Chicago Pizza Smackdown: Gino’s East vs. Giordano’s

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You can’t go to Chicago without trying some of its famous deep dish pizza. It would be like a slight to the city. Like making rude gestures at it. Like a sin. In short, it would just be really bad.

So, when I first decided I was going to visit the Windy City, “eating deep dish pizza” immediately was put on my list of must-do things.

Giordano's, Chicago, pizza
Eating stuffed pizza at Giordano's.

I asked around for suggestions on where to go, and I got a whole slew of answers. Chicago certainly has a lot of pizza options.

In the end, I decided to try out two of the places that seemed to come up the most in recommendations: Gino’s East and Giordano’s. Each has a long history in Chicago, and each is known for making a killer deep dish pizza.

Deep dish, in case you aren’t familiar, is not just a really thick pizza. It’s a really thick, inside-out pizza. I say inside-out because, unlike other types of pizza where it goes crust-sauce-cheese-toppings, deep dish pizza goes crust-toppings-cheese-sauce.

And it is delicious.

I ate at the original Gino’s East location on Superior Street, just off Michigan Avenue, in downtown Chicago. There was always a line out the door at this location whenever I saw it, and I ended up using a concierge business card from the John Hancock Observatory in order to skip the line and get priority seating (you can do this, too, if you visit the Observatory!).

Gino's East, Chicago, pizza

I wasn’t able to eat at one of Giordano’s downtown locations, but instead popped into its restaurant near the Chicago-Midway airport, where there was no line or wait for a table.

Giordano's, Chicago, pizza

I can’t really compare things like time spent standing in line or service since I didn’t eat at two downtown locations, but I CAN compare the pizza for you.

So here we go.

Chicago Pizza Smackdown

Menu Options

Both Gino’s and Giordano’s serve deep dish and thin-crust pizza, along with an assortment of pasta, calzones, sandwiches and salads. (Though Giordano’s calls its deep dish pizza “stuffed pizza.”) Why you would go to either of these places and order anything but pizza is beyond me, but the option is there for you.

And, although they don’t advertise it or include it on the menu, Gino’s also serves gluten-free pizza. I didn’t try it, but my friend Katie said it was good.

Smackdown winner: Draw, because both menus offer up a variety of things.

Tally: Gino’s — 1    Giordano’s — 1

Deep dish pizza in Chicago
Deep dish at Gino's

Atmosphere

I can’t speak to any locations except the ones that I actually ate at, of course.

Gino’s East on Superior had a really lively atmosphere, but wasn’t super loud. Inside Gino’s, guests can write on the walls, chairs, staircases, you name it, so it was fun to look around. The building also has somewhat of an “underground” feel to it, even though it’s 3 stories high. This is probably due to the fact that it didn’t seem to have many windows, and is painted in fairly dark colors.

The Giordano’s I ate at was nothing special — it was your average pizza joint with lots of old pictures from Chicago lining the walls, and white-and-red checkered tablecloths.

Smackdown winner: Gino’s, because the writing on the wall says so.

Tally: Gino’s — 2    Giordano’s — 1

Gino's East, Chicago, pizza
The walls at Gino's East

Pizza Cook Time

After waiting a while for a table, you can expect to wait an additional 45-60 minutes for a deep dish pizza at Gino’s. This has little to do with how busy the place is, and more to do with the fact that deep dish pizza takes quite a while to cook.

At Giordano’s, you can expect to wait roughly 35 minutes for one of their stuffed pizzas.

Smackdown winner: Giordano’s, though not by much.

Tally: Gino’s — 2    Giordano’s — 2

Price

At Gino’s, I split a medium, 6-slice pepperoni pizza with two other people. The total cost of the pizza was $23.20. A small (4-slice) pepperoni pizza would have been $17.70, and a large (8-slice) pizza with one topping would have set us back $27.45. Prices are generally based on how many toppings you want inside your pizza.

At Giordano’s, one friend and I split a small (10-inch) pepperoni pizza for $15.35. The menu said this pizza would serve 1-2, and it wound up having 6 slices, and was more than the two of us could eat. A medium (12-inch) one-topping pizza here costs $19.20, and a large (14-inch) would be $21.75.

Smackdown winner: Giordano’s, because you seem to get more pizza for the price you pay.

Tally: Gino’s — 2    Giordano’s — 3

Giordano's, Chicago, pizza
Giordano's stuffed pizza

Crust

The crust is my absolute favorite part of any pizza. I like it to be crunchy and seasoned well. I know not everyone is a crust fan, but if you are, listen up.

Gino’s pizza is made with a “golden crust” that almost tastes like it has cornmeal in it. It was amazing. I could have eaten this crust and nothing else for days — it was that good. It was crunchy but not too hard, and had a really good flavor without overpowering the rest of the pizza or being really greasy.

Giordano’s crust wasn’t anything special. It was crisp and tasted fine, but it paled in comparison to Gino’s as far as I was concerned.

Smackdown winner: Gino’s, because of that tasty cornmeal crust.

Tally: Gino’s — 3    Giordano’s — 3

Gino's East, Chicago, pizza
Mmm, Gino's crust.

Sauce

When it comes to sauce, I didn’t really have a preference. Both use a chunky tomato sauce that’s neither too sweet nor too acidic. In fact, I thought they were both pretty tasty.

Smackdown winner: Draw, because I thought they were both good.

Tally: Gino’s — 4    Giordano’s — 4

Cheese/Toppings

While both places offered up a wide variety of toppings to put inside your pizza, I went with just pepperoni on both occasions.

Gino’s pizza was a nice balance of topping, cheese and sauce. I didn’t feel like any element dominated over the others.

Giordano’s pizza is fabulous if you love cheese. Their stuffed pizzas certainly ARE stuffed – with gooey, not-too-greasy cheese. I like extra cheese on my pizza, but this would not be the right pizza for someone who doesn’t.

Smackdown winner: Gino’s, because I’m all about balance.

Tally: Gino’s — 5    Giordano’s — 4

Gino's East, Chicago, pizza
Gino's deep dish pizza

Final Tally: Gino’s wins!

When it comes down to it, I much preferred Gino’s East. Yes, you could pay less and not have to wait as long for stuffed pizza at Giordano’s, but the deep dish at Gino’s is worth it in my opinion.

Taste-wise, Gino’s wins, hands-down for me.

Plus, the atmosphere of Gino’s East was fun. Who doesn’t love a place where you can write on the walls?

Gino's East, Chicago, pizza

Since originally writing this post, I went on a Chicago Pizza Tour and tried deep dish at a couple other spots, too, like Pizano's and Pequod's. All I can say is Chicago is an AWESOME pizza city!

Have you eaten at either of these Chicago pizza joints, or perhaps others I didn’t get a chance to try? Which serves up YOUR favorite deep dish pizza?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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46 Comments on “Chicago Pizza Smackdown: Gino’s East vs. Giordano’s

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  1. Yay! Great comparison between the two! I used to be a Giordano’s devotee (before I had to go gluten-free) – mainly because of the cheese – I love lot of cheese on my pizza!

    But now that I know that Gino’s has gluten-free pizza (and it was good!), it will definitely be my pizza place of choice!

      Thanks, Katie! I actually had fun doing this – it’s technically my first food review!

      And I’m glad you discovered the gluten-free pizza at Gino’s!

    I am craving pizza now!! I have eaten at Giordano’s, but never at Gino’s East. Your post makes me really want to try Gino’s though and I can’t wait to go back to Chicago to try it. Usually I prefer thin-crust Italian-style pizza but this stuffed pizza is just so good 🙂

      You should definitely give Gino’s a try next time you’re in Chicago! (Though, be prepared for those long lines!) It’s really good pizza, and kind of a big deal in the Windy City. I know it’s sometimes considered “touristy” to hit up places like this, but I don’t care – sometimes these places are popular for a reason!

    Great post! I agree with Katie, I think the reason Giordano’s is my favorite is because I like the extra cheese!

      I’m a fan of cheese, too, but Gino’s crust totally won me over!

      Thanks for reading! (And for being great pizza-eating company!!

    I’ve never been to Chicago but I’d love to go and have some deep dish pizza. It all looks so yummy.

      It really was delicious! You can get deep dish pizza in other places, of course, but Chicago is definitely best-known for it!

    Being from the Chicago area myself, I have to say Chicago-style pizza IS the best pizza! I like both places you listed but another fabulous pizza place is Lou Malnati’s…*sigh.* Just thinking about it and reading your post makes me hungry! I currently live in Taiwan, where pizza like this is but a dream…:)

      Lou Malnati’s also came up in the suggestions (as well as one or two other places), but I unfortunately was only in Chicago for two days, so I had to narrow down my choices! Next time I’m in Chicago, I’ll have to try out some of the other pizza joints.

      Sorry to have made you hungry for pizza all the way in Taiwan!

    I’ve never been to chicago or had chicago-style pizza but now I feel like I should make a special trip!! Yummy!!

      Yes you should! It’s delish. Then again, you probably can have all the Italian-style pizza you could want right now!

    Great comparison and amazing pizza photos. I’ve only had UNOs in Chicago. Gotta couple more places to try now. Love comparing places!

      Thanks, Aaron! I actually had a lot of fun writing this post, and I’m going to do a similar one comparing the Willis (Sears) Tower Skydeck and the John Hancock Observatory next week! UNOs was another place suggested to me, but Gino’s and Giordano’s seemed to be the most popular, so I decided to to compare those!

    My stomach was growling as I read this. It´s settled I´m having pizza for lunch!

      Haha, if it makes you feel any better, I got really hungry writing this! I’m a fan of all sorts of types of pizza, but this deep dish was amazing. Thanks for reading, Ayngelina!

    I’m now starving, thanks – and getting a pizza that would remotely compare to these in Queenstown is simply impossible. While NZ does good specialty pizzas (Salmon … lamb … green-lipped mussel), getting a proper American styled pizza is impossible! And don’t get me started on the frozen options in the supermarket!

    Love this review. I’ve only had Giordano’s – whenever I visit my mate who lives in Wrigleyville, we always get a couple of the thin crusted pizzas delivered!

      Sorry Matt! I imagine a good deep dish pizza is only something you can dream about in NZ. Though, I did really enjoy pizza at Winnie’s when I was in Queenstown!

      And you have a friend who lives in Wrigleyville? So do I! She also suggested Giordano’s.

    Let me first start by saying that I am obsessed with pizza in all shapes, sizes and forms and any blog with pictures of pizza gets my view. I I have been to all the big boys in CHI to my knowledge and really love them all. For me it’s all about the ingredients, but I am a sucker for tons of cheese, Delicious post!

      Thanks, Scott! I’ll have to keep your pizza fetish in mind for future posts! 😉 Do you have a favorite in Chicago?

        I guess I would have to go with Giordano’s from what I remember. If you end up In St. Louis this summer, I will show you some St. Louis style pizza. it’s thin crust, cut into squares with this special cheese you can only get here called Provel.

          Mmm, St. Louis pizza sounds delicious, too! I will definitely be taking you up on this!

    It’s great comparison of chicago pizza.It’s nice photos of the pizza.It’s such a good job…

    Something told me not to read this post. The pizza just sounds so wonderful and the photos make my mouth water. Its lent and Im killing myself viewing this post.

      Oh no! Well, thanks so much for reading, even if it was torture!

    I agree that a better smackdown is between Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s! Gino’s is touristy. There are a bunch of other less popular local pizza places as well.

      I know there are tons of great pizza places in Chicago. And I know Gino’s is touristy and that most locals wouldn’t be caught dead there. But, on this trip to Chicago, I was a tourist! And I felt like I’d be a bad tourist if I didn’t go to Gino’s! Lol.

    I’ve been to Chicago a few times and each time we at at the original Gino’s on Rush street. Never any lines!

      Good tip! I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time.

    I love both of these places and but I’ll agree that if I had to choose one, Gino’s would win. Girodano’s wins for having more accessible locations though – you can even find their pizza in Florida.

    Great review! We are going in march and were thinking if going to either Gino’s or Pizzeria UNO. I was hoping to find out about the pass from John Hancock that fast tracked you through the line. We will ge going to John Hancock as part of our city pass and I was hoping for new info about this Gino’s concierge service. How do I obtain it and what was its cost? Thanks!!!

      I haven’t eaten at Pizzeria UNO, but I know a lot of people like their pizza, as well.

      As for the concierge pass, if you go up the Hancock tower, simply go over to the concierge desk (it’s near the gift shop in the observation deck) and tell them you heard they can give you a business card that will help you skip the line at Gino’s. That’s all my friend and I did, after getting a tip about it from someone else. Though we still did end up waiting at Gino’s, because the guy at the door had no idea what to do with the pass. Lol.

        Haha I see. Thanks for the quick reply 🙂

    I freaking loved Gino’s East! I made it my mission to go while stopping over on my Amtrak trip across the US. The crust reminded me of shortbread cookies, and the atmosphere with all of the graffiti was WILD!

      An Amtrak trip across the U.S. sounds pretty epic! Awesome that you managed to fit Gino’s in!

    […] In fact, if you’ve been a reader here long enough, you might remember that on my first trip to Chicago back in 2011 I made it my mission to try to determine which of Chicago’s most popular pizza joints made the best deep dish, resulting in my Chicago Pizza Smackdown. […]

    We ended up going to Gino’s and loved it. We are going back next month and we are staying close to Pizzeria Due’s. don’t know if we are going there or back to Gino’s yet.

    […] The Observatory also has a concierge near the elevators that can help you plan your stay or other activities in Chicago. I picked up a business card here and was able to use it to get priority seating at Gino’s East. […]

    I think your comparison of the buildings/atmosphere was pretty crappy. You went to Gino’s best restaurant and then one of the “outlying” secondary Giordano’s.

    The downtown Giordano’s is amazing and has all kinds of signatures from famous people around the inside of the building. It’s lit just right (not too bright or too dark), isn’t overly loud, and has a pretty damn polite staff (at least from my experiences there). Had you gone to that one I’m almost certain you would’ve picked it over Gino’s.

    If you’re going to make comparisons, then compare apples to apples. Don’t compare apples to bowling balls.

      Touche, Greg, touche. Still liked Gino’s pizza better though!

    Both Gino’s East and Girodano’s are deep dish, but Giordano’s is a stuffed pizza like Nancy’s, to be precise. Giordanos’s was founded by brothers Efren and Joseph Boglio, but the Chicago deep dish revolution was spawned when Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo (born Richard Novaretti) opened Ono’s, but it is said the pizza chefs Adolpho “Rudy” Malnati and/or Alice May Redmond likely developed the recipe. Founder of Gino’s East (Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli) hired Alice Mary Redmond and her sister Ruth Hadley. Rudy Malnati’s son Lou founded Lou Malnati’s and his son Rudy Jr founded Pizanno’s. There is a common misconception that there is cornmeal in Gino’s pizza dough. The crust gets its golden color from corn oil and food coloring (FDC yellow #5 and #6), not cornmeal. If ever you pass through Chicago again, try Burt’s Place, Gulliver’s, or Pequod’s (all similar and founded by Bur Katz), and in particular, try Lou Malnati’s … superior to both Gino’s and Giordano’s in the opinion of many deep dish loving Chicago residents including this 71 year old who has lived in Chicago all of his life.

    I worked across the street from Gino’s on Superior back when it opened & every payday a group called our order in ahead & were at the door when they unlocked it. Best ever! Used to be only downstairs from the street at the time. My son sent me deep dish from “his” Lou Malnati’s (I now live in FL & miss Chgo. Pizza) & it was fantastic. Put them side-by-side, think I’d still reach for GINO’S! My opinion is Giordano’s & Uno don’t measure up. Loved your comparisons!

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