Chef Essig's Featured Item of the Week

mmmmm, deep dish pizza...

Pizza has long been popular among college students. However, they are not the only ones who enjoy sharing a pie with friends. The United States is the largest consumer of pizza in the world; an average American eats 28 pounds of pizza per year, totaling over 3 billion pizzas eaten nationwide. Estimates have shown that approximately 350 slices of pizza are consumed each second in the United States.


What is the attraction to this food?

Portability, convenience, flavor, texture, aroma all play an important role. Pizza appeals to all our senses; it has become a comfort food for our culture and is usually inexpensive. But how did pizza get started in the US in the first place? Here's a quick slice of pizza history.

According to Linda Stradley’s article on, the timeline of pizza followed this path... when Mount Vesuvius erupted in Italy in 79 AD, it uncovered possibly the first evidence of pizza production, linking the heritage of pizza to the Naples area. In the ashes of Pompeii, the ruins of structures were found with tools that look much like those used in a modern day pizzeria.


Tomatoes were likely not included in the recipes of Pompeii, since they were originally thought to be poisonous. They were brought back to Europe from Peru by early Italian explorers. The people of Naples began to dispel the myth of their poisonous properties by topping bread with tomato slices.

While on vacation in Naples in 1889, the King of Italy, and his wife, Queen Margherita di Savoia, sampled the pizza of a local pizzaioli (pizza chef). The Queen’s favorite had mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes; the colors of the Italian flag. Raffaele Esposito, the pizza chef, honored the queen by naming this specialty "Pizza Margherita.”

It's just Bread and simple toppings

In the late 19th century, Naples pizzerias began to develop. Pieces were cut from large trays of bread and topped with simple ingredients such as anchovies, mushrooms, and small quantities of flavorful items. As time went on customers would begin to request their favorite toppings as the pizzaioli’s would toss the dough. Pizzerias became popular places for people to eat and meet.

As Italians immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s, pizza followed. In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi of New York is said to have opened the first U.S. pizzeria.


Italians started moving to Chicago from Italy around 1850 and by 1940 there was a significant Italian population in the area. In 1943, Pizzeria Uno was the first restaurant credited with creating the Chicago-style pizza. The pizza cook, Rudy Malnati, produced the popular deep dish pizza for Uno’s.

Comfort Food, Casseroles, and Penny-Pinching

Chicago-style pizza took root in the age of comfort food, casseroles, and getting the most out of your pennies in the wake of The Depression. Deep dish pizza fit these needs; its popularity fueled by soldiers returning from Italy after World War II, bringing with them an appetite for pizza.

Chicago-style pizza is baked in a two-inch deep pan; cheese is placed directly on top of the crust and crushed tomatoes rather than sauce are layered on top. Because the “pie” is baked for 45 minutes and has a thick crust, this is not a quick meal or a portable one like its relative the New York-style pizza. The most common and most loved type of pizza by Americans is the pepperoni. We consume over 250,000,000 pounds of pepperoni per year.


Dining Services brings a “taste of Chicago” to the pizza station at Holmes & Bears Bistro at the UC by offering Chicago-style deep dish pizza. We make the flavorful dough from scratch, add herbs and garlic, and allow it to rise in deep dish pans. We add mozzarella cheese and a variety of ingredients, top with crushed tomatoes, sprinkle with parmesan, and bake for 40 minutes. Chicago-style pizza is a “fork-full” so stop in to enjoy a slice today!

Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

Bon Apetit!

Executive Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

Want to know what's being served in the dining rooms? Call the FoodLine (970.351.FOOD) for daily menus or look at our weekly menus online. Not signed up for the Faculty Staff Payroll Deduction program yet? Learn more about the program here.