In my last post I discussed the best-known example of deep dish pizza, the style that put Chicago on the international pizza map more than 60 years ago. There is a second style of Chicago pizza that people inside and outside the city often conflate with deep dish, and that is stuffed pizza. Of the many places that offer it, Giordano's, which has proclaimed itself as "Chicago's World Famous Stuffed Pizza," is the best known and most popular.
Stuffed pizza entered the American culinary scene in the early '70s when Nancy's and Giordano's both opened in Chicago. The Boglio brothers, who founded Giordano's in 1974, are from a small town near Turin, Italy, and say their stuffed pizza is based on their mother's Easter pizza, which featured a double crust and was stuffed with ricotta cheese.
This makes sense except for the fact that Nancy's claims its pizza is based on an Italian pastry. Given that they developed incredibly similar pizzas in Chicago around the same time and were from near each other in Italy, I suspect that there may be more to the story.
In any event, at first glance a whole stuffed pizza looks virtually identical to a deep dish pizza. The outer crust around the edge of the pizza is generally higher (in this case, two inches), but that's about it.
Upon cutting the pizzas open, however, the difference would become clear. While a deep dish pie features a thick bottom crust, a stuffed pizza has a thinner bottom crust (in Giordano's case, about 1/4 inch thick). On top of that is between 3/4 and 1 full inch of cheese with the toppings mixed in rather than on top.
The next layer, which most people don't realize is there, is a paper-thin layer of dough. It is that second layer that makes the pizza "stuffed." As is the case with a deep dish pizza, the tomato sauce goes on top. The sauce at Giordano's, while not as chunky as the one at Uno's and other deep dish pizzerias, is chunkier than the sauces typically found in New York.
I ordered a sausage stuffed pizza on this trip to Giordano's, and the pizza arrived about 50 minutes later. Right away, I saw a problem: Some of the sauce on top had dried a bit. I'm not sure if they just didn't put enough sauce on or if they cooked the pizza a little too long, but it was a bit disappointing. That said, the pizza was still excellent.
We cut open the pizza and removed a piece and some cheese from the remaining part oozed out to partially fill the gap. To a cheese lover like me, that is a joyous sight. The crust is much more like a pie crust than deep dish or thin crust pizzas. There is shortening in it, and the outer crust is flaky and actually fairly light. The sausage was good but not great. It has a strong enough flavor to cut through all the cheese, but I prefer a more seasoned sausage. The sauce, which I think is delicious, has a light sweetness to it that balances the salt in the rest of the pizza.
Cold Stuffed Pizza: A Gift from On High
My Giordano's experience actually ended the next morning when I took a cold slice out of the fridge and ate it right away. While pizza for breakfast is always a good thing, a cold piece of stuffed pizza from Giordano's is a gift from the gods. At least for those among us who do not know the meaning of too much cheese.
There are 39 locations in the Chicago area (as well as one in Rockford and five in Florida). If you are visiting from out of town, I don't think it matters which one you go to, as I have never noticed a difference between the locations, so no need to find a particular one. Also, if you are going for lunch and do not want to wait that long, Giordano's does offer personal stuffed pizzas, but only with limited topping choices. Another option is to check and see if the location you are going to allows you to pre-order.
Giordano's does offer thin-crust pizza as well, and it's fine, but the reason to go there is for the stuffed pies. My next installment will introduce you to one of the best thin-crust pizzas in Chicago.