Frankly, I would’ve been fine sampling neither deep dish pizza nor Chicago style hotdogs, but if I had to choose one regional specialty it would be the pie. I envisioned a circular, super dense lasagna that would be bready rather than noodly, and that wasn’t too far off. Deep dish isn’t terribly different from Middle American thick crust though the layering is reversed with cheese on the bottom, a sausage strata (assuming you order that meat) and a slew of red sauce the crowning glory.
I became well acquainted with thick crusts during a summer stint between high school and college as dough maker at a takeout-only Pizza Hut. I wasn’t crazy about the style then either (at the time there were two other crust options: hand tossed and thin but we didn’t promote them because they were a pain in the ass to prep and couldn’t be made in advance). The 7am start time was a killer but working alone in wee hours I made a few adjustments like using two squirts of oil instead of three in the big metal pie pans. My brilliant health-inducing plan only succeeded in getting me into trouble when the pizzas all stuck that evening. I seriously don’t think I’ve touched a thick crust pizza since 1990.
To be fair, I couldn’t give our large, which we were warned away from by our beefy ponytailed waiter, my full attention since I’d been on a Mexican food binge earlier in the day. One slice was all I could muster. Maybe I was distracted by all the Blues Brothers memorabilia, Thompson Twins tunes and writing on the wall (I couldn’t figure out if the reason why none of the graffiti predated 2006 was because the location was new or because they periodically paint over all the scribbling and start fresh). We’d intentionally over ordered so we could transport our leftovers back to NYC. Heck, they’re charging $26.97 plus $18 shipping for the same service. And I will say that Saturday evening after returning home, I really enjoyed the pizza. The hefty, buttery crust had held up well. The toppings also survived suitcase transit. Chicago makes one tough pie. A perfect New York slice would’ve been soggy, flimsy mess.
Gino’s * 633 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL