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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Chicago Style…Part 1

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 @ 02:02 PM

Giordanos As I mentioned in a previous post, the city of Chicago holds a very special place in my heart.  It will always be the city I got to visit when we went to see my mom’s side of the family; and I love all the memories I have of visiting the iconic windows at Marshall Fields during Christmas time.  It was also where I moved after graduating from college and was “starting out” all on my own.  And finally, it was where Adam and I cemented our relationship and started this crazy journey together. What I’m saying is that Chicago holds many memorable and fun experiences for me. 

Now, if you would had asked either Adam or I two years ago, we may not have had such nice things to say about “The Windy City.” At that time, we were going through a lot of life transitions and let’s just say that the hassles of living in Chi-Town were taking their toll (especially in winter!); and as we started out on our life together, it was just not the lifestyle we were after. However, now that we’ve been removed from the daily chaos that comes with living in the nation’s 3rd largest city, we look back at that time in our lives very fondly, and have even started to miss many of the things that we took for granted while we lived there and now can’t have. For starters, the bar and restaurant scene is amazing!  Chicago is world famous for its cuisine and the variety of restaurants that adorn each little neighborhood; and perhaps the most notable culinary feature that has put Chicago’s food scene on the map (and that we miss O’ SOOOOO much!) is without a doubt deep-dish pizza, or as it is more commonly (and appropriately) referred…,“Chicago Style.” 

pizza2 Deep-Dish is king in the 2nd City and you would be hard pressed to find any pizza places in town that don’t serve this hearty masterpiece; and because it’s so popular, it goes without saying that, of course, everyone has their own opinion on who’s pie is best, me included (but we’ll get to that much later). Well, I thought I’d try to uncover the truth once and for all…who makes the best “Chicago Style” pizza? Therefore, I’ve taken upon myself (with some help from my husband, of course) to finally figure out who’s deep-dish pizza reigns supreme! (I know…I have it rough, huh?:)). First up… Giordano’s, a Chicago landmark.

I have been eating Giordano’s for years, longer than I can even remember.  However, that being said, I have a confession to make.  Until very recently, I lumped Giordano’s in with all of the other deep-dish pizza joints. But, I’ve been mistaken. A few months back, Adam and I were watching Travel Channel’s “Pizza Wars” (from their series “Food Wars”) where we were informed that Giordano’s is not standard “Chicago Style” pizza, but rather is in fact “stuffed pizza,” a slight variation from your typical deep-dish.  You should have seen the look of shock on our faces.  It was as if you had told us our cat Lola was a boy after years of thinking she was a girl.  I mean SHOCKED!  However, after I gathered myself, I realized it really didn’t make much of a difference to me. I still love it just the same; and now I have a fun fact to share with others when we eat it, as I’m sure if you even asked many Chicagoans, I doubt many of them would know the difference either, which is why I still lump it in with its deep-dish cousins. 

Now, for those of you who are completely lost and have no idea what I’ve been talking about up ‘til now…deep-dish pizza (or “Chicago Style”) is a “backwards” or “reverse” pizza. Let me explain. Your typical Chicago deep-dish features a deep, almost pie like crust.  Next, the bottom is layered with cheese and the toppings are piled on top. FINALLY…LASTLY…THE SAUCE, which is layered over the top.  This “reverse” order of ingredients is usually what throws people off, but it is the signature style for deep-dish pizza; and if you ask anyone looking for REAL “Chicago-Style” pizza, that sauce better be on top!

All that said (as I mentioned earlier), Giordano’s is actually considered a “stuffed pizza.”  The reason is that there is another layer of dough placed on top of the toppings before the sauce is added.  So if you can imagine, it is almost a mix of calzone and pizza.  It’s hard to imagine that I went 26 years without ever noticing it. I must have been too busy stuffing my face with all that cheesy goodness! 😉

Well, I have comfort in knowing that I’m probably not the only one who was in the dark, and probably not by a long shot. Giordano’s has been feeding hungry Chicagoans their unique spin on deep-dish since 1974. They are known throughout the pizza eating world, and have been featured on a number of television shows. I already mentioned how we saw them on “Food Wars,” and they were recently ranked #88 in Travel Channel’s “Chowdown Countdown.” Also, they’ve been written up in many publications throughout the years, way too many to mention…just Google it!

One of the things I have always loved about going to Giordano’s is the fun experience that is associated with it.  When we lived in Chicago, we’d have it delivered from time to time, but I must admit, I always enjoyed it a lot better when we were with a group at one of their locations and savoring our evening together over a couple of pies. It really is an event!; and unlike other pizza joints, it’s a meal you can savor, a slice of pizza that gets better with each bite and often requires a knife and fork to tackle.

When the pizza comes out there is always the Ooo’s and Ahh’s of amazement when they place it on the table.  Then people are taken aback as to the size of the pie and utter astonishment sets into everyone’s face as they anticipate how they’re going to attack their slice, and if they’re hungry enough for two slices (yes…I said ‘two’ slice, as it is not uncommon for someone to only be able to finish one slice).  Finally there is the drooling that comes when they pull out that first slice and all that gooey cheese pulls with it.  Geez, just thinking about it is making my mouth water!:)

We were lucky enough to have a few extra days to add on to our trip up north over Christmas, and we thought it would be fun to spend them with friends in Chicago.  Originally, we had not planned to stop in at Giordano’s at all. Because we had a lengthy list of other restaurants we had never been to that we wanted to try, we figured we didn’t need to have pizza (let’s just say that it’s something we’ve had more than a few times :)).  However, one spot we were hoping to hit (Hot Doug’s) was closed over the Holidays, which gave us an opening in our eating extravaganza. So, where did we end up?…you guessed it! 

We settled in on that cold day and were able to fill our bellies with some awesome stuffed sausage & pepperoni deep-dish pizza (and a greek salad for us girls to share).  It was everything I wanted it to be…and more!

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The minute they brought this lovely pie out, I knew I was happy we had the chance to stop in.  With each bite I was reminded of the love I have for their thick doughy crust, soft cheesy center, and sweet sauce on top.  However, as good as it was, I was only able to tackle one slice (Adam managed to put down two :)).

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I mean come on!…I don’t care who you are…that gooey pile of dough, cheese, meat and sauce makes you happy, doesn’t it?  It sure does me!  One caveat, though.  While living there, I must admit, deep-dish in general was starting to get a little old (I know…the horror!).  But when the only real option for ordering or going out for pizza on a Friday night are Chicago’s hearty, thick deep-dish, your taste buds begin to scream, “Bring on the generic…(fill in the blank)…delivery place.  Living in Dallas now, I might make a different statement on that, but I’m glad I am once again at a place in my life where I can appreciate the deep-dish once more.

As far as ratings go, this one is a bit more difficult. Giordano’s has become a franchise in Chicago-Land and your pizza experience can vary completely depending on location, time of day, whether or not you are eating in., etc.  So, I will stick to rating it on our lunch experience over Christmas break.  We went at lunch time, which helped both the service we got, as well as the wait time.  Actually, I would say every time I’ve gone to Giordano’s I’ve had good service; and ours was just as good on this visit (Keep in mind that these pizzas take at least 45 minutes to bake. So if you are in a rush I would not recommend eating here). 

The ambiance is always fine, typical of a pizza place, but nothing out of the ordinary.  As far as a signature dish, I’m sure you can guess that they pass with flying colors on that one :). In fact, I can’t think of another place that serves a “stuffed” “Chicago-Style” deep-dish pizza. I’m not saying there isn’t any, but I don’t know of them if there are. If pizza isn’t your thing, they do have a full menu of other things (mainly Italian fare), but I can’t really speak to any of those items, as I always get the pizza. The pizzas start at around $15 for a small and tops off at $20-25 for a large.  This may seem a bit pricey, but when you figure in how many toppings are being jammed into each pizza and that a large usually feeding 4-5, I don’t feel that it’s exorbitant by any means.  Overall, I think Giordano’s is a must visit if you are in the Chicago-land area, and definitely a place I will continue to visit over my lifetime (hopefully take my children there someday ;).  In conclusion, I give Giordano’s 4 1/2 Little Piggies.

pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon half

…And stay tuned to see how they stack up against the other “Chicago Style” legends!

9 Responses to “Chicago Style…Part 1”

  1. paul m. says:

    can’t wait to hear your take on Gino’s East! (you thought about doing a post on Italian Beef too? lol).

    • Katie says:

      I will eventually! We need to visit Al’s again because Adam has never had it. It’s on the trip plan next time we are in Chicago, which luckily should be pretty soon!

  2. Astrid says:

    I have this unexplainable fascination with Chicago. I want to spend a significant amount of time there so badly!! I spent one very cold afternoon there in the middle of a cross country train trip, but I still loved the city and want to go back. Especially now that I have seen that picture of phenomal looking pizza! Yum!! Your blog looks awesome by the way.

  3. I found your blog through Chandra’s, and I just want to say I love your eating philosophy and your great posts! That pizza looks amazing, and I just love Chicago!

    • Katie says:

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate you checking me out and your sweet comment. There will be plenty more Chicago joints to come, it’s one of our favorite cities!

  4. Kara Hannon says:

    Hi Katie!

    I apologize for being somewhat of a stalker 🙂 but I had to tell you that I read your blog this evening and Hunter and I loved Giordanos as well! We went to Chicago several years ago, ate there and loved it…so much that we had a pizza overnighted to us in Texas the next weekend. I will say that it was not nearly as good as eating it fresh at the restaurant, AND it was before we had kids (now we are more practical and just get Papa Johns), but I enjoyed your post.

    • Katie says:

      No worries, you are not a stalker! Giordano’s is the best isn’t it, just too bad it’s too expensive to have shipped, I know I’ve looked into it too!

  5. […] our 3rd installment of discussions about "Chicago Style" pizza.  You may remember my first and second posts featuring the famed Giordano’s and Gino’s East, but now we move on to one that […]

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