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10 Deep Facts You Might Not Know About Uno Pizzeria and Grill

Love Chicago-style deep-dish pizza? You have Uno’s to thank for it.

1. FOUNDER IKE SEWELL INTENDED TO OPEN A MEXICAN RESTAURANT.

Former All-American football player at University of Texas at Austin and native Texan Ike Sewell missed Mexican food when a job as a liquor salesman took him to Chicago. He partnered with World War II vet Ric Riccardo with plans to open the city’s first authentic Mexican restaurant. But when they were testing menu options, Riccardo got so sick off an enchilada he insisted they ditch the Mexican food altogether.

2. UNO’S IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF DEEP-DISH PIZZA.

Inspired by his time serving in Italy, Riccardo suggested that the pair should opt for a pizza restaurant, instead. There was already plenty of pizza in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood and Sewell was concerned that it wasn’t unique enough—or substantial enough. In an effort to make pizza more like the hearty enchiladas he’d anticipated, they devised a thick crust pie filled with plenty of sauce and cheese. (There is some debate about whether the two founders—who were rarely if ever seen in the kitchen—came up with the iconic dish, or if it was someone else on staff.)

3. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED JUST “THE PIZZERIA.”

In 1943, Sewell and Riccardo opened their deep-dish pizza place in the basement of an old mansion on Ohio Street. At the time, it was called simply The Pizzeria and Chicagoans came mostly for the bar—that is, until free slices of deep dish quickly converted them. It was briefly known as “Riccardo’s Pizzeria,” and didn’t get “Uno” in the name until there was a “Due.”

4. THERE IS A PIZZERIA DUE.

Eventually, their deep dish became so popular that Sewell opened a second location just a few blocks away in 1955. To distinguish between the two, the original was renamed Pizzeria Uno and the offshoot was christened Pizzeria Due. In 1963, Sewell finally realized his original dream and opened Su Casa, Chicago’s first upscale Mexican restaurant.

5. SEWELL DIDN’T FRANCHISE, BUT HE DID HOLD ON TO THE ORIGINAL LOCATIONS.

For many years there were just the two: Pizzerias Uno and Due, located just a few blocks apart in Chicago. A businessman named Aaron Spencer, who owned a number of KFC locations, started asking Sewell for permission to purchase franchise rights in the mid-1970s. By 1979, Spencer had convinced Sewell to let him take the brand national. His Uno Restaurant Corporation opened locations across the country, but Sewell remained in charge of Pizzeria Uno, Pizzeria Due, and Su Casa until his death in 1990.

6. THE ORIGINAL TWO STAYED TRUE TO SEWELL’S VISION.

In 2005—long after Sewell died and his widow sold the chain—what was by then known as Uno Chicago Grill announced plans to lighten up their menu. Almost all 200 locations around the world would start offering low-calorie alternatives to the deep-dish pizza. The exceptions were those first two restaurants in Chicago. The original location of Pizzeria Uno along with Pizzeria Due were allowed to stick to tradition and continue to serve just the hearty deep-dish.

7. PIZZERIA UNO LOST FOOD WARS—BUT TO A DIRECT DESCENDANT.

Although Pizzeria Uno was the first to serve deep-dish to Chicago, it’s been long debated whether it was the best. In 2010, the Travel Channel's Food Wars decided to settle the matter once and for all by pitting Pizzeria Uno against Lou Malnati's, a Chicago-area staple since the 1970s. Unfortunately for tradition’s sake, the older Pizzeria Uno lost out to Malnati’s—but the twist is, one could not have existed without the other. Lou Malnati himself worked at Pizzeria Uno for 22 years, perfecting the Chicago deep dish, before branching out to open his own restaurant.

8. UNO’S GIVES BACK TO THE TROOPS—IN PIZZA.

Throughout December 2012, Uno’s offered coupon books for sale for $5 each. The money from the sales funded a non-profit organization, Pizzas 4 Patriots, that delivered 10,000 Uno’s pies to troops in Afghanistan for the Super Bowl. It wasn’t the first time the two organizations had partnered up. By then, they’d shipped some 50,000 pizzas to be shared by over 200,000 soldiers.

9. ALL THAT CHEESE AND BUTTERY CRUST ADDS UP.

Adds up to what? Try 1750 calories for a single serving of just a cheese and tomato deep dish. The Chicago Classic, which includes crumbled sausage in between the mozzarella cheese and chunky tomato sauce clocks in at 2300, which is considered more than a full day's worth of calories. And the sundae served deep-dish style comes in at 2700.

10. THERE'S A "FAST CASUAL" SPINOFF.

Uno Due Go is the fast casual spinoff designed for diners on the go. The menu is more general, featuring baked goods, sandwiches, salads, and even thin crust pizza. For now, the only standalone UDG—as it’s known—is located in downtown Boston, with locations in several universities and airports, as well. However, Uno Restaurant Holdings announced a plan last year to open additional locations throughout New England in the coming years.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
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“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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Design
The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Tengi

Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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