Taste of Chicago

The word is out, and Gino’s East is drawing big crowds.

First things first: Don’t be in a hurry when visiting Gino’s East.

The inaugural North Texas location of the storied Chicago pizzeria chain opened this spring in Arlington and is still experiencing lengthy wait times, and that’s just for a table. It’s another 45 minutes for the deep dish pizza –a drastic departure from the now popular wood-fired pies that can arrive in as little as 90 seconds.

But there’s a reason Gino’s East has established itself as a Chicago institution since it opened in 1966, and it’s not speedy service.

Bready, porous and slightly sweet, Gino’s deep-dish crust drives patrons to travel from long distances and linger patiently, as witnessed during a recent Saturday night visit when we were lucky enough to avoid an hour wait for a table and score seats at the bar. (There is signage that warns, “Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the wait time.”)

Thick like dense cake with chewy ends ideal for sopping up sauce, Gino’s crust is yellow in color, but not because of cornmeal, we were told.

“The crust ingredients are secret,” a bartender said. “We get the flour in a large bag that says ‘Gino’s East.’ ”

The time-honored history of Gino’s East involves a couple of Chicago cab drivers who grew frustrated with traffic and decided to open a pizza joint and compete with nearby Pizzeria Uno. Both are now deceased, but Gino’s still thrives with more than a dozen locations in and around Chicago as well as franchised outlets in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. (A Dallas locale is on the way.)

Patrons can build their own deep dish or choose from five specialty varieties, including a Texas version topped with brisket, $23 (small, four slices), $29 (medium, six slices), $33 (large, eight slices), and a vegetarian offering of spinach, tomato, basil and mozzarella ($21-$25-$28). But word is the Chicagoans go for the Chicago Fire ($21-$25-$28) – a sweet-and-spicy tomato sauce-slathered pie topped with red peppers, red onions and spicy sausage patties. Typically considered a breakfast staple, the fennel-infused discs guarantee mouthfuls of juicy sausage. Mozzarella cheese is stringy and thick, and a fork is necessary to dive into each hefty bite.

The pizza’s arrival is showy, too. Servers bolt throughout the crowded eatery with arms held high shouting, “Hot pie coming through!” Using a wide metal spatula, they meticulously cut and serve the first slice for the customer, allowing for profile shots of hot, gooey cheese.

Ambitiously ordering a pizza per person proved unnecessary as a small was more than enough to feed two hungry adults, hence take-out pizza boxes were requested by all. Compared to the pizza, which also comes in a faster thin crust variety, appetizers of chewy fried calamari ($8) and salty mozzarella and spinach sticks ($8) weren’t memorable. Gino’s also serves salads, including an antipasti version with salami and pepperoncinis ($11), and Chicago-style sandwiches, like the Italian beef served with au jus ($9) and the meatball doused with marinara ($8), all good options for a quick lunch. Save the deep dish for a leisurely dinner.

Location: 1350 E. Copeland Road, Arlington
For Info Call: 817.809.7437
Price Range: $$-$$$
Hours: Sun. - Thurs. 11 a.m. - 10:00 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.