Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. Daniel also blogs about Chicagoland pizza with his friends on the Chicago Pizza Club blog. —The Mgmt.
1111 W. Granville, Chicago, IL 60660 (map); (773) 465-1616; ginosnorth.com
Getting There: Red Line to Granville
Pizza Style: Pan and thin-crust
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Extra cheesy pan/deep dish pizza is an imbalanced pie on a unique and very good crust
Price: 12-inch pan pie, 1 topping, about $16
In Chicago, the words Gino's and pizza can conjure up a few different images. For most people, thoughts will turn to Gino's East (reviewed here), one of the most well-known pizzerias in town. Others who've been around a few years might think of the now-defunct Gino's, a longtime downtown staple whose existence was actually responsible for the "East" in Gino's East.
Loyola students and some residents on the far north side will instead think of Gino's North, a small, dark 70-plus-year-old bar with an 80-year-old woman named Peggy making pizzas. Gino's serves thin-crust and pan pizza, and on this visit I went with the latter.
There really is no way to talk about this pizza other than to start with the massive amount of cheese. Other than a plain cheese pizza, this pie had the highest percentage of cheese of any pizza I can remember eating. The only one that comes to mind as being in the running is the pizza I had at Wig & Pen in Iowa City last summer (reviewed here), but I think this one wins out. On this pie, the layer of cheese was at least five times thicker than the bottom crust.
In order to create any kind of balance in this pizza, a lot of sauce and even more sausage was needed. Unfortunately, Gino's fell short on both accounts. The sauce should have been poured on with a ladle, but I think Peggy must have used a teaspoon. When I tried the sauce on its own, I actually found it to be quite flavorful but it didn't have a chance against the cheese. The sausage was applied almost as sparingly, with no more than 3 chunks on most of the slices.
The saving grace for the pizza was Peggy's crust, which is like nothing I've had before. The color, which is somewhere between dark yellow and orange, is the first hint that something is different. Of course, as Gino's East has purportedly shown, you can easily change the color of a pizza crust with food coloring. Where this crust really stands out is in the texture of the high end crust, which is both flaky and crispy. The last bites of each slice, where some balance was restored, were by far the best of the night.
I can't recommend going out of your way to get to Gino's North just for the deep dish, but it's a great little bar worth checking out and while you're there, you might as well get some pizza. Just ask for extra toppings and be sure to bring cash as no credit cards are accepted.