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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gino's North [Meeting #79]

Gino's North [GoogleMaps]
1111 W. Granville Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660

CPC invaded Gino's North on 4/28/09.

Review submitted by Amanda

Gino's North is an Edgewater institution that does not look like much from the outside. The establishment has existed since the 1930s or 40s, but was a bar known as the "Snowdrop" back in those days. For years the bar existed as an Edgewater dive popular with locals. It's not clear when pizza became a feature, but around 30 years ago a woman named Peggy started working there and become known for her crust, lovingly featured on the restaurant's website as "Peggy's Famous Homemade Crust." The previous owners renamed the restaurant "Gino's North," and it is allegedly unconnected to the more famous "Gino's East." About three years ago the current owners bought the restaurant and invested in the interior, which features several half-moon booths and a long art deco style bar with a statue in the middle. Gino's North is not ideal for large groups, as CPC discovered when our gang of fourteen trickled in and waited for tables.

Because the restaurant is not set up in a way to accomodate large groups, we split into three tables and each table got to choose the toppings. Gino's North features deep dish and thin crust pies, each with Peggy's dough. My table ordered one deep dish with sausage, and one thin crust with pepperoni, artichoke, and sun-dried tomatoes. (I got a lot of ribbing for that last combination, but I was only trying to be creative). Our pizzas took over a half hour, perhaps even forty minutes before they came out. The Bulls/Celtics game provided some distraction, and we were concerned when a table that had ordered before us got there pizzas first. However, our pizzas arrived not long after that.

The deep dish arrived first. The deep dish is not like a traditional Chicago deep dish pizza. In my (albeit limited) experience, a real deep dish pizza has a thicker crust. This deep dish is almost like a pan pizza, but a very deep pan. Peggy deserves her local renown for the crust. Although the lighting was dark, we could tell the crust had a golden yellow hue indicative of corn flour, and perhaps olive oil. The crust was solid, with a nice crisp on the outer edges. Also noteworthy was the sauce, which was not very sweet, and nicely spiced. The distribution of sausage of evenly balanced, but not overpowering.

The thin crust was experimental in toppings. Artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and pepperonies, admittedly, do not go together intuitively. However, I liked it. They are all strong flavors, and there was something about the pepperoni that was really delightful -- it was almost like a salami. Like the deep dish, the thin crust had great flavor, and although I would have liked to see a little bit more of char to the edge, there was still a good crunch around the edges.

Overall, it's definitely worth a trip to Edgewater to try the pizza at Gino's North. If you see Peggy, a petite blonde in the back who looks like she knows what she's doing, tell her the CPC says, "Hey."

Overall, Gino's North is a solid neighborhood pizza place worth a visit if you're in the area, aren't with a big group, and aren't a stickler f0r extra-friendly service. If you meet those criteria, you're sure to enjoy it. 

Chicago Pizza Club gives Gino's North a 6.6.

Gino's North Pizzeria on Urbanspoon


  1. I had the privilege of sharing a table with Amanda, so I too had the pan sausage (it was not not deep dish) and the pepperoni/artichoke/sun-dried tomato combination.

    I liked the pan pizza. The crust had a nice crispness to it and I think some butter in it. It was, as Amanda said, a lovely shade of yellow, but given the taste, I don't think there was corn flour or corn meal in there. I think that the coloring came from a bottle of food coloring. The sauce was not as chunky as I like, particularly on a thick pizza, but it was well-seasoned and not too sweet. The large chunks of sausage were full of fennelly goodness and were the highlight of the meal.

    The thin crust pizza could have used a little more sauce. Amanda's toppings combination was certainly unique. I didn't think the three meshed particularly well, but that might have been due to the uneven application of the sun-dried tomatoes and the pepperoni.

    I give Gino's North a 5.6. I'd be happy to eat it again, but I won't go out of my way to do so.

  2. Yeah... the pizza was good. But, I'm still going to vent here. When I say the pizza was good, well... I'm only talking about the thin crust. Our deep dish pizza never managed to materialize, appearing instead as another thin crust pizza. We got a few bites of their deep dish from the other tables in our group, but dammit, you can't judge anything from the cooling castoffs of your neighbors' meals.

    First off, orders should be written down as they're taken... especially if you're not normally a server. The pizzas took an inordinate amount of time to cook. Our table was the 2nd or 3rd to order, yet somehow we got our pizzas first. Well, one of our pizzas came out, like I said, the deep dish pizza we ordered had somehow morphed into another thin crust, probably because our server failed to jot down the order as he took it.

    I've worked making pizzas and know a little about food service, I also spent close to a decade dealing with customers in some fashion or another so I think I know a thing or two about good customer service as well. I definitely know that any sort of customer service was absent last night and it really ruined the evening for me.

    Usually at a restaurant when an order is messed up some effort is made to replace the dish or something is offered up as means of compensation. Gino's North apparently doesn't subscribe to this philosophy as all we got were shrugged shoulders and the sort of "oops-a-daisy" expression usually reserved for the faces of petulant toddlers. When we suggested that they could go back and make the pizza we had ordered in the first place we were greeted with a laugh and our server walked away leaving us with the bastard thin crust pizza that would do little to quell the hungers we had worked up in anticipation of the evening's meeting.

    Already a little irate over the long wait time for the food this really set me over the top. Try and defend them all you want, sure they're a small restaurant/bar, but an order for 6 pizzas should not be enough to send your entire kitchen into disarray.

    So yeah, the pizza was good... if I had to give it a score (and I can only judge the thin crust pizza) I'd give it a 6, but it doesn't matter because I'd never go back to Gino's North to eat, and I don't recommend that you do either.

  3. This place is a small tavern with only a few tables and a classy statue. The drinks were really reasonable and everyone was very friendly to our large and cumbersome group.

    The thin crust had a nice sauce. It wasn't a particularly sweet sauce, but it was super heavy on oregano. I was more than OK with that. I was so hungry that I wolfed down the pepperoni. I don't think this was the Hormel standard because this pepperoni was in more substantial slices and it had good spice to it. The onions were put on raw and cooked enough to be softened with the sauce but still provide some need textural crunch.

    Our second pizza was the ill-fated thin topped with sausage, spinach, sundried tomatoes, and half giardineira that was SUPPOSED to have been their deep dish. The toppings seemed excessive to me, but I for some reason allowed pizza noobs to add the salad mix to my pizza. This was a mistake. In the deep dish it might have held up better, but it made the thin crust a little soggy. I frankly expected it to come out soupy, but Peggy's crust was plenty sturdy. The real problem was that I couldn't taste anything except the sausage anyway. I avoided the pieces with giardineira and it was basically a sausage pizza. The sundried tomatoes were noticeable only when you bit them. The spinach, which I later tried on its own, was actually very good. It was fresh and had clear yet subtle tones of basil and garlic. I would have loved to have just gotten a spinach pizza. I disagree with MCH about the sausage. I liked it a lot also, but I didn't think the fennel was the dominant flavor, nor was it garlic. The strongest flavor was PORK and it was a well balanced sausage. The meat quality was kind of standard bar pizza quality (some chunks are all fat or something worse), but it was great on the pizza.

    Peggy's dough is the selling point of Gino's North. They advertise it as their big weapon. Aside from the orange color and the intense butter flavor I got on my purloined deep dish slice, I don't know what was so unique about it. As one of our pizza-making members suggested, perhaps the color was from olive oil? I wondered if maybe she threw in a dash of some spice merely for color. I noticed it almost had a phyllo dough type of layering, but I have noticed this after pizzas cook in many crusts around town.

    As Andrew notes above, we did not get our requested deep dish pizza. I did try a few bites here and there from other tables, but I don't think it's enough for me to form judgment on. I completely agree with his account of how we were treated. They had the "aw-shucks" stuff going on and didn't even comp us anything for their mistake. It left a sour taste in my mouth. I believe the customer is always right and laughing at me when I did in fact request they remake our pizza is no way to make me go back. The worst thing is I left kinda hungry! A 12 inch thin crust does not fill me up like a 12 inch deep dish pizza!

    You get my impressions of the service there, which is a shame. Judging only the thin crust pizza, I was pretty happy with it. The deep dish looked great as well and I wish I had gotten to try it properly. My score is a 7.8.

  4. I also had the deep dish (or pan, I guess) italian sausage and the thin crust tomato-artichoke-pepperoni. The ingredients were all good; the sun dried tomato was a little sweet, the pepperoni was pretty spicy, the italian sausage was large, and the artichoke was ... artichoke-y. Secondly, I liked the cheese, which tasted a little salty, especially noticeable in the large amounts that came on the pan pizza. I didn't notice the crust or the sauce much. They weren't bad, just didn't add anything in my opinion.

    Anyway, all in all I'd give it a 6. Some good qualities, definitely worth eating at if you're near there, but not spectacular. Also, I enjoyed their deep dish pizza more than their thin crust.

    As a post-script, I do agree with most of what was said above. Gino's doesn't seem like it's set up very well for large groups. The seating can only handle about 5 people at a table, and the pizza's took a long time to cook, which I'm assuming is because we ordered six and overwhelmed them.

  5. Gino’s is a nice little neighborhood spot that seemed to be filled with regulars unwinding with pizza and drinks after work. It’s definitely not set up for a large group, but that’s just not the type of place it is. I was at the table w/ Stu and El Prez and also got shorted a deep dish pizza. They operate out of a small kitchen with just one woman back there, apparently Peggy, doing what she’s been doing for 30+ years. For that reason, I was completely prepared to accept a lengthy wait for the 6 pies we simultaneously ordered while taking up nearly half the restaurant’s seating. But getting the order wrong and then blowing us off is pretty objectionable service. It bothered me because our server blamed it on having “just one 79-year-old lady in the kitchen,” but it was plain from the order accompanying our receipt that it was the 40-or-so-year-old man taking our order who just wrote it down wrong. And he was also the one who laughed it off and walked away. Other than this dude, everyone was very friendly and accommodating, so I would avoid him in the future.

    All that aside, I thought the pizza was pretty good. I really liked the pepperoni and onion thin crust we ordered. That’s always a good combination of ingredients in my book, and it worked particularly well here because the pepperoni was a bit spicier than a lot of the bland stuff you find out there, which went well with the generously seasoned sauce and the crunch of the onions. I found the amount of sauce to be appropriate, and it came through in each bite because of its strong seasoning, which included some robust oregano flavors. The crust is quite dense and stays crisp long enough for you to get to your second slice. It has a nice rich flavor and a unique texture that definitely makes Gino’s stand out.

    The sausage with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes was a combo I would never have ordered on a thin crust, which added to the disappointment of the mix-up. It was too many ingredients for a thin crust. That said, the sausage itself was quite good. I thought fennel was the predominant flavor, but it was not overwhelming. The spinach was good but hard to taste over the sausage. If I got it on a deep dish I would want it in higher proportions. Of course, the slices with giardiniera were dominated by giardiniera. I’m starting to think it might be a good idea to only request this ingredient on the side in the future, because I like the heat and a bit of the taste, but as a topping cooked with the pizza, the oils permeate every bit of the pizza and overpower every other flavor.

    I got a sliver of another table’s sausage deep dish, which is not enough for me to really comment on at length, but I thought it was pretty good.

    In sum, Gino’s North is a cozy neighborhood tavern serving up inexpensive drinks and good pizza. The service can be unpredictable, but it’s a nice place to visit if you have time to settle in for a couple of drinks. Speaking just to the pizza for the score, I give Gino’s North a 7.

  6. Gino's North wins a lot of points for atmosphere, and the pizza is good enough for a return visit if in the neighborhood. Our table ordered a deep dish with sausage/pepperoni/onion and a thin crust with artichoke/onion/green pepper on half and pepperoni/onion/green pepper on the other half. Although our pizzas seemed to take forever to come out of the kitchen, sitting back in the half moon shaped booth with fresh flowers on the table and mood lighting was fine with me. Oh yeah...the company was great too! One of the neighboring tables offered their thin crust with sundried tomato/pepperoni/artichoke while we were still foodless. I grabbed a slice and really enjoyed it. The sundried tomato was a nice potent addition to the pie.

    The deep dish arrived first and was full of huge chunks of sausage. This was a plus. Also, the cheese was really brown. Also a plus. There was a good amount of sauce and I'd say it blended well with the pizza because it didn't really stand out as too much of this or too much of that. However, there was an overwhelming saltiness to this pie. I'd attribute it to the double meat. We had onion in there but in the future I would leave out the pepperoni and add another vegetable. The crust was mediocre. It wasn't flavorful or chewy. It was kind of crumbly but it didn't really detract too much from the average tasting pizza. The thin crust was good and tasted similar to the deep dish without the huge edge crust and with less cheese. I'd say that the combo of pepperoni/artichoke/sundried tomato was better than pepperoni/onion/green pepper. I think something sweet (sundried tomato) on a pizza paired with pepperoni is a wiser choice.

    Overall, this place has a nice vibe and decent pizza. I had a lovely chat on my way out with our waiter about the past of Gino's North and this only confirmed my positive feelings. Hearing about the mistake that took place at a neighboring table saddens me but didn't affect my personal experience.

    Gino's North gets a 6.

  7. When our group was deciding what types of pizza to order, there was some confusion about the crust Gino's North was known for. After trying both thin and pan pizzas, I can only imagine them being known for their delicious pan pizza. I agree with Amanda in that the pan crust is unlike a traditional pan pizza. Gino's North takes a thin version of their crust, lines a deep pan with it and then loads the toppings on. This style of pie is trumps any Chicago-style pizza I’ve had.

    Our table ordered a sausage deep dish pizza along with a pepperoni, artichoke and sundried tomato thin crust pizza. The deep dish was the winner, hands down. The cheese was cooked to a golden brown, the crust tender and with just the right amount of toppings. This pizza had some of the best sausage I’ve eaten in Chicago; the texture, shape and flavor were simply outstanding. The thin crust (even considering the odd topping choice) was a decent pie but not particularly notable.

    As the other members have noted, this is not the place to take a large group. I felt like they were trying to accommodate us as best they could so I can’t really hold the long wait time against them. Based on what I feel was a great deep dish, Gino’s North gets a 7.5.

  8. Gino North's loungy dive feel was fun and cozy. There were crescent booths and a burlesque-stage bar like in Rainbow Room. The well drink specials are a recession-friendly $2.50. When the pizza finally arrived it was pretty tasty. Our table enjoyed a half green pepper, onion and pepperoni and half green pepper onion artichoke thin crust pizza. Also we had an Italian sausage, pepperoni and onion deep dish. The deep dish was better than the thin crust, with a mixture of sweet sauce and salty meats. The artichoke on thin crust was possibly a good pairing with sun-dried tomato. The pizzas were soggy in general. It's hard to tell whether everything tasted good or I was just really hungry, but combined with the atmosphere, this is a solid place.


  9. As I noted in the summary, this is a nice little place -- not built for big groups. I agree with Stu that the customer service left much to be desired, and that always impacts a diner's general impressions of a restaurant. Judging solely on the pizza's I ate, I give a 6.75. I would stick to the "deep dish" pizza over the thin, but maybe next time I will choose my thin-crust toppings less creatively. I live across the street, so I am sure it will become our go-to place for pizza.

  10. Gino's North is definitely a local/block establishment that has no pretension to anything less. The decor is legitimate and clean, retro-chic, but not trendy. The pizza was likewise authentic. I sat at the table with Chand and I agree with him 100% on the toppings. I would note that the crust on the deep dish/pan pizza is a better crafted version of the Ranalli's deep dish crust CPC sampled last summer. They both have a similar texture and taste. However, what made Peggy's crust better was its superior philo-like texture and the far superior sauce that it complimented. Throughout the sitting, I frequently indulged in pleasant bursts of the warm spiced sauce most every time I bit into the end crust. It is this wonderful sensation that will inevitably draw me back. 6.5

  11. I definitely felt very comfortable at Gino's. After sliding into one of the high backed booths, i immediately felt that "I want to stay here a while" feeling. My pizza sampling was limited - the one pizza I tried was a thin crust with green pepper, onion, and artichoke. Nice that they offered a couple of interesting veggie toppings on the menu - artichoke and sun dried tomato. I thought the crust was good - not too crispy, u could sort of sink ur teeth in it a bit. The sauce was well seasoned, not too sweet or salty. For me, the most notable topping on our thin crust pizza was the artichoke. It was uber tender, and added a very nice texture. But i must say it didnt add a ton of flavor. Perhaps it needed to be paired with something like garlic or a salty meat to bring out the flavor.

    Gino's North gets two thumbs up for the cozy decor and warm atmosphere. The pizza is good, but might leave something to be desired if ur veggie. Its definitely got the "neighborhood joint" vibe going for it, and if I'm in the neighborhood I would certainly drop by. Oh and I have to say peggy is adorable.

    i give it a 6.6