Food writers around the country were chuckling in unison this week over a missive sent by one of Chicago’s most popular deep-dish chains, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. In the wake of being vapidly slandered by a character in the recently released Netflix show Emily in Paris, the deep-dish icon sent out a formal news release condemning the TV show in no uncertain terms.
The show centers on a Chicago ad executive who moved to Paris. The comments in question describe deep dish as “quiche made of cement.” The writer’s room probably high-fived each other pre-pandemic believing they’d improved upon the often used critique “it’s not pizza, it’s a casserole.” The Tribune’s TV reporter, Tracy Swartz, picked up a story based on Malnati’s news release.
“While the writers of Emily in Paris may not be fans of Deep Dish Pizza or Lou Malnati’s in particular, generations of Chicagoans would strongly disagree,” the news release reads. “Malnati’s is always the first to participate in good-natured banter with pizza lovers from New York or California. However, it feels especially unkind to disparage anyone during these difficult times, given that most restaurants are struggling to hang on.”
Marc Malnati, who’s also defended the valor of deep dish on New York-based the Daily Show, said this in the release: “We’ve been serving Chicago’s favorite deep dish since 1971. When Netflix’s Emily in Paris writers chose to take a shot at Chicagoans and our pizza to try to get a laugh, it felt heartless and not humorous in the midst of COVID-19.”
Writers outside of Chicago, the tourists themselves who have helped pigeonhole Chicago’s culinary contributions, celebrated the pizzeria for calling the TV show out. In a sea of boring submissions, Malnati’s news release stood out as the pizzeria’s marketing staff made sure to blanket journalists coast to coast with the news release. Khushbu Shah, restaurant editor at Food and Wine, declared: “Incredible email to receive. Justice for Lou Malnati’s!!!”
Marketing — like the Emily in Paris press release, which successfully resulted in this post — has been an important component in deep dish’s popularity. Longtime Chicago food writer Kevin Pang wrote in 2018: “Look, I get the appeal of deep-dish pizza, because that’s what decades of a powerful marketing lobby has callused into the minds of non-Chicagoans. I hate to break it to you: It’s tourist food — not that tourist food can’t be delicious — but it’s a dish most Chicagoans stay away from.”
Deep dish in its many forms, while consistently satisfying, is a novelty for Chicagoans. Thin-crust tavern-style pizza is less caloric and allows the toppings, like sage- and fennel-heavy sausage, to shine. While both represent Chicago, tavern style conjures up more nostalgia and is what Chicagoans raised in the city (sorry, Schaumburg) consume the most. Lou’s also serves these thin crusts (and they do them very well). But tavern style is also considered a threat to deep-dish dominance.
A few Chicago chefs urged Eater Chicago to ignore the news release, saying it fed into misinformed national perceptions about Chicago (where parachute journalists love to share hot takes). It doesn’t look like show creator Darren Star or any of the writers from Emily in Paris have discernible Chicago roots. Chicagoans shouldn’t care what outsiders think, they say.
John Carruthers, communications manager at Revolution Brewing and thin-crust pizza maestro, lamented the city’s sensitivity: “Everything else is ‘eff you, jagoff — Chicago’s the best!’ Insult a local pizza style and suddenly everyone takes on the wounded pride of a dowager getting pied in the face in a Three Stooges short.”
Suddenly, Chicago felt like the city of slumping shoulders, as the Malnatis allowed a romantic comedy to get under its skin. It’s telling and disappointing. But I can write that as I’m a Chicago native. The rest of you are sensitive jagoffs. Especially, Emily — well, at least her writers.
- The seductive absurdity of Netflix’s Emily in Paris [Vox]
- Lou Malnati’s calls ‘Emily in Paris’ deep-dish dig ‘heartless and not humorous’ [Tribune]
- Watch Lou Malnati’s Forge a Pizza Truce on The Daily Show [ECHI]
- Where to eat in Chicago if you only have 24 hours in town [The Takeout]
- Chicago’s 20 Essential Tavern-Style Thin-Crust Pizza Restaurants [ECHI]