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Gino's East? Please tell me this isn't what Chicago DDP is all about (review)

One of my dearest friends had her rehearsal dinner at Gino's East to give all the out of town folks a taste of Chicago's famous deep dish pie. When we arrived and saw the lines waiting out the door for a table I thought "this must be good!" We got to walk right in because she rented one of the rooms upstairs where about 40 of us were served some of the most mediocre to bad food I've ever eaten in my life.

Now, I've never had deep dish pizza so I'm no expert and I'm hoping that Gino's East was not a good rendition because if it actually was what Chicago thinks of as some of the best pizza then I have to feel sorry for Chicagoans. This pizza was a soupy mess of too much ordinary sauce and tough, chewy cheese along with some tasteless spinach in the spinach pie, and way too many large chunks of raw onions in the sausage pie. The crust under the sauce was totally soggy and the edge crusts were dry and crackery and flavorless. So sad. I can't believe people wait in line for hours for this pizza!

The pies were served with big, mostly iceberg lettuce salads with the choice of 2 industrial dressings and big bowls of mushy pasta lightly coated in bland tomato sauce. Low quality shaking cheese and lots of red pepper flakes helped a bit but boy were we disappointed.

The best part of the meal were the cannolis for dessert. The cheese was creamy and sweet and the shells miraculously crisp. The ends dipped in crushed pistachios were a nice touch.

Please tell me there is MUCH better deep dish pizza elsewhere in Chicago. Where is it? I do plan to return since one of my best friends now lives there but I'll never return to Gino's East.

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  1. i've never been a fan of Gino's. People say all deep dish in Chicago is the same but I find that Malnati's/Pizano's/Uno are much better than Gino's.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ferret

      Exactly what I would have said. I haven't been to Ginos in years. My guess is that most of those people were tourists. Sorry for your bad experience.

    2. If you ever come back, go to Lou's for DDP, and DON'T get pizza for 40. If you really want good pizza tho, skip the deep dish, skip the stuffed, go with extra-thin crust which is available at every pizza place, but overlooked by tourists.

      1. I recently had DDP for the first time in Chicago as well, and it was okay, but in my opinion, far inferior to good thin crust pizza here in the Northeast. If you scroll to the bottom of my post, you can see my thoughts and photos: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/856110

        The pie at Gino's East was so filled with sauce and cheese it was almost soupy. And no one was eating the crust after the first slice. So what's the point? If you want pizza, you should be able to enjoy the whole slice, crust included. In contrast, last week my husband and I went to NYC and had Patsy's pizza in East Harlem — Cooked in a super hot coal-fired oven, the crust had a wonderful fresh bread taste to it and the whole thing was delicious.


        Pizza Soup at Gino's East
        Pizza Pie at Patsy's in East Harlem

        4 Replies
        1. re: TrishUntrapped

          Chicago is not without good thin-crust pizza, which some of us Chicagoans prefer to deep dish. Top places include Coalfire, Spacca Napoli, and Great Lake, which one national magazine named as the best pizza in the country.

          1. re: camusman

            And I'd add Piece to that list -- particularly if you can get in while it isn't quite so crowded (I find that the pizza suffers if they get slammed). And Nella Grassano has her own place now, too: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/...

            1. re: danimalarkey

              I'd also add Armitage Pizzeria, a new placed opened by one of the Coalfire founders. Only 1 table so mostly take-out.

            2. re: camusman

              Actually, the vast majority of neighborhood pizza spots in Chicago serve thin crust pizza, and I think most Chicagoans would consider that the real Chicago pizza, not the deep dish stuff. Most pizzerias serve the thin crust stuff, cut into squares, and that's what most Chicagoans get when they want pizza.

          2. Our experience with Palermo's DDP at Red Ivy in Wrigleyville was terrific. Easy to recommend!

            1. Gino's East is horrid pizza for tourists only. It is not a good example of Deep Dish or Stuffed pizza. I'm so sorry that was your introduction. :(

              4 Replies
              1. re: tzurriz

                To be fair, a good number of non-tourist Chowhounds on this board have sung the praises of Gino's East. Having tried DDP at both Lou's and Gino's, I've come to the conclusion that it's just not my pizza of choice.

                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                  Agreed. While I think Lou Malnati's is the best, I don't think Gino's is the worst. I'd have to go with Uno for that one (I know someone will disagree with me, that's cool).

                  I'm also from the Northeast, and agree that thincrust is the best. Deep dish is like lasagna to me. You don't want it every day, or when it's hot out, but it's great comfort food.

                  1. re: Shaggy

                    Gino's and Gino's East are two VERY different companies, and pizzas. :)

                    1. re: tzurriz

                      I think everyone here means Gino's East.

              2. Some of us like soupy, gooey pizza with the nice thick cornmeal crust. I am originally from Chicago and now live in Seattle, if I want deep dish like ginos or lous (both I enjoy), I need to have it shipped or make it myself. I'd give anything for DDP right now, even Ginos.

                2 Replies
                1. re: seattlesidekick

                  Sounds like deep dish just isn't really for me. Next time, I'll try the thin crust and see how it compares to NY pizza.

                  1. re: plafield

                    You'd be better off enjoying Chicago thin crust for what it is, instead of comparing it to what it is not. I love NY style pizza, New Haven style, and also Chicago style thin crust pizza.

                2. Personally I am going to say Gino's! I especially love the one on Superior near Michigan Ave. I am a local and I think some of the best deep dish I ever had is Gino's. The charred pepperoni is the best ever soupy no gooey yes. As for the "industrial" salad dressings not really sure where that came from since they make all the dressings in house. Their ranch is outstanding and that's the one I get everytime I go, great for dipping the crust into. It's not just for tourists well in my opinion!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: lucylou

                    Right, but you are talking about Gino's, which is NOT Gino's East. No relation between the two except for trying to scam off the name.

                    1. re: tzurriz

                      I hate to update a thread with a title so hostile to my beloved Gino's East, but this particular post gets at a question I need answered: which location is the "best-of-chain"?

                      Specifically, the Gino's on superior IS listed on the Gino's East website, but is it considered separate (the original location)?

                      Same for Lou Malnati: is one location recognized as superior tithe others?

                      For me, DDP is like tap water: "best where you first drank it," and for me that means Gino's. I'll give Lou another chance, but need to know if a particular location matters.

                      1. re: non sequitur

                        Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due are the only deep-dish pizza places I know that deliberately use a different recipe at the original location than at other chain locations. This was the result of a promise made when the restaurants were sold to the organization that went on to franchise them.

                        For this reason, I would not worry about going to the original Gino's location on Superior (which was closed for a while) or to the original Lou Malnati's location (which has been operating continuously in Lincolnwood since 1971), as opposed to any other location.

                        I've had Lou Malnati's at numerous locations and they're all pretty darn consistent. I have not noticed any significant difference from one location to another. There are sometimes differences between pizzas, but they are usually very minor, and are just as likely to occur between different occasions at the same location, as they are between different locations. So no, going to a particular location does not matter with Lou's, IMHO.

                        FWIW, I've heard people claim that some Gino's locations are better than others, but I haven't been there enough to state an opinion one way or the other.

                  2. OK. This is an interesting thread. As a "hoping to be" first time visitor soon, we had DDP on our "must eat" food spreadsheet and now we are rethinking. We were going to go to Burt's Place (saw that Bourdain visited there). We've been to the Pizzeria Uno chain and it tastes like a chain pizza; nothing overly "fresh" tasting.
                    This has us definitely rethinking about switching to the thin crust one mentioned here. Time to do more research and edit my spreadsheet!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: itryalot

                      FWIW, Burt's is a bit different from Uno's. It features a crust with caramelized cheese and isn't as dense as Uno's. While Burt's is excellent, I don't think it worth going way out of the way for. But if you are going to be on the far north side of Chicago or the northern suburbs, Burt's is worth a stop. You do have to call ahead.

                      Also, I've found that the original Uno's is better than the chain.

                      1. re: itryalot

                        As a life long Chicagoan and pizza lover for over 50 years I can tell that the pizza from the chains is not nearly as good as the originals in the 50s, 60s etc. Especially Unos - I ate at their original site a couple of years ago and after 2 bites I asked the waiter "what the hell is this?" It did not taste anything like the original.

                        Fast forward to Bert's Place in Morton Grove off of Dempster. Wonderful!!! The only problem is getting in there as you have to order your pizza a day or 2 in advance and it is not open 7 days a week. You can order for take out but eating in is vastly better. I consider Bert's a destination pizza place and worth the trip.

                        1. re: itryalot

                          Burt's is a decent choice for DDP. It's not Gino's, and it's definitely not part of that dreadful Pizzeria Uno chain which is a joke. Burt's is a place that usualIy takes pride in their product. Not so sure about the touristy places tho. I would suggest to any visitors that want to try DDP for the first time go to Lou's and get a DDP and also order an extra thin crust pizza. Or, go somewhere for a stuffed pizza along with an extra thin crust pizza.

                          1. re: itryalot

                            Hi itryalot, don't let one person's terrible experience be the decision maker for you. I am not a native chicagoan, grew up in Michigan where Dominos and Little Ceasers are our hometown pizza, ha ha. But no matter how you slice it, Chicago style deep dish is really good.

                            Gino's East is not my favorite, the place is so huge how can they have great quality? I am a Lou Malnati's Butter Crust fan, but all things equal, DDP as it's been shortened here, is good.

                            Admitedly, the Chicago-style thin crust is really not great in my opinion, it's often dense cracker crust cut into squares, but it too is good. I would suggest trying Lou Malnati's or Pizanos and you may be pleasantly surprised.

                          2. Shame on Gino's. I grew up with them when their original spot was in a dark, cramped building next to Northwestern Hospital. They were the best in the 70's and 80's. But then they sold out, became greedy, and stopped caring if some twenty something screwed up the water to flour ratio. They are a joke among locals now, having betrayed their cab driver roots. Stick with Lou's and Due's.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: doncorleone

                              I agree ... The first DDP I had there in 1987 pales in comparison to the current fare.

                            2. This points up our local tragedy. Tourists spend good money to come here and what do they eat? Gino's pizza, Rain Forest Cafe', Hard Rock Cafe', and Cheesecake Factory. Embarrassing.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Querencia

                                I've got news for you, it's the locals that keep these places afloat.

                                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                  It may be locals. But I would assert that it's largely suburbanites, rather than city people, who frequent those places. Do you see it differently.

                                  1. re: chicgail

                                    There's a reason Bob Chinn's is the highest-grossing restaurant in the US (and it's not because it's especially good).

                                    1. re: chicgail

                                      Whether it's Chicago proper or nearby 'burbs, they are the ones keeping these places open.

                                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                        Gino's pizza, Rain Forest Cafe', Hard Rock Cafe', and Cheesecake Factory stay alive because of tourists and the folks who come in from the 'burbs. The irony is that many of them think they're coming in for a "Chicago" experience.

                                        1. re: chicgail

                                          Tourists patronize Gino's East but a lot of Chicagoans go there too. When I was there I spoke with a table of 8 guys next to us who were from Chicago. They said it's their favorite pizza spot.

                                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                            Plenty of pizza places that you or I might never consider to be palatable do well in Chicago (e.g. Domino's, Papa Johns) so obviously someone likes them.

                                          2. re: chicgail

                                            Rainforest Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, and Cheesecake Factory are kept alive by tourists, suburbanites visiting Chicago? Although I am sure that some of it is driven by the two groups, it cannot be the universal truth some are making it. I do not live in Chicago, but have never eaten at any of them when visiting due to there being hundreds of better and more uniquely Chicago restaurants to frequent [including DDP]. However, I have ate once at a Rainforest Cafe [Orlando], Hard Rock Cafe [Canadian Side of Niagara Falls], and Cheesecake Factory [West Des Moines, IA]. Tourism may have driven the first two places, but West Des Moines, Iowa is not exactly a vacation hot spot.

                                            P.S. I was taken to Gino's East for the first time in 1987 [and by someone from Chicago].

                                  2. I travel to Chicago often and have tried a number of different places for Deep Dish style. The best one I ever had was at Pizano's Pizza.
                                    Gino's East was gross. The crust was yellow and soggy!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: NJfoodLover

                                      From the pics I've seen of the pizza at Pizano's that looks like it may be the one for us!

                                    2. First, I haven't eaten at Gino's East in 10 years. It was terrific pizza, among the best in Chicago at that time. Maybe it's changed for the worse. I dunno, the last time I walked by, the wait for a table was 45 minutes and the wait for food was another 45 minutes and I didn't want to wait 90 minutes to eat so I skipped it and went to Xoco and had terrific food in front of me in 20 minutes.

                                      Also, arguing the merits of Thin Crust vs. Deep Dish or NE Pizza vs. Chicago Pizza is slightly less productive than arguing the merits of Christianity vs. Hinduism.

                                      1. I'm from the East and grew up with thin-crust pizza. I LOVE deep-dish! I love the single-crust "pizza in the pan" style at Lou Malnati's, and I love the double-crust "stuffed" style at Giordano's. Once I tried Chicago's deep-dish pizza, there was no going back to thin crust for me!

                                        1. Been to Gino's once and that was enough. Malnati's is the best IMHO. Pizza Uno/Duo would be my second choice.

                                          Piece is very good for non-deep dish pizza.