Deep Dive into Deep Dish Pizza

by | Jan 2019

Rosati's deep dish Chicago style pizza

Photos: Rachel Nadeau

Rosati’s features family recipes and cultural connections.

The term “Chicago-style” can be found on many pizza menus. The new Rosati’s in Maple Grove does it right, along with family recipes slow-cooked to perfection.

“My grandmother made pizza constantly,” says James Rosati, who grew up in Rochester, New York, in a very large, very food-centric Italian family. “We’re the New York Rosatis. You’d walk in the door, and Grandma Rosati would go, ‘Here. Eat food.’”

When Rosati moved with his family to the Twin Cities in 1995, he bounced around and got to know the nuances of the communities along the west side of Minneapolis. He eventually settled down in Maple Grove. While there were merits to the area, one thing was missing: good, deep pizza like his grandmother used to make.

“Lots of Twin Cities places say they’re doing Chicago-style, but there’s no real, true deep dish here,” Rosati says. So he began looking into pizza franchise options a few years ago. He inquired about Rosati’s, in part because of his last name—though there’s no confirmed family connection. Reps from the Chicago-based brand flew him down to train and get to know the menu. By the end, he started calling one of the instructors “cousin.”

“Then she saw my last name, and actually thought we were,” Rosati says. He can only trace the Rosati side of his family tree back to his father’s cousins, but “gosh, Uncle Tony looks a lot like the owner, Rick!” he says.

As he prepared to open a branch, Rosati conducted some delicious research and tried every single pizza place in Maple Grove. In the corner of town, where he had his sights set—near the old Toys ‘R’ Us, in buildings that had sat empty since 2008—there were only three competitors.

“But there’s this whole little side of town that’s really growing. Now that the [highway] 610 extension is done, there’s housing going in constantly,” he says. Rosati signed a franchise agreement last February, did a build-out early in 2018, and opened in August. The small-ish space is modern and youthful—with browns, reds and warm woods—and the flavors are catching on. The cheese ravioli in red sauce is a hit. Chicken parmesan is a hearty, flavorful option, but most people skew purist, opting for traditional sausage or pepperoni deep dish pizza.

“People are trying it like crazy,” Rosati says. “It’s probably a little fattening. But it’s so delicious.”

Rosati's deep dish Chicago style pizza

Rosati’s By the Numbers

Minutes it takes to cook a deep-dish pizza. “People are sometimes surprised by that … Chicago-style takes a long time to cook. It’s denser,” Rosati explains. “But it’s worth the wait!”

Franchises Rosati eventually hopes to own in the Twin Cities metro

Pounds of wings sold in the four days leading up to our interview. “I’ve been very surprised about how well wings sell here,” Rosati says. “I had to order an emergency shipment today. People go after wings like crazy!”

Percentage of Rosati’s business is delivery. It’s already delivered to the mayor—and a drunk man, who tried to pay $17 in cash for a $50 bill. (The delivery person left, pizza in hand, that night.)

Rosati’s franchises in the United States. Two Madison, Wisconsin, restaurants were the closest to the Twin Cities before this spot opened.

The Dish on “Chicago-Style” Pizza

Ask folks from Chicago, and they’ll have a clear favorite go-to deep dish restaurant. Pizzeria Uno lays claim, somewhat contentiously, to the “first-ever” title—with a restaurant opening in 1943 and eventually spreading coast to coast. But read a 1956 Chicago Daily News article, and you’ll find it was Uno’s original pizza chef, Rudy Malnati, who came up with the recipe. Uno’s eventually begat Pizzeria Due. Rudy’s son, Lou Malnati, started his own pizza brand that now has 52 Chicago-area locations, and they’ll ship anywhere in the U.S. His half-brother Rudy Jr. started Pizano’s. There’s also Gino’s East, Giordano’s, Louisa’s, Nino’s, Pequot, Bonci, Burt’s, and My Pie—to name a few.

Saverio “Sam” Rosati was the grandson of a New York-based Italian restaurant owner—and when his family moved to Chicago, there was no choice but to get into the business. He started his own pizza-specific brand in the 1920s, firmly committed to traditional Italian flavors and a motto: “Give the people what they want.” Rosati’s now has 200 franchises in the U.S. The pizza’s complicated family tree aside, the difference between it and other pies is simple. Chicago-style pizza is very deep, but with a thin crust—baked in a round, oiled steel pan—more like a pie than a flatbread.
The toppings are often piled in opposite order of how most would expect. The crust is piled with an surprising amount of sliced mozzarella, then meat (sometimes in a solid patty) and followed by veggies. Crushed tomato sauce is layered on top, and that cooks along with the rest of the dish.
Whether you’re ordering one for your table, take-out, or delivery—it comes uncut to avoid sogginess. Mangia!

Food Notes

Words to Know
You may know the ingredients, but how much do you know about what goes into some of your favorite Italian foods?

Hot chili peppers. Since 1992, there’s been a festival celebrating them each September in Diamante, Italy. And yes, there’s a pepper-eating contest.

Literally meaning “recooked” in Italian, it’s a whey cheese made from sheep, cow, goat or water buffalo milk whey left over from the production of other cheeses.

Veggies pickled in vinegar, herbs and oil. They’re usually eaten as an antipasto, on salads or as a condiment on other foods (like pizza).

Italian Beef
Many believe the sandwich origins can be traced to a spicy concoction made by Al’s #1 Italian Beef in Chicago at the end of World War I. At Rosati’s, it’s also a pizza topping, “slow cooked Italian beef with all the good stuff on it,” says Rosati. “It’s the same that you’ll find at any of the Rosati’s in Chicago.”

Italian Sausage
A style of pork sausage, seasoned with fennel and often available in hot, sweet and mild varieties.

15511 Grove Circle N.
Facebook: Rosati’s Pizza (Maple Grove, MN)
Twitter: @Rosatis_Pizza
Instagram: @rosatis_pizza


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