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Chicago Pizzaria Lou Malnatis Plans Arizona Expansion

Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza. Illinois’ largest city and the unofficial capital of America’s Midwest has made a name for itself by, among other things, serving up unique deep dish pizza recipes to locals and visitors alike. No trip to Chicago is complete without a stop at one of several famous Chicago deep dish locations. One of the most well known of these Chicago deep dish joints is Lou Malnati’s. The company operates 40 locations in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. The original in the near suburb of Lincolnwood is still in operation today and sees packed crowds day in and day out. The headquarters has since moved to the northern suburb of Northbrook about 25 miles from the city.

Lou Malnati’s actually got its start as a spin off from another Chicago favorite, Pizzaria Uno. Lou and his father Rudy co-managed the original Uno location in Chicago’s River North area. In 1971, Lou and his wife Jean decided to part ways with Uno and opened the first ever Lou Malnati’s. Some contend that the restaurant opened just across the city line in Lincolnwood because Lou signed a Chicago only non-compete with his former employer.

Lou Malnati died of cancer in 1978, but his sons Rick and Marc continue to operate the business to this day, taking it from a small time player in a few suburbs, to a multi-chain deep dish pizza icon.

Now, the beloved Chicago favorite is coming to Arizona. Phoenix’ Uptown Plaza will see the area’s first Lou Malnati’s outpost set to open this May. The restaurant will have room for 240 guests in a grassy outside courtyard area. Lou Malnati’s is hoping to capitalize on Phoenix’s sizeable Chicago transplant community. Retirees that moved here from Chicago flocked to the area’s first ever Portillo’s when it opened 2 years ago in Scottsdale. The pizza operator will also provide delivery service for a small fee.

Frank Petrovic, a Gilbert, Arizona resident who used to reside in Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood on the northwest side, has already circled May on his calendar in anticipation of the grand opening. “Lou’s is not my favorite. I personally prefer Giordano’s which is actually stuffed not deep dish pizza. Something only Chicagoans really now since it’s a subtle difference. Giordano’s also makes an excellent thin crust. But I’ll take Lou’s. There’s nothing like real deep dish in Arizona anywhere or really anywhere west of Orland Park [Illinois]. They say the water is just not right for making good pizza here.”

Petrovic may actually be onto something with his “wrong kind of water” theory. In its first ever Arizona restaurant, Lou Malnati’s is installing a water filtration system to replicate Chicago’s water quality. Arizona’s dry climate leads to very hard, mineral rich water that is not ideal for baking. Bakers are almost always forced to install aftermarket water treatment systems in the Phoenix area.

Once the new water system is in place and the restaurant is built out, Chicago transplants and Phoenix natives alike will no longer have to travel far to get a true taste of Chicago deep dish right here in the Arizona desert.  

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