CHICAGO — Ike Sewell, who developed a thick crust brimming with bubbling ingredients and christened it Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza, has died at 87.
Sewell died Aug. 20 of leukemia at Northwestern Memorial Hospital here, a family spokesman said.
Sewell's first love was the Mexican food he was raised on in Wills Point, Tex., where he eventually became an All-American football guard at the University of Texas. But Ric Riccardo, his partner in an early restaurant venture, didn't like it, so they hit upon the idea of pizza.
Sewell decided he wanted something more filling than regular pizza. The pair began experimenting and hit upon the deep-dish style with a browned, richly textured and slightly sweet crust that was filled with tomatoes, cheese and sausage or pepperoni.
They opened Pizzeria Uno ( one in Italian) in 1943, and their deep-dish pizza made in an oversized pie tin became one of Chicago's culinary trademarks.
Sewell served his pizza in the basement for nearly 40 years before finally buying the building in 1982. Before that, he liked to recall, Pizzeria Uno shared space with a variety of tenants, including a bordello at one point.
The popularity of the restaurant led Sewell to open Pizzeria Due ( two in Italian) down the street in 1955. Eight years later, he opened Su Casa, heralded as Chicago's first upscale Mexican restaurant.
Sewell, who was elected to the National Football Foundation's College Hall of Fame in 1987, eventually agreed to allow others to franchise his pioneering pizza concept, and there are now more than 50 Original Chicago Pizzeria Uno restaurants across the nation.
"Chicago-style and deep-dish pizza are interchangeable terms," said Pizzeria Uno manager Page Townsley. "It began here in 1943. It began right here in this restaurant, in this kitchen."