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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The Popcorn Company That's Creating Jobs for Adults With Autism
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A New Jersey-based gourmet popcorn company is dedicating its profits to creating new employment “popportunities” for adults on the autism spectrum, A Plus reports.

Popcorn for the People, founded by Rutgers University professor Dr. Barbie Zimmerman-Bier and her husband, radiologist Dr. Steven Bier, is a nonprofit subsidiary of the couple's charitable organization Let’s Work For Good, which focuses on "creating meaningful and lasting employment for adults with autism and developmental disabilities." Recognizing the lack of skilled employment options for adults with developmental disabilities, the Biers decided to create jobs themselves through this popcorn venture, with all of the profits going to their charitable organization. According to the site, every tin of popcorn purchased "provides at least an hour of meaningful employment" to adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, who perform jobs like making popcorn, labeling products, and marketing.

The couple developed the idea for the business and the nonprofit in 2015 when their son, Sam, grew tired of his job at a grocery store. Sam, 27, is on the autism spectrum, and after six years of working as a “cart guy,” he decided he was ready to try something new. Employment opportunities were scarce, though. Jobs that provided enough resources for someone on the spectrum tended to consist of menial work, and more skilled positions involved a tough interview process.

“Some companies mean well, but they are limited in what they can offer,” Steven Bier told TAP Into East Brunswick in 2015.

Unemployment rates are especially high among adults with autism. Last year, Drexel University reported that only 14 percent of autistic adults who use state-funded disability services are employed in paid work positions. And while high-functioning autistic adults are often perfectly capable of working in technical careers, the actual process of getting hired can be challenging. People with autism tend to struggle with understanding nuance and social conventions, which makes the interviewing process particularly difficult.

Enter the Biers' popcorn business. What began in 2015 as the Pop-In Cafe (which still sells popcorn and deli items at its New Jersey location) now distributes flavored popcorn all over the world. In three years, the organization has gone from a staff of four, with one employee on the autism spectrum, to a staff of 50, nearly half of whom are on the spectrum. In July, the organization plans to expand to a larger production facility in order to keep up with demand.

The company provides an environment for employees to learn both hard skills, like food preparation and money management, and what the company describes as “watercooler life skills.”

"There just aren't many programs that teach these sorts of things in a real-world environment, with all that entails," Bier told My Central Jersey. "These are skills that the kids can use here, and elsewhere."

According to A Plus, you can now buy Popcorn for the People in person at locations like the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey and the Lyric Theatre in Times Square. The organization sells 12 flavors of popcorn (including cookies and cream, Buffalo wing, and French toast), all created by Agnes Cushing-Ruby, a chef who donates 40 hours a week to the company.

“I never thought that the little pop-up shop would grow into this,” Sam told A Plus. “It makes me so happy to see we have helped so many people.”

[h/t A Plus]

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10 Strange Publicity Stunts by Major Food Brands
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IHOb Restaurants

Celebrities have always loved doing crazy things for press—but these days, even corporations will go to extreme lengths to get the word out about their products. Case in point: IHOP's recent attempt to create a little mystery, and sell some burgers, as IHOb. Below you’ll find 10 of the weirdest stunts done to promote mass-produced food items.

1. COLONEL SANDERS RAPPELS DOWN A HIGH-RISE

It’s hard to imagine KFC’s elderly Colonel Sanders doing much outside of eating and talking about his “finger lickin’ good” fried chicken. But in 2011, a man dressed as the Colonel strapped on a harness and rappelled down Chicago’s River Bend building. The Colonel didn't stop at rappelling down the 40-story building; he also handed out $5 everyday meals to window washers. What was KFC’s concept behind this dangerous promotion? They wanted to show the world they were taking lunch to “new heights.”

2. THE WORLD'S LARGEST POPSICLE

Sometimes being the biggest doesn’t mean you’re the best. In 2005, Snapple wanted to make the world’s largest Popsicle to promote their new line of frozen treats. Their plan was to display a 25-foot-tall, 17.5-ton treat of frozen Snapple juice in New York City’s Union Square. However, their plan ended in a sticky disaster. The day Snapple tried to present the Popsicle, New York was experiencing warmer than expected temperatures. The pop melted so quickly that a river of sticky sludge took over several streets. In a city already congested by traffic and tourists, this made Snapple enemy No. 1 that day to the people of New York City.

3. COFFEE CUPS ON CAR ROOFS = FREE COUPONS

A cup of Starbucks coffee
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Starbucks believes in rewarding those who embrace the holiday spirit. In 2005, the Seattle-based coffee giant developed a campaign by which brand ambassadors drove around with replicas of Vente Starbucks cups affixed to their car roofs. If anyone stopped the ambassador to warn them about the coffee cup on their roof, that person received a $5 gift card to Starbucks. Starbucks wanted the world to know being a good samaritan really can pay!

4. MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

Imagine walking the beach and finding a sealed bottle of Guinness. But instead of finding beer inside, you find a note from King Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. In 1959, that happened to people along North America’s Atlantic coast. Guinness wanted to build brand awareness in the area, so they dropped 150,000 sealed Guinness bottles into the ocean. The bottle contained Neptune’s scroll announcing the House of Guinness’s Bi-Centenary as well as a document instructing the reader on how to make a Guinness bottle into a table lamp. While no one got a free beer (boo!), they did walk away with an arts and crafts project.

5. EAU DE FLAME-BROILED

Who can resist the smell of flame-broiled burgers? The answer is most people—at least when it comes in the form of a body spray. Burger King’s 2008 campaign promoting the “scent of seduction” may be one of the weirdest ideas on this list. The fast-food company thought they could capture the world’s attention by creating and advertising a meat-scented cologne called FLAME by BK. Though select New York City stores actually sold the scent, all of this was a tongue-in-cheek campaign to make the 18- to 35-year-old male demographic laugh.

6. HERE COMES THE SUN

London commuters experienced an unexpectedly bright morning during January 2012. Tropicana worked with the art collective Greyworld to create a fake sun promoting their “Brighter Morning” campaign. The "sun," made up of more than 60,000 light bulbs, rose over Trafalgar Square at 6:51 a.m. on a particularly chilly morning. The sun set at 7:33 p.m. Tropicana continued to promote their sun day, fun day by having Londoners sit under the sun with branded sunglasses, deck chairs, and blankets. 

7. AIRPORT STEAK DELIVERY

Some of the craziest publicity stunts can’t be planned. We live in a world of 24/7 social media, and when the Twitterverse gave Morton’s Steakhouse an opportunity, they seized upon it. Before flying from Tampa to Newark, Peter Shankman, an entrepreneur and author, jokingly tweeted at Morton's Steakhouse that he wanted a porterhouse steak to be waiting for him when he landed. As Shankman was a frequent diner and social media influencer, Morton's Steakhouse saw the opportunity to start a conversation—and they went for it: When Shankman touched down in Newark, he was greeted by his car service driver and a Morton’s deliveryman. If only all travelers could experience that happiness in an airport.

8. BUYING THE LIBERTY BELL

April Fools Day gags can be great for brands … or an embarrassment. In 1996, Taco Bell took out an ad in The New York Times saying they bought Philadelphia's Liberty Bell. The ad also informed people of the bell’s new name: "Taco Liberty Bell." Back in the mid-1990s, people couldn’t go on Twitter or Facebook to find out the truth. Instead, they wrote the publication voicing their outrage. The hoax may have worked in getting press coverage (650 print publications and 400 broadcast media outlets publicized the joke), but what does that say about your brand when people actually believe you would rename a historic monument for your own gain?

9. CREATING THE LARGEST MAN-MADE FIRE


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In 2011, the Costa-Mesa based chain El Pollo Loco sent out press releases saying they planned to create the world’s largest man-made fire. Why would they create a fire? El Pollo Loco needed to get the word out about their new flame-grilled chicken. Spectators attending the event were shocked to see that this stunt was actually a commercial shoot for the brand. The chain says they really did attempt to break the record. But many publications have stated the whole promotion was a fraud. Note to brands: When trying to pull off a publicity stunt and a commercial simultaneously, tell everyone your plan in advance.

10. KFC IN SPACE

KFC may just be the king of wild publicity stunts. In 2006, the company created an 87,500-square-foot logo at Area 51 in Rachel, Nevada. The company wanted to be the first brand visible from space. And it was no coincidence they picked a spot near “The World’s Only Extraterrestrial Highway.”

“If there are extraterrestrials in outer space, KFC wants to become their restaurant of choice,” said Gregg Dedrick, former president of KFC Corp. The world is not enough for KFC. They need the entire universe hooked on their Original Recipe.

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