In the years since then, Pizzeria Uno opened a lot of east coast franchise locations. About ten years ago, I visited an Uno's in Levittown, PA, located near a shopping mall. The pizza was a sloppy wet mess, and that experience made me a deep-dish skeptic.
I haven't had a real Chicago deep-dish experience since starting this pizza blog. I did have a re-heated slice of Giordano's that a family member brought home from Chicago. My review noted that "This really was one sorry excuse for pizza, and I cannot fathom at all why folks get excited over this blob casserole."
With that background, you can perhaps understand why I was reluctant to accept a lunchtime invite to the Newtown PA (Chester County) franchise of Uno Pizzeria and Grill. While I knew it offered a chance to write about a pizza experience, I anticipated a "take one for the team" by eating lousy pizza and warning others to avoid it.
Fast forward to the plot summary: I was wrong - I enjoyed almost everything about this lunch visit and I'm breaking down my deep-dish aversion.
For modest under-ten-dollar prices, Uno's offers some under-ten-minutes combinations. I began with a "warm walnut-crusted goat cheese" salad that featured baked goat cheese atop field greens with fresh seasonal berries and low fat blueberry pomegranate dressing. It was excellent and fresh in every way. The greens were served with a soft and salty "breadstick" that might have been right at home in Olive Garden.
The second half of my combo was a personal-size deep dish pizza. The menu suggests that you need to order the pie of the day, but I was able to choose the pepperoni version. It was cut into six small slices. I have a healthy appetite, but three slices with the salad made a very filling meal, so I had three slices to take home.
How was it? The crust was crunchy outside, soft inside, and surprisingly tasty all by itself. We'll call that a win. The red sauce was lively and well-seasoned, too. The pepperoni added an unexpected amount of welcome spicy heat. The cheese was not buried under the sauce, as often found with a deep dish pie. It rode mostly on top and hence benefited both in flavor and texture from exposure to the oven heat.
This was not a life-changing event, but it was a flavorful and filling lunch at a modest price. It rattled two of my preconceptions - one, that deep-dish is "tomato soup in a bread bowl" and two, that franchise deep dish can't be worth eating. I was wrong on both counts.
The most important takeaway may be that, if an Uno franchise can craft a deep dish that tasty, then I truly need to visit Chicago and get the real thing. It's a big world, every pizza doesn't have to have a thin crust.