CHICAGO -- A vibrant rainbow of fresh vegetables makes a Milly's Pizza In The Pan pie instantly recognizable. That's by design, according to the owner and lone pizza maker, Robert Maleski.
"I like to use colorful ingredients just to make the pizza pop," said Maleski. "I let the pizza bake for about five minutes before I pull it out, then I top it and then I put it back in the oven so that way the vegetables and toppings are a little more vibrant."
His grandmother's namesake, Maleski launched Milly's in 2020 after 16 years of working as a server at Chicago area restaurants. The pandemic shutdowns caused him to seize the moment for something he had always dreamed of doing.
"The wheels started turning in my head that maybe this is my opportunity to start a pizzeria," said Maleski.
Maleski got right to work perfecting his pie; a Chicago-style pan pizza with a caramelized cheese crust, reminiscent of the legendary Burt's Place in Morton Grove, Illinois.
"I go for a nice golden brown," said Maleski. "I think the darker the bottom is, the more flavor there is. It's like toast."
After landing on an iteration that is both delicious and pleasing to the eye, Maleski began pursuing financing for a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Unfortunately, the tens of thousands he needed to start Milly's wasn't easy to come by.
"I found it next to almost impossible to get a loan, so I started looking at other avenues and came across the ghost kitchen route," said Maleski.
For the next year and a half, Milly's Pizza In The Pan dazzled critics and fans alike, landing on listicles for the best deep-dish pizza in Chicago. Maleski said it was personal messages from online diners that connected most with him.
"I really like the interaction when I'm talking with a person," says Maleski. "It's really humbling, like 'wow.' Something I made is one of the best things they've ever eaten."
Maleski eventually ended up leasing a space in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, nestled uniquely among many Asian restaurants on Argyle Street. The restaurant is open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and Maleski alone produces each pie.
"Usually before I'm open, I am sold out of the pizzas," said Maleski.
In 2021, Milly's Pizza In The Pan was awarded Best Pandemic Pivot by the Chicago Tribune. Maleski is taken aback by the flattering feedback he has received in such a short amount of time.
"To open it and be successful at it is so humbling," said Maleski. "It blows me away like every single day."
For more information on Milly's Pizza In The Pan, visit https://www.millyspizzachi.com/