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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Chicago Style – Part 2

Sunday, November 7, 2010 @ 06:11 PM

028This week is just one of those weeks where life is hectic…I feel totally exhausted and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get done what I had set out to do; and perhaps because I’m run so ragged, this is a week where I seem to be craving a lot of those gooey cheesy comfort foods I usually try to stay somewhat clear of.  Well, one dish that I always crave at times when I’m run down is pizza.  Pizza is my go-to guilty pleasure, and lucky for us we live in a city that has some great local pizza.  However, this isn’t the first time I’ve lived somewhere where pizza is readily available. In fact, I’m sure you are all well aware that we lived in Chicago, and that we have a love for "Chicago Style" deep dish pizza.  I even wrote about one of our favorite places in Chicago Style…Part 1, Giordano’s, and explained in that post that more post would be coming to compare some of the Windy City’s more famous pizza spots.  So on that note, our next feature is one of Chicago’s favorites, and is so famous that it is typically featured on a variety of travel and food shows showcasing Chicago. 

Gino’s East started back in 1966 when 2 taxi drivers and their friend got sick and tired of the rush hour traffic, so they decided to open up a pizza shop off Michigan Ave and Superior St.  It became an instant hit amongst city regulars and tourists alike who enjoyed laid back yet boisterous attitude of the place.  It has become so popular that they now have 14 locations, including one in Wisconsin and two in Indiana.  As I mentioned, it is also popular amongst food critics and travelers who want a true taste of famous Chicago deep dish.  We have seen Gino’s East in a variety of articles and television shows like Travel Channel’s "Pizza Wars" and most currently on their "Man vs. Food" series…

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Having experienced Chicago all of my life, Gino’s East "Chicago Style" deep dish is something I am very familiar with.  Let’s just say that I’ve had it more than a few times. Also, Gino’s has an item on their menu that I’ve become enamored with and used to get as much as possible when we lived there (and now there is one in South Bend…uh-oh! :)). Now I know this post is supposed to be dedicated to their famous deep dish, but it would not be a full review for me if I didn’t touch on this dish…one of my most favorite things ever…Spinach Sticks! 

So what are spinach sticks you might ask? Well simply they are like mozzarella sticks, yet creamier and stuffed with spinach, yum!  I love them so much that there may have been a point in my life when I was eating them a few nights a week and then was wondering and asking Adam why I had gained weight.  Just know that although very tasty and full of typically healthy spinach, these are not a light item by any means.  So why I ever thought they were I don’t know, but on special occasions they are ok now.  Adam was even sweet enough to bring back two orders for me on a plane one time…that’s how much I like them!  All this means that although I love deep dish pizza, it is not unusual for me to go to Gino’s just for those and skip the pizza all together.

Still, we just knew we needed to pay another visit because we had never taken any photos for PCC.  So we decided we would go there for lunch for during one of the weekends we were back in Chicago this past summer; and having been out the night before in true Chicago fashion, pizza and "sticks" were just what the foodie doc ordered.

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 036 When you get inside a Gino’s, you will be overwhelmed I am sure. One thing they are known for is writing on the wall…literally! Gino’s encourages its patrons to scribble notes on the walls and seats. It is so fun to see all the various notes and signatures throughout the restaurant and it really gives it a vibrant atmosphere.  It also gives you a lot to look at while you are waiting for your order, which like all deep dish typically takes about 45 minutes to cook…so be prepared (or wary if it doesn’t).  We already knew what we were going to be ordering, so we placed it right away when we sat down.  I ordered a house salad and my beloved spinach sticks, while Adam got a sausage and pepperoni deep dish pizza.  I’ve had their pizza many times and knew I would likely have a piece too…for the review of course. 😉 So 45 relatively short minutes later, these lovelies arrived…

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Those spinach sticks are good every time!  Adam enjoyed the pizza, but as he usually comments when we have eaten there, he is not a huge fan of their sauce.  One unique factor that Gino’s East does have is their crust, which is a cornmeal mixture that not only has a different consistency than the other deep dish locations, but also a very distinct flavor. Also, they are the inventor of the famed "Chicago-Style" sausage wheel…and entire round disk of sausage that ensures a piece in every bite…brilliant!  I really do enjoy their crust, but outside of that, their pizza just isn’t my favorite. I like it, but I definitely like others better. Although they are the sausage innovators, I just don’t think theirs is as good as other places, nor is their pizza quite as cheesy. Also, like Adam says….the sauce doesn’t help bring it all together. 

Still, Gino’s is such a fun atmosphere and definitely worth a visit if you are in the Chi-town area.  Also, will continue to go specifically for those lovely spinach sticks! 🙂

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SIGNATURE DISH: 5 words…."CHICAGO-STYLE" DEEP DISH PIZZA!

TASTE: Although their pizza is definitely famous and because it’s…well….pizza, it’s pretty good. Still, it falls a bit short in the race for Best Deep Dish in Chicago.  Their crust stands out for sure and is extremely tasty, but the rest of the pie just doesn’t quite hit it.  Their sauce is a bit too chunky and runny if you ask me.  It doesn’t adhere well to the other ingredients and runs off the pie a great deal.  However, albeit all of that, it is still tasty and definitely worth a visit if you have never tried it, I mean you must determine your favorite for yourself. Perfect example is that this is my father in law’s favorite; and, on a side note, make sure you try the spinach sticks…they are frickin’ amazin’!

AMBIANCE: This is where Gino’s excels above the rest!  The white quote and signature ridden walls are all the decor this place needs.  It perfectly complements their black and white checkered tablecloths and old timey booths, and it really feels like you’re in a real old-school pizza parlor.  This place is always buzzing and full of tourists and Chicagoans alike, which adds to the buzz and appeal.

PRICE: Like all "Chicago-Style," this is where they kind of get you. Deep dish pizzas are typically a tad more expensive than your standard pie. On average they are $20 for at least a small, which can be a tad pricey.  However, the other side of that coin is that typically one slice or maybe two is all anyone will eat. It’s a BIG meal. Still, if you are ordering more than one pie or anything else, the bill can add up quickly.  Please don’t let this deter you from going, just know that this won’t be a $10 pizza sort of visit.

SERVICE: Although they are typically very crowded and busy, their service is typically great and this time was no different.  Our waitress was very up-beat and kept the diet cokes steadily coming. She helped get our order in quickly, and even brought me a brand new order of spinach sticks when my first set was cold.  Overall, she was super friendly and we had a great experience!

So….although Gino’s East does not rank as our number one choice when it comes to Chicago deep dish, we still felt you all needed to hear our review and hopefully someday judge for yourself.  It doesn’t rank as our number one spot, but we still enjoy it and its deep Chicago roots.  For our second feature in the deep dish pizza running, I give Gino’s East 3 ‘Little Piggies.’

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