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Gino’s East Pizza

November 27th, 2007 · No Comments

Gino's East Pizza Gino's East Pizza

D: A venerable Chicago institution which had to move into a larger space due to its popularity although they moved many of the old graffiti-covered walls and booths to add to the atmosphere. Prepare to wait for the food since it takes approximately 45 minutes to cook the classic deep dish pizza once you order it. The boys ordered some soup to tide them over. The minestrone was an unexpectedly creamy tasty soup while the special of the day, chicken rice, was a clear type soup filled with chickeny ricey goodness. We ordered the Deep Dish Crumbled Sausage Pizza – which comes loaded with sausage and pepperoni. The pizza arrived piping hot and covered in the gooey thick cheese – the kind that fills your mouth with cheesy goodness. Otherwise the filling was average and the thick crust was not particularly tasty – actually I didn’t end up eating much of the crust. Our first experience of deep dish pizza was definitely average.

T: So as a collector of cliches and other sayings which run off the tongue, I had heard a million times people writing or saying “chicago deep-dish pizza”. But what was this, really? I remember that Pizza Hut used to have something in the 1980s called the ‘Priazzo’ which no doubt contributed heavily to my being a chubby little kid – and it was really my only experiment with anything ‘deep dish’ until I had a President’s Choice deep dish frozen pizza last year.

So – this being the big trip to Chicago – I had to try what was going to arguably be the best deep-dish experience to be had. A quick trip to Chowhound revealed that there was considerable debate over who was the best, although there were at least 3 or 4 contenders for the title. There seemed to be no agreement on the one true faith of deep-dish pizza -but three names – Uno, Gino’s, and Lou Malnati’s were the big contenders. Being a sucker for a popular name, I recognized Uno as being probably the most well-known, likely due to its spawning a chain of nationwide Chicago pizza/grill/Applebee’s/place-I’d-rather-avoid kind of restaurant, but hey – I figured the original had to have something to it.

My buddy who ran the Chicago marathon last year said that his meal post-race was at Uno’s and that it had pretty heavenly pie. But while in Chicago, we bumped into a friend of D’s who actually lived in Chicago. Thinking that it had to count for something, we took his opinion – he recalled Gino’s as being the best. Now – I had read on Chowhound that not only was there debate between who had the best pizza between the top 3 restaurants, but that there was even a debate over which restaurants in each chain served the best pizza – one post insisted that the suburban Gino’s was a world different (and better) than the Gino’s downtown.

Knowing that we were headed for Gino’s downtown, I just bit my lip and hoped for the best. Our friend very nicely drive us there, playing the part of the old raconteur – recalling his college days of many nights at Ginos – lining up for an hour to get in, then ordering a massive 8 pies for him and his no doubt drunken and raucous college buddies (I just assume that everyone was pretty much drunken and raucous in college, seeing how that is how I remember (or don’t) my college career). Combined with the fact that neither D or I had eaten anything since the prior afternoon, his stories of the atmosphere, the tomato sauce, and the cheese had our mouths watering and our blood sugar dipping into the critical zone.

We go there – and yes, this looked like the real thing. Zillions of celebrity photos on the walls, booths and benches that had long been carved into, painted over with graffiti covering almost every square inch of the restaurant – yes, this place had deep dish character in spades. All the posts on Chowhound told us to order some appetizer as the pizza would take about 45 minutes – so at the recommendation of the waiter, I ordered the chicken and rice soup, our buddy ordered the Minestrone, and we waited. The chicken and rice soup was – well…disappointing. It could probably count as comfort food, but there’s a lot of mothers out there who would use this soup to wash their dishes with before they served it to their families. Not that it was bad tasting – rather it was just pretty bland. There was no punch-you-in-the-mouth chicken flavor to it, nor was there any subtlety to it – if the bowl had a “Campbell’s” logo on it, I couldn’t have been more surprised. I sampled some of our friend’s Minestrone and quickly found that it was what I should have ordered – -thick, with a mix of textures, nicely salty, and with lots of beans – this was the comfort food that I was looking for.

The minestrone that I should have ordered

After the requisite wait (good things come to those who wait, don’t they?) , the pie arrived. While nobody would ever describe us as ‘malnourished’, we tore into the pie like a pack of wild wolves, only to discover…it was like tearing into a giant bread bowl of thickened tomato sauce, the world’s chewiest cheese, and very mild chunks of sausage.

No, really, that was what it was like.
Gino's East Pizza Gino's East Pizza

The crust was actually really great – it was a lot like Pizza Hut’s regular crust without all the greasiness – and I’m one of the people who really likes the Pizza Hut crust. The tomato sauce was really, really good – I’ve had tomato sauce made by a couple Italian grandmothers and this had all the thick, intense tomato flavor that you swear can’t be from the same fruit that we buy in supermarkets in North America. Not too sweet, not too salty – just about perfect. This sauce would be perfect on pasta, on bread, in pizza, on its own – anywhere. The cheese wasn’t particularly tasty – but yes it was thick and chewy – I’m glad that at least for now, I don’t have any fillings. And the chunks of sausage? Salty, bland.

Overall, this would be the best meal of my life if I had already
finished off ten Ten-Pennys and a pint of Captain Morgan. But
thankfully, and seeing as it was 3pm, and as I’m not 19 anymore,
I had not, and it was not. Instead, the meal was pretty disappointing
but that had a lot more to do with my expectations being too high.
The atmosphere was unique – comfortable seats, lots to look at,
music not too loud, really nice service, you just felt you could kick
back and be as comfortable there in a suit as in your favorite old
t-shirt (Pirates arrrr cool). But the food – well, it was only OK.

Would I go again? Well, sure if I’m sober and definitely if I wasn’t. It’s just that kind of place.

Gino’s East
633 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: (312) 943-1124

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Tags: Chicago · pizza

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