Phoenix is pretty used to taking in Chicago winter survivors. We hang out with them at the spring training games for the White Sox and the Cubs (though seriously, why does Chicago have two baseball teams?), and we happily eat their chicken Vesuvio while we pretend to understand what windchill is. But one thing was missing.
Not just any pizza.
Lou Malnati’s pizza.
Chicago style. Deep dish. Warm. Like a hug made of cheese.“Cheese brought in from Wisconsin!” a Lou Malnati’s PR rep tells us in the kitchen while the Bitches take a tour before the restaurant officially opens. She did not have to tell us where the cheese came from. We’ve Googled because we’re already obsessed with Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, opening May 16th for dinner service. We also already know that Lou Malnati’s cans their California tomatoes when they’re at their sweetest and that the Phoenix Lou Malnati’s location is the first one outside of Illinois.
You’ve probably heard the name already. Lou Malnati’s is a family run pizza business that’s been around since 1971. And for good reason. Their signature (delicious) Chicago deep dish pizza comes from a recipe that’s been handed down through four generations. The dough is handmade from scratch daily and when we were invited to try it last week, we jumped at the chance because we know lines will be around the block for weeks to get into this place.
For the most part, Lou Malnati’s owner, Marc Malnati (Lou was his dad) says that the restaurant will stay true to their Chi-town roots. The dough in Phoenix is still made the same using the same flour from the same mill as the Chicago restaurant and reverse osmosis water recreates the taste of the H20 from Illinois, but a few things are being changed up for Phoenician palates.
“We developed some southwest sauces,” Malnati says, “They’ll debut soon.”
We weren’t too hung up on not getting the new sauces. We were here for pizza. Oh, and also the stuffed spinach bread, which is warm layers of cheese and spinach tucked inside a buttercrust loaf. Marc instructs us to cut it through the center so we get a good look at the melted goodness inside before we dig in.
It’s a great starter for The “Lou” we ordered, a deep dish pizza filled with Spinach mix, mushrooms and sliced roma tomatoes, and covered with blend of mozzarella, romano and cheddar cheese on their signature garlic Buttercrust.
It’s clear Marc Malnati loves pizza. “I’ve never had a bad pizza,” he says. And only people who really love pizza for what it is and what it isn’t can say that. Living in Arizona, where the artesian pizza became popular thanks to Chris Bianco, pizza has become somewhat of an art. Malnati’s, which also serves up a thin crust version of their pizza, does not disappoint.
You might expect deep dish to be wet and saucy, but let go of expectations. This pizza is crispy all the way through, not soggy, thanks to the Malnati family recipe, a great cheese to tomato ratio, and some mega hot ovens (We saw them and sweated in front of them. They make great pizza).
Their medium pizza is said to feed four people. Which is good news when there’s only two of you. Because leftovers.
Our server was kind enough to offer a serving suggestion, “Throw an egg over this pizza in the morning and it’s breakfast.”
Okay, but not if you eat your leftovers in the car.
Not that we did.
Maybe we did.
Lou Malnati’s opens at 4pm May 16th.
Located within the Uptown Plaza Shopping Center
100 E. Camelback Rd., suite 152, Phoenix, AZ 85012