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Jenny Turknett: Chicago Pizza

Gino's East Pizza

credit: Jenny Turknett

What would you have for your last supper — your very last meal?

I recently had this conversation with friends. While many were unable to answer immediately, one friend knew without question: pizza from Gino’s East in Chicago. Wow. That must be some good pizza.

She went on to tell us that she’s even had it sent overnight to her here in Atlanta. Wow. That must be some really good pizza.

Another friend, whose husband is from Chicago, chimed in on the discussion, also singing the praises of Gino’s East. It didn’t take long for the three of us to devise a plan to get together for some overnighted pizza from Chicago.

I can’t say I have a particular affinity for deep dish pizza. But, I was very interested in a pizza so good it would be someone’s last supper choice. I was just as interested in a pizza so good you could justify the overnight shipping charges.

Gino's East 2On pizza day, a package was delivered with dry ice and the precious frozen pizzas. Very specific instructions were included to ensure a final product akin to what is served in the restaurant.

While we waited for the pizzas to cook, a lively discussion ensued from the Chicagoans about the different Chicago pizzerias. Everything from the crust to the way they slice the sausage seems to be different. So, you’re either in one camp or the other. I guess I am in the Gino’s East camp.

I inspected the pizzas closely as they were pulled from the oven. Where was the cheese? All I could see was sauce. I was informed that the meat goes on the bottom, the cheese in the middle, and the sauce on top. The arrangement of toppings was foreign to me, but the defining difference was the crust.

A cornmeal crust? I never would have guessed a Chicago pizza crust would be a kissing cousin to cornbread. The crust could have been more buttery for my Southern tastes. But, surprisingly, it paired quite nicely with the pizza toppings. What I loved about it was that it wasn’t heavy or greasy like some deep dish pizza I’ve had.

My favorite was the sausage pizza — it had far more cheese than the spinach pizza. The spinach also left the crust a tad soggy. So, that was THE pizza. Was it worth a $40 overnight shipping charge? Well, not on a regular basis. But it was fun to experience a pizza so revered by my friends.

Do you have favorite foods that you would pay to overnight?

Jenny-Turknett-Tagline– by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.

60 comments Add your comment

Mark Cohen

November 16th, 2010
7:29 am

If you liked that, you should try Nancy’s, which is another Chicago pizza chain but with locations here in Atlanta (one on Ponce and one in Buckhead).

I worked at a Chicago pizza place in Florida that had purchased the rights to Nancy’s recipes—I don’t think our crust had cornmeal in it, but instead used an “egg shade” coloring to make it yellow. We cooked our bulk sausage in large pans and crumbled it up; I once gathered the congealed fat in a bowl for a voracious food-stealing waitress who thought it was vanilla pudding.

Cooks Illustrated also has a great recipe that comes very close to the original:

We also made pan pizzas which used the same crust, but only came half-way up the pan. We’d lay down the sauce, then the cheese and toppings like a thin pizza.

Son of Puerquito

November 16th, 2010
7:42 am

This is not pizza. It’s a casserole.

Andrea Staska

November 16th, 2010
8:08 am

Jenny – I love reading your articles. I’ve never been a foodie, but you just might make one out of me yet. Thanks for the write-up on the fried green tomatoes (my last supper choice) and particularly the Chicago Pizza…..seeing the repeated facebook write-ups….my curiousity has been killing me!


November 16th, 2010
8:22 am

Gus’s fried chicken from Memphis Tn. My wife asks me all the time to drive to Memphis to get this treat. I tried to get them to send me some, but they won’t do it.


November 16th, 2010
8:29 am

Love Geno’s East & especially the sausage pizza. Every time I’ve been to Chicago, I’ve gone there to get my fix. I remember waiting in line in the cold days of February just to get in there. Can’t say I’d pay the overnight shipping charges, but since my husband is in Chicago almost weekly, maybe I could get him to smuggle some home for me.

@Mark Cohen – glad to hear Nancy’s is good. I’ve wanted to try it, but hadn’t heard much about it authenticity. Will have to make it there soon.


November 16th, 2010
8:34 am

Mark is right on about trying Nancy’s. Nancy’s is the real deal.


November 16th, 2010
8:41 am

I lived in Chicago for a year and the #1 thing I miss is the food. While Gino’s East is very tasty, the next time you are in the mood to pay through the nose for pizza shipping I suggest you try Lou Malnati’s .

I prefer their pizza to Gino’s – it is always interesting to compare.

And as far as this not being pizza – if I could only eat one kind of pizza for the rest of my life it would be Chicago style deep dish. Not that burnt flat-bread stuff they eat in another major US city.


November 16th, 2010
9:42 am

I went to Chicago for the first time this past summer and had Chicago Deep Dish. I hated it. I’m not really a saucey person though and Chicago pizza loads up on the sauce.

Jenny Turknett

November 16th, 2010
9:50 am

Son of Puerquito – Yes! That’s exactly how the pizza was described by my friends – like a casserole. And, it does have to be a good sauce, you’re right StephieZ, because there is a lot of it!

Robbing Peter – Lou Malnati’s was the other pizza place we discussed that night. I have to get to Chicago!

My friend also pointed out that you can do two-day shipping for $20 per order and save a little on shipping.

Kristi Yover

November 16th, 2010
10:11 am

So glad you liked it! I would have hated for us to build it up so much and then you try it and not like it! =) Plus what you brought to the table was the “icing on the cake!” What’s next we should try? Should we fly to Snuffer’s in Dallas and you can try the Texas Cheese Fry?? haha

Dunwoody Don

November 16th, 2010
10:26 am

Best food ever overnighted to my house – G & M Maryland Crab Cakes. Fantastic!

Jim H

November 16th, 2010
10:30 am

I’m up in the air about Chi Pie. It is a lot to handle. As for the last meal, I would go with a fat ribeye, scallopped potatoes and creamed spinach from Capital Grill.

Anna Freebern

November 16th, 2010
10:34 am

Love your writing style, Jenny. I always enjoy reading your articles. The debate over the best Chicago pizza can get as heated as a discussion about Chicago baseball teams. Go Cubs! While Lou Malnati’s is good, I don’t miss it. Gino’s East will always be my favorite with Uno’s coming in a close second (probably because the founder of Gino’s East learned how to make pizza’s at Uno’s). I have another sausage pizza in my freezer. I think we’ll have to have you guys over again. Soon!


November 16th, 2010
10:35 am

Art of Pizza in Chicago is also fantastic.


November 16th, 2010
10:50 am

@Kristi – we may go to battle on the best cheese fries in Dallas – after living down the street from Snuffer’s, I still prefer Chip’s.


November 16th, 2010
11:00 am

Gino’s is great stuff but the real deal in Chicago is the good old thin crust. Cut in squares, sausage has fennel added, and the cheese absolutely covers the thing- if it’s done right it looks like a ceramic tile of cheese. The crust is thin, crispy and nothing like a deep-dish pie nor anything you can find here. My heart just breaks thinking of how much I miss this pie. And the good news? Almost every neighborhood has a decent thin crust place. In my neck of the woods we loved Palermo’s, Barraco’s (worked there in college), Rosangelo’s and Vito & Nick’s (everyone called them Nick & Vito’s- sounds better!)


November 16th, 2010
11:21 am

Nancy’s? That’s like comparing Antico to Pizza Hut.

Giordano’s in Chicago is very good. Gino’s as well but for you to side with them from the get go because of friends and a lone shipped frozen pie is ridiculous. You have to eat these deep dish pies right when it comes out of the oven. Go to Chicago and eat at at least 3 different places, your opinion will change drastically. Chicago is a great food town.


November 16th, 2010
11:24 am

Y’all are making me pizza-hungry.

Jenny Turknett

November 16th, 2010
11:37 am

Reds – I agree. Pizza hungry, cheese-fry hungry, fried chicken hungry, crab cake hungry… Is it lunch time yet?


November 16th, 2010
12:42 pm

Giordano’s is my absolute favorite Chicago pie. Although Nancy’s isn’t too bad of a substitute.


November 16th, 2010
1:12 pm

Nancy’s sucks.

Not The Situation

November 16th, 2010
1:38 pm

I have had pierogis shipped to me from a little store in New Jersey (and taylor ham, too!).

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yvonne Z., GOOD FOOD Billy and accessAtlanta, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Jenny Turknett: Chicago Pizza [...]

The Real Chef

November 16th, 2010
1:58 pm

I bet I cook a better Chicago-deep dish-style pizza at home with Publix ready-made dough and my 12″ cast iron skillet on my Weber grill…


November 16th, 2010
2:01 pm

I’m from Detroit, and Buddy’s Pizza is one to ship overnight. When I worked at Buddy’s, we would send pizzas all across the country and even to Europe, once. Buddy’s is the best deep dish and I would love to have it. But, for my last meal, it would definitely be White Castles and Coney’s.


November 16th, 2010
2:04 pm

Gino’s ‘patty style’ sausage pizza is something you have to see to believe!! Better than their deep dish IMHO, the entire top of the pizza is covered by a giant sausage patty!!! No crumbles, just a big slab of sausage!

As far as what I would pay to ship, the only thing I’ve done that for is Crown Prime Ribs from Fiorellas Jack Stack barbecue in Kansas City. One of the most interesting cuts of meat I’ve ever seen, and some of the best BQ I’ve ever had (and I worked by 1 of the most famous BQ places in Texas for 6 months and went there 3-5 times a week). You get 3 ribs with the meal, but 1 usually filled me up and I never ate more than 2 at 1 sitting. Not quite as good as getting them fresh and hot at Fiorellas, but definitely brought back the memories heating them at home.

Kristi Yover

November 16th, 2010
2:06 pm

@PJ- Growing up in Texas & New Mexico I will take that challenge GLADLY! Dreamjob: having to decide who makes the best cheese fries!
Still haven’t found anyone here who can come close to making as good of cheese fries as Texas! Anyone have suggestions??


November 16th, 2010
2:20 pm

I like Uno’s if it’s really from Chicago – the franchised locations elsewhere are not as good.

Anyone like Giordano’s bet?


November 16th, 2010
2:27 pm

I love Giordano’s – I’ve had it in Chicago and i’ve had it sent overnight! Yummy!

Jen P

November 16th, 2010
3:04 pm

What I miss from Chicago are the Italian Beefs, especially from Portillo’s. Dang, that’s a good sandwich. Tried Bobby G’s here in ATL, but both the meat and the bread weren’t top quality.

Jim H

November 16th, 2010
3:13 pm

Jen P, a girl after my heart.


November 16th, 2010
3:34 pm

I love Portillos, and Browns. Chicago junk food rules!


November 16th, 2010
3:35 pm

And Giordanos too, that was the 1st Chicago pizza I ever had.


November 16th, 2010
3:42 pm

Nancy’s Pizza!!!

I’m a Chicago transplant, and I swear by Nancy’s. Both the thin crust (their pepperoni and sausage is awesome) and deep dish Chicago style are two thumbs up.

Another vote for Nancy’s!

M. Johnson

November 16th, 2010
4:01 pm

I DO NOT like Gino’s pizza. The cornmeal crust is just WRONG. Try Giordano’s Chicago deep-dish pizza and let us know what you think. It puts Gino’s to SHAME!


November 16th, 2010
4:06 pm

Chicago style is merely a tomato sauce open faced pot pie, it surely is not pizza

Bob from Accounttemps

November 16th, 2010
4:26 pm

I’ve had Tastykakes and Philly Soft Pretzels overnighted to me. You can get the former here now, but still not the latter. Nothing like them anywhere and don’t tell me about NYC soft pretzels. They don’t compare. That’s not opinion — that’s fact!


November 16th, 2010
4:47 pm

Do any of you good folks know of any good places for Chicago pizza here in the ATL area? I enjoy Chi-Pie, but haven’t had it in years.


November 16th, 2010
5:32 pm

those of us who are true chicagoans should get together and talk pizza in person!! bobby g’s in milton perhaps??? i personally love lou’s pizza and portillos both. flying to chgo the first week of dec. …can’t wait!!!


November 16th, 2010
6:14 pm

I’ve had Sicilian pizza flown in from Umberto’s in New Hyde Park, LI, NY because it is the best ever.
But if you really want a treat for a dinner party order Alaskan crab legs from 10th and M seafood in Anchorage. Fresh caught, quick cooked and frozen in brine and shipped overnight in dry ice. You will die for this stuff.

GT Joe

November 16th, 2010
7:47 pm

LOVE Chicago style pizza, kills NY style any day. Nancy’s is great, been to Gino’s East, that was my first chicago pizza. Giordano’s is great, had it in Orlando. Papali’s in Detroit is awesome deep dish.

But honestly, we are splitting hairs here, Nancy’s satisfies the fix VERY well…

Hungry just thinking about it!

November 16th, 2010
8:46 pm

Giordano’s is the best in Chicago!! The locations are super (near O’Hare for those who can’t wait after their plane arrives) to downtown near Rush Street. The wait makes it even better, but they have an excellent beer and appetizer choices to make it worthwhile. I just love the history behind Chicago pizza.


November 17th, 2010
12:35 am

Deep Dish pizza done properly is divine but way too over-priced


November 17th, 2010
2:30 am

OOOOHHHHH Lou’s Pizza. My mouth is watering. Had some delivered overnight once. It was gone by the time I got home. What a let down.


November 17th, 2010
7:56 am

Lou Malnati’s is the best. I always bring back some when I visit Chicago!

Marian Catholic HS/St.Lawrence O'Toole

November 17th, 2010
8:17 am

This article has completely taken me back to the days when my very southern family was temporarily transplanted to the Chicago ‘burbs for 8 years of glorious, wonderful thin crust pizza served blazing hot at Aurelio’s pizza in downtown Homewood. It was absolutely the BEST. It was so good that you didn’t mind shredding the roof of your mouth from the heat after waiting for what seemed like an eternity to dive into your first slice! For deep dish, it was always Nino’s pizza near the corner of Cicero and Lincoln Hwy in Matteson. It was my first and the best


November 17th, 2010
8:31 am

This Gerogia peach is in love with Chicago style pizza. Lived in a Chicago for a few months several years ago and it is def a great food city. The deep dish sausage pizza at Gino’s is THE BEST. Nancy’s is a good substitute but i would not drive out of my way for it they way i would for a true Chi-town slice.


November 17th, 2010
8:48 am

Nancy’s Pizza is the bomb!!!!! My husband and I tried it about 2 months ago and we tried the extra
thin crust first and they won us over by far…..the second time we went we order the deep dish just to try it and while it was good and i loved the sauce….im not a BIG FAN of the pizza crust….it was way to much bread for me.. the dough was ridiculious….my 3 year old could only eat one slice and he was done… lol…Nancy’s Pizza is a must the one on Ponce is more of a carry out spot….not much seating..the one in buckhead has a jazz player on friday nights @ 8 and Karaoke on saturdays @ 9..and more seating..


November 17th, 2010
9:12 am

Robbing Peter – you are right on! Lou’s is the BEST in Chi Town by far. You have to get the butter crust to make it good though. Nancy’s in Atlanta is a great substitute.


November 17th, 2010
9:23 am

No offense to Nancy’s, there are many better deep dish joints in Chicago. The absolute best was a little place just north of Fullerton on Clark in Lincoln Park called My Pi Pizza. It’s a local place with only two locations (sadly the Lincoln Park one moved to Northbrook) with the greatest pizza I have tasted. With Chicago style hot dogs, the absolute best was (the now shut down) Demon Dogs right under the Fullerton L stop. Nothing could top either one of those two after a Cubs game at Wrigley…Oh, and for gumbo, Heaven on Seven on Wabash…and again, go Cubbies.