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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pizzeria Due [Meeting #84]

Pizzeria Due (part of Uno Chicago Grill) [GoogleMaps]
619 N. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

CPC invaded Pizzeria Due on 7/28/09.

Review submitted by Marla Collins' Husband

Given that Pizzeria Uno is the place that put Chicago on the global pizza map, the Chicago Pizza Club had to try it out in order to maintain our street cred. The obvious problem to meeting there is the same one that has rendered the original Uno's a destination dominated by tourists: the waits are ridiculous.

Twelve years after Pizzeria Uno opened in 1955, the owners opened a second location to satisfy their growing legion of fans. Uno's was actually originally called The Pizzeria, but when the second place opened a block away, they renamed the original Pizzeria Uno and the new place, Pizzeria Due. Much of the staff at Due's, including pizza legend Rudy Malnati, came from Uno's, and the two have been linked ever since. Still, because Uno's has the name, it is significantly more popular. Due's is also very popular, but tends to have shorter wait times than Uno's, so that's where the CPC went to examine the origins of deep dish pizza.

It is worth noting that Due's does take reservations Mondays through Thursdays, but they refuse to say how many. I was told that it varies depending how busy they are. I asked how they know how busy they're going to be weeks in advance of a particular night and was told that it's based on how many reservations they have. That response, of course, led me back to the question of how many reservations they accept, which the person I spoke with again refused to divulge. My hunch is that they only take a reservation or two per night from the public and that the rest come through hotel concierges with whom the restaurant has a relationship.

Anyhow, thanks to the generosity of Adam, the newest CPC member, who got there at 5:30 to place our order, the rest of us didn't have to wait too long after our 6:30 meeting time to be seated. We were at our table at 6:45 and were eating pizza less than 10 minutes later. How is it possible to get a pizza that takes 45 minutes to cook after just 10 minutes at the table? Easy: They require you to place your order when you put your name down to get a table. They then cook your pizzas most of the way, take them out of the oven, and then put them back in when you sit down.

They serve nothing but deep dish at Pizzeria Due and the 12 CPCers who showed up split three large pies. It is worth noting that the menu at Due's (and Uno's for that matter) is different from the menu on the Uno's website. Uno's Chicago Grill, which has over 200 locations spread across 31 states and DC, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, has a very different menu from the original two pizzerias. At Uno's and Due's, pizza eaters can either build their pies or choose from six "Specialty Pizzas."

Because we are special people, we got three specialty pizzas. Up first was the Numero Uno, which has a whole lot of sausage along with pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and green pepper, along with extra mozzarella cheese and a chunky, tangy sweet sauce. I really liked this pizza and it seemed to go over well with the group. The sausage had really good amount of fat and chewiness, though no noticeable fennel. The pepperoni was a step above your typical Hormel-quality pepperoni that ruins pizzas all over the country. The crust, which was the same on all three pies, is really thick and really had an almost nutty taste to it. It looked like and kind of tasted like a wheat or whole grain crust, though the restaurant would surely advertise it if that was the case. It's been over a year since I had Uno's, but I remember the crust being a yellowish color there and having a corn mealish taste to it. I didn't love the crust, but I thought it was good enough. And the thickness allowed it to stand up to the varied and plentiful toppings on all three pies.

The second pizza was the BBQ Chicken pizza. Personally, I have never had a chicken pizza that I liked and I'm always surprised when restaurants sell it. But I know that barbecue chicken pizza put California Pizza Kitchen on the map, so clearly there are plenty who disagree with me. The pizza featured a blend of cheeses (mozzarella, Romano, and cheddar) and an inconsistent application of a citrus barbecue sauce. One CPC member liked the chicken pizza enough to eat two whole slices, but the rest of our reactions ranged from tolerating to revulsion.

The third pizza was the Spinoccoli, which features spinach and broccoli along with a the same three cheese from the chicken pizza and garlic and tomato sauce. I also really enjoyed this pizza, though I would have preferred a less grain-flavored crust with it. The menu lists the broccoli as fresh, but does not use the same adjective to describe the spinach. I'm not sure whether the spinach was fresh or not, but it definitely seemed like it was previously frozen and that is inexcusable. Despite the weak spinach, I enjoyed the Spinoccoli almost as much as the Numero Uno.

At the end of the day, Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due are worth checking out at least once, but there are multiple pizzerias within a mile or two (Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, Pizano's, a lot of thin crust places) that are both better and do not require as long of a wait.

Petey Pizza gives Due's a 6.84.

Pizzeria Due on Urbanspoon


  1. I really liked the two pizzas I had (the Spinoccoli and the Numero Uno), especially the crusts on both. Dan is right, this pizza definitely had some sort of whole grain thing going on, but what I really liked about it was the yeasty aftertaste it had. And of course, it definitely was sturdy and held up well to the conglomeration of cheeses, sauce and toppings it held.

    While I enjoyed the Numero Uno I always feel that this "special" combination of toppings is overplayed. But the sausage was tasty, the onions and pepperoni were good, but I just don't think green peppers works well on pies as it usually comes out of the oven soggy and leaving the pie a bit soggy as well.

    The vegetables on the Spinoccoli on the other hand worked very well. Especially the fresh broccoli... and the cheddar cheese on this pizza worked really well too in my opinion.

    All in all, a very solid Chicago deep-dish pizza. The only drawback I see is having to contend with slack-jawed tourists in order to get a table. I give Pizzeria Due a solid 8.

  2. You know, I really liked this pizza. I wasn't sure what to expect, although I did go to Uno's a few years ago and I liked it then as well.

    The sausage and pepperoni were all over this pizza in plentiful amounts. The sausage was in big pieces and I wondered if it was a patty they crumble into 2 or 3 pieces. It was good and greasy on top of a crust that could take the grease. I think the flavor of the crust was a little disarming for some members. It tastes like a dry, crumbly cake, but I perversely enjoyed it. Flavor aside, the crust was a great consistency for holding the ingredients and not falling apart under them.

    I think I'm starting to come around on spinach being frozen. Can I tell the difference between frozen and fresh? I like to think so. Is there a big difference? Unless the fresh spinach is very good, I don't think so. If frozen spinach keeps my costs down, I think I am OK with it. The Spinocolli pizza was excellent. The cheese kind of clumped on my pieces, but the combination of the two vegetables was outstanding.

    BBQ chicken pizza. Disgusting. It was slathered in something resembling the worst bottled sweet BBQ you can find in the store. The chicken was overcooked and I'm assuming was the ubiquitous breast. Is it too much to ask, ever, for a place to use any other cut of chicken for sandwiches, nachos, etc? Anyway, this pizza was terrible. Leave this stuff for cities where elective cosmetic surgery rates is a rite of passage.

    I give Due's an 8.4 despite the BBQ pizza. I thought their real pizzas more than made up for the crapulence of that sorry excuse for pizza.

  3. It was nice to return to Due's after many years. The wait wasn't as long as expected and Adam's pre-ordering certainly got the service rolling quickly.

    The Spinnocoli was the most interesting of the three because of the spinach/broccoli and cheddar cheese combo. The spongy texture and sharper flavor of the cheddar cheese went well with the veggies.

    I liked the Numero Uno as well with it's large chunks of sausage and pepperoni. There were some onions and green peppers, but they were bit players in this piece.

    I didn't find the BBQ chicken pizza to be as bad as others thought, but it wasn't great either.

    The Due's crust was strange and reminded me of a Wasa cracker, which is not favorable. It was tough and had a yeasty and whole-grainy flavor.

    Overall, Due's is a nice place to check out, but I would prefer Gino's, Lou Malnati's or Giordano's for classic/famous Chicago deep dish.


  4. Before moving to Chicago Due was the pizzeria that I always tried to hit when I was in town. After living in the city for a year I was excited to see how Due stacked up to my now more sophisticated pallet (at least as it relates to pizza in Chicago). A great thing about CPC is there are bound to be pizzas ordered by the group that I would never order otherwise and tonight wasn’t different.

    The first slice to hit my plate was the BBQ chicken. Prior to having a wonderful chicken, artichoke and garlic pie (with red sauce) at Piece, I firmly believe that chicken simply didn’t belong on a pizza. After a couple bites of this awful pie I’m starting to think that again. WOW! This was BAD! I could have overlooked the subpar and sparse BBQ sauce if it were not for the terrible cheese combination. I’ve never cared for cheddar on a pizza but this takes my hatred to an entirely different level. I tried picking at the crust to find something to take away the overpowering tangy cheddar / BBQ flavor to no avail. This pie ranks alongside Cleo’s as the worst in Chicago.

    Thankfully I was able to get half a slice of the Numero Uno to cleanse my pallet. The sausage on this pie was simply outstanding and when mixed with the other toppings made for a truly great pizza.

    I should have stopped at the Numero Uno but foolishly tried the Spinoccoli. The Spinoccoli had the same cheese combination as the BBQ chicken, which I found repulsive. The toppings seemed to work well together and I was pleasantly surprised that the broccoli / spinach combination worked as well as it did. If it were not for the cheese this pizza would have gotten a passing grade.
    If you stick to standards (like the Numero Uno) Due has a fine Chicago style pie. That being said, I still cringe when thinking about their other “specialty” pizzas.
    6.5 for the Numero Uno (1 for the others)

  5. Like other people here I've been to Uno's and Due's before and I remember enjoying the pizza. After last night I realized that that's because I've always stuck to the tried and true toppings like pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms.

    The Numero Uno pizza was excellent. The sausage was full of flavor, all the ingredients mixed well, and there were large chunks of tomatoes to fill in for the lack of sauce. And while I didn't like the crust on any of their pizzas enough to eat the thick end bits on their own, underneath all those toppings it tasted fine and was sturdy enough so that you could eat the slice with your hands.

    The other two pizzas didn't impress me as much. I got to the Spinoccoli at the end, so the cheese, spinach and tomato sauce were room temperature and may have lost some of their initial flavor. That left only the crunchy, slightly bitter broccoli to taste with each bite. Maybe it's a better mix when the pizza is hot and the broccoli provides a contrast.

    Finally, I was the pizza club member who ate two whole slices of the barbecue chicken pizza, and, to clear things up, I had that last slice because I was pretty hungry. The pizza tasted like a whole lot of chicken and cheddar on some wheat bread. I like barbecue chicken pizza and I was excited to try a deep dish version, so I was pretty disappointed when this one turned out to be really bland.

    Anyways, if you stick to the classic pizza toppings Due's is a great place to visit. However, I think it's fair to only give them a 6 because some of their pizzas just weren't very good.

  6. As others have said, the Numero Uno was terrific. It was loaded with sausage, and it has a solid crust. Even with all the sausage, there was enough space for a very tomato-y sauce.

    I wasn't crazy for the Spinoccoli. I think I prefer fresh spinach for pizza, and this was probably frozen spinach. I generally enjoy broccoli, but I must say I don't like it on a pizza. Something about the combination did not work for me.

    My first slice of the BBQ chicken pizza was a major disappointment. The slice was all chicken and cheese and almost no barbecue sauce. The result was bland and boring. Because there was so much of this pie leftover, I decided to give it another try. I'm glad I did. THe second slice had lots of barbecue sauce and gave it the much needed kick to complete the idea of a bbq chicken pizza. I probably would not recommend this pizza, but if you did get it, I would specifically request extra sauce.

    Overall, this is a good pizza, so I give it a 6.0.

  7. For the reasons mentioned in the review, I give Pizzeria Due a 7.2.

  8. Having been to Due about three years ago, and Uno about one year ago, I thought I'd find the pizza at least vaguely familiar, and also thought that they'd have some consistency across the spectrum (albeit narrow) of their specialty pies. Oddly enough, that didn't happen at this meeting.

    I had the dubious honor of selecting the pizza offerings for the meeting and was the culprit behind the BBQ chicken pizza. Out of both curiousity and obligation, I too, had two slices of that particular pie. I commented to Chand and Stelio upon the first slice's arrival that it looked like a quiche. Little did I know that this premonitory observation would become materially manifest - the cheese was overwhelming and I'll join in El Presidente's assessment of the chicken in saying that it was mostly overcooked (at times I wondered if they had slipped flakes of bacon onto/into the pizza, it was so rigid and dense - a popular quiche ingredient). I will say that, despite its shortcomings, I did at least somewhat enjoy the BBQ chicken pizza and, if prevailed upon to order it in the future by interested friends, would give the above disclaimers but would participate in a single slice if I were the dealbreaker on the decision.

    Stelio shared a bite of his Spinoccoli with me, and I enjoyed the moist-but-not-too-moist combination of the vegetables. I think fans of sharper cheeses would appreciate this pie, as the interplay reminded me of a milder version of feta.

    Although I didn't try the Numero Uno, I saw plenty of approving nods and think that I'd definitely go for it down the road based on everyone's input.

    I, like Andrew, noticed a decided 'yeast' flavor to the crust. I couldn't finish the outer crusts on my second piece, as there was just too much there to contend with.

    From my point of view, I give my Due pizza a 6.2 on the whole, the score subsidized by the inclusion of Spinoccoli.

  9. Like others, I had been to Due's a couple of times in the past, but not recently, and I don't really see a need to go back again given the better deep dish options downtown and beyond. The Uno was quite good, but the crust was the weak link. The texture and consistency were a bit hard and dry, and that was okay, but I didn't enjoy the flavor. The sausage was very good, and I liked the pepperoni but there could have been more of it.

    The Spinoccoli was ok, but the spinach did not taste very fresh. I love broccoli in any form so I may be a weirdo for liking this one. I only had a bite of the bbq chicken, and it didn't seem as bad as everyone described it. You have to like cheddar and chicken and the tang of bbq sauce, which are three things that can be tasty, though they don't necessarily belong on a pizza.

    Overall, I'd say stick to the Uno and other basics.


  10. Admittedly, my only experiences with Pizzeria Uno have been lunches at a location in Madison and getting the 4 cheese/pesto frozen pizza all the time when I was young and lazy. Overall, I'm pleased that I took the time to eat at Pizzeria Due, and not just because of the incredible company I was keeping. (BTW, big thanks to Adam for showing up early to reserve our spot and order the pizzas!.)

    The spinach broccoli pizza was by far my favorite. I thought that the spinach was fine; even if it had spent some time in a freezer at some point, it was far better than the watery clumps usually indicative of the frozen stuff. I loved the balance of sauce, vegetables and chucks of salty, chewy cheese on this slice.

    The Uno was my second. I agree with Kate that there could have been more pepperoni, which was certainly better than the usual greasy tasteless slabs served at pizzerias, but I had only one piece on my slice. Fortunately the sausage was great quality since it dominates this pizza. It's impossible to get a bite without a giant mouthful of delicious pork, and, well, to me that's a pretty special thing. I just want more I guess.

    You know when your expectations are set so low for something that it kinda of blows your mind a little just by not being completely terrible? That's how I felt about the bbq chicken. It's not that I liked it, but that's mostly because I am incapable of liking bbq chicken pizza — it's that I can appreciate why someone might see this as a good bbq chicken pizza if they are into that sort of thing. Unlike the little squares of chicken often served in a pool of sauce, Due serves a substantial amount of shredded chicken. I thought the sauce and toppings were in balance, and hey, it wasn't all that bad. I would never order it for myself, but if I had a friend who for whatever reason liked that kind of thing, I would recommend it at Due.

    Overall, I actually really liked the crust at Due. I loved the yeasty breadyness of it, the nice solid crunch it had on the edges, and the way that it holds it's ingredients with integrity. Like the other Uno's restuarants, the pizza was a little heavy for me so not something I can eat all the time. But, this review is about taste. It's a much better representation of Chicago style pizza than Giordanno's, but I do agree with Dan that the wait might not be worth it when you have better options within walking distance.

    I feel comfortable giving Due a solid 7.

  11. Very nice review! I could almost taste it because I think I have tasted just it but like maybe... I dunno like 16 years ago when I decided I couldn't stand eating food that would keep me in optimal preservation for a thousand odd years. Or at least the grimy meaty part. I suppose I still do eat crap... oh, yes I do!

  12. Crust was very nice. Corn meal and butter make a classic combo. The crust reminded me of Lou Malnati's crust, but more crumbly. I was not surprised to learn from Marla Collins' Husband that Lou learned the tricks of the trade while working at Uno's.
    The barbeque pizza was less memorable. I don't think that cheddar and bbq sauce go well period, especially on a pizza.
    My favorite pizza was the classic straight up sausage pizza.
    6.0 out of 10.

  13. I'm starting to wonder whether Pizzeria Due took out the CPC. No new pizza outings since the end of July.......

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