Of course, there was also plenty of pizza. I’m not talking about the thin chewy variety served at Ray’s Pizza in NYC (or is it “Famous Rays,” “Original Rays,” “Famous Original Ray’s,” or “Original Famous Ray’s” (I guess that’s another post for a trademark lawyer), but the deep dish variety for which Chicago is known. Given that I named Gino’s East as part of my desired last meal on earth, you know my preference—although I do admit that I like both types of pie.
As I ate my way through Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East (along with an unsuccessful try at convincing the family to have a lunch at My π), I was struck by how many different folks had managed to successfully start deep dish pizza chains in Chicago. When you read through the histories of these restaurants, along with Pizzeria Uno, you’ll notice some entrepreneurial themes:
- Having a large public appetite (pun intended) for your product means there’s room for multiple successes, even in a seemingly crowded field.
- As with many great technology company disputes (e.g., Apple Computer v. Microsoft Corporation), it seems that there’s a lot of controversy about who actually invented deep dish pizza—was it Ike Sewell at Uno’s or his chef, Rudy Malnati, father of Lou.
- Many of these restaurateurs had difficulties as they tried to expand and/or franchise their concepts. As with many companies, maintaining culture and managing cash during a growth phase proved a daunting task.