy and decided not just to cook like that at home, but to start a restaurant (well, a food truck, first). I wanted to test the GF thing right off the bat, so we ordered fried green tomatoes, in a cornmeal batter that worked just fine. We shared a catfish po’boy—I would never have know that the grilled sandwich roll it was on was gluten-free—and a very tasty bowl of gumbo with good juicy shrimp in it. All of it was very nicely made.

We were told that it does good brunch business on the weekends, but so far the neighborhood has not discovered it for lunch—and the prices, or the minor level of sitdown formality, might be a bit high for that meal out in the neighborhoods, though I feel like I never know what’s expensive any more. Everything is! Anyway, I’m happy to have a solid Cajun place in my part of the city—and the GF thing will make it a draw for some people, but shouldn’t deter anyone—you’ll like it just fine.