Many take issue with my perceived disdain for Deep Dish Pizza.  They ask me: “Joe – taste, texture, and vile appearance aside – what is your problem with deep dish pizza?” Well, the answer partly lies in its shocking and tragic history…

We can trace the origins of Deep Dish Pizza back to the late 19th century where Austrian troops introduced it as an instrument of torture during The First Italian War of Independence. It was designed to punish not only all five sense, but Italy’s burgeoning national pride.  So effective was it in its ability to break the spirit of prisoners (given the similarity of its appearance to actual pizza) that the Austrians dubbed it Tränen Kuchen (Pie of Tears). The Italians simply referred to it as Pizza Angoscia (Anguish Pizza).

Italian resistance fighters co-opted the dish during WWII, using it as a mode of secret communication by baking notes into its saucy morass. To the untrained eye of German occupiers, the Deep Dish Pizza would appear to be just another menu item. In truth, however, no self-respecting Italian would ever actually purchase the dish, ensuring that it would always be readily accessible to agents of Italy’s active underground network.

In 1949, article 17, paragraph 4 of the Geneva Convention prohibiting torture did not outlaw the use of Deep Dish Pizza by name, but it did include a fairly proximate recipe of the banned dish.

The dish then seemed to fall into obscurity, occasionally making an appearance on the menu of Italian circus geeks who would thrill audiences by consuming such items as chicken heads, rusty nails, lightbulbs, and, of course, what would later come to be known as Deep Dish Pizza.

Deep Dish Pizza eventually made its way to North America where it was used as a means of retaliation by Italian mobsters against their rivals, a sign of grave disrespect. It came to be referred to Il Piatto di Dolore Profondo (The Deep Dish of Pain).

It’s unclear how the dish made its way from the backrooms of mob restaurants to the dining rooms of pseudo-Italian eateries, but rumor has it that a dish destined for a rival mob boss ended up being delivered to the wrong house. The recipients, rather than complain, tracked down the restaurant and placed a new order. In time, word of this culinary abomination spread throughout Chicago, receiving such inexplicable support that the owner was able to retire from his life of crime.

It was renamed to the more palatable Deep Dish Pizza and has remained a North American menu mainstay ever since.

I hope you found this little less in culinary history informative. Join me next week when I break down the horrifying history of General Tso’s Chicken.

Dark Matter panel with Orville Nation won’t be happening tonight and will be rescheduled!

16 thoughts on “The sordid and shameful history of Deep Dish Pizza!

  1. Fifteen minutes for rebuttal!! Just keep your opinions to yourself!
    (slap to your face) Snap out of it!! And pass me a small pie!!

  2. My husband calls your feelings towards this type of “pizza” a Deep Dishdain.
    He’s here all week, folks. 😉
    While I’ve tried deep dish (when I lived in Boston & once while visiting Chicago) & don’t mind it (the bread part was buttery & flavorful), I was raised on NY pizza. If I can’t fold a giant slice in half, then it ain’t real pizza for me.
    Thank you for this painful & carb-laden history lesson.

  3. 😀 😀 😀 😀
    Very clever. Glad to see someone’s managed to get their creative juices flowing again. xo

    Personally, I’ve never cared for any style thick crust pizza and have never again bothered with deep dish pizza after trying it the first time. I grew up with large triangle cut thin crisp crust pizza celebrated across Long Island, Brooklyn and Bronx. Heavily loaded with cheese and oil ‘intentionally’ dripping from its bottom for extra flavor & dining experience. The slices fold up in half with a piece of wax paper wrapped around at base, to eat with your hands. Over the decades I’ve had the privilege of trying pizza all over the U.S. For my east coast trained taste buds nothing has ever compared. I was absolutely crushed when i began seeing a popular trend of chefs sharing how to eliminate the so called ‘excess’ oil. It was as if younger chefs honestly believed it was an ‘error’ older more experienced chefs could never seem to figure out how to correct. When older italian immigrant chefs in NY began to call out the younger chefs on it, the younger generation began more heavily promoting it as ‘healthier eating’. Such a laugh that brought. Kinda like trying to promote “diet cola” as being healthier than regular cola. Both remain fully capable of rotting your teeth and messing with your insides if you drink enough of it over the years. Really good pizza indulgence is dough, heavy cheese, sauce and often topped with a processed high sodium meat such as pepperoni or the like. Removing the wee bit of excess oil doesn’t do much for improving one’s health. It only serves to lessen the flavor and fun experience.

    I now yield the floor with a second to @Ponytails motion for 15 minute rebuttal.

    HEY! @DAS! Where U At?!

  4. Maybe I shouldn’t dig too deep into food history … or else I’ll probably starve to death … LOL

  5. You seem to have put profondo in the wrong place for your translation. What you wrote should really be “the dish of deep pain”.

    1. Yes, the translation is inexact. It actually translates to a dish of deep pain.

  6. Thanks for the laugh! I was born in Chicago but have never tried their deep dish pizza. Loved your recreated history! It made me read up on the history of pizza. Deep Dish Pizza’s origins are murky, so that fits into your narrative. 🙂
    “The tomato isn’t even native to Europe. The tomato was brought to Europe from South American in the 16th century and was believed to be poisonous. It quickly became a food for the poor. Isn’t it funny how many of our great food products, such as lobster, molasses, rum, and tomatoes, begin as food for the poor and enslaved?”

    I look forward to your General Tso’s Chicken history!

  7. For a minute you had me there, but then it hit me that as the excellent writer you are, you could probably make up any history about any food item and it would still sound plausible. 🙂

  8. I like dish deep pizza, however I haven’t eaten any since maybe the 90’s so I will abstain on judging either way. My new food obsession is the home recipe for Costco cilantro lime shrimp I made yesterday. And today. And will probably make again tomorrow since it is so tasty. I tried not to overcook the shrimp on today’s try and let it marinate a few hours. So yep, made it at breakfast to scarf down at lunch, it tastes like easy shrimp ceviche. I also realized my part time job continues to be carefully teasing green avocados to proper ripeness, gently placing them in a bruise free corner of the crisper, then forgetting them for weeks until I crack one open and find a horror show.

  9. LOL! I’ve never had DDP, and now I’m glad for it. Being gluten-free I have to opt for the even less desirable (than DDP) pizzas with crust made from rice flour, tapioca flour, cauiflower, cardboard, etc…but I doctor them up with my own fixin’s and they’re not too bad. My favorite combo is sausage, arugula, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, and fresh rosemary. ‘Tis yum!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.