Better than Xanax – Gino’s East, Chicago

gino's east, chicago, illinois - spinach and mushroom deep dish pizza
LAX 2 ORD, no. 16

If you have a normal job, then you probably don’t get to watch much daytime tv, which is very different from prime time tv. You hear about morning “news” shows (I mean really, does Good Day LA really count as a news show?), daytime soaps, and afternoon talk shows from your friends who have non-desk, non-nine-to-five jobs, or friends who are total losers and do nothing all day (*gasp!* oh, dear…that’s me!). You hear, but you never get to watch them because you are actually working. If you have a normal daytime job, you probably don’t get to watch much daytime food tv either, which is distinctly different from the evening, high-energy, high entertainment value shows like Iron Chef and Emeril Live (though I would beg to differ on the entertainment value of this show).

I don’t have a normal daytime job. In fact, I don’t have a job at all! ;) Which means that I have learned everything there is to know about daytime food tv. First of all, the Food Network must have done some crazy a$$ marketing studies about its audience to give it a reason to start its weekday programming at 9:30 am. I suspect that this has to do with the fact that a lot of the audience is probably very busy in the morning yoga-ing, making breakfast, packing lunches, and carpooling… but what about me?!? Now, I haven’t gotten to the point yet in my funemployment where I can lazily sleep in until noon, so what the hell am I supposed to watch over breakfast until 9:30 am?! Either I am learning about how to sanitize my toothbrush in a magic bullet that chops garlic for me while I master tae bo using Victoria Principal’s Secret, or I am watching Jillian Barberie’s brilliantly accurate meteorological forecast for southern California. Sunshine and mid 70s yet again! That Jillian sure knows how to forecast weather. I suppose I could solve the whole problem by exercising or something until 9:30 am. *pause* Nah.

So yes, when once I never used to watch tv during the day, now I watch tv continuously from early morning infomercials straight through to pretty much…late late night infomercials, with occasional breaks to, oh, I don’t know, take a shower or something. But that’s only if I plan to actually step foot outside my apartment. And the problem with tv is that it is more highly addictive than narcotics to the point where you cannot tear yourself away from it no matter how bad it is. Okay, maybe not more addictive than cigarettes because I’ve seen people get up in the middle of Giada de Laurentiis’s Everyday Italian and go for a smoke. That’s not a good argument either because even people who don’t smoke should get up in the middle of the Blowpop Bodied Chef’s show and have a cigarette. I can’t believe how much of a pusher I am being. Smoke until Giada is over and the next show starts, as long as it’s not Rachael Ray or Sandra Lee or Emeril, okay?

Do I have something against the Food Network chefs or what? I think I am just watching a little too much food tv. LOL!

Without going into too much about how I think the entire network’s programming is going down in quality with the exception of a few shows like Good Eats and the Wednesday 4 a.m. airing of old Tony Bourdain shows, daytime food tv shows are pretty much all nonsense like three episodes of 30 Minute Meals with Rachael, Everyday Italian, and shows like Calorie Commando and Low Carb N Lovin’ It. By the way, I have nothing against low calorie or low carb lifestyles (I mean, I tried to put myself on a W “lifestyle change” for a few months) – I just think the shows are stupid. Yet I watch them all, and at some point in the span between the decision to go and the departure from LAX, during one of my daytime marathon couch warming sessions, I was watching something along the lines of The Best of or the Secret Life Of, and it mentioned deep dish. Not Dubfire and Sharam, but Chicago-style deep dish at Lou Malnati’s. I could not forget deep dish pizza whilst in Chicago. I thought about putting my old GU Moscow into the rotation to remind myself – it’s in the changer in my car. :)

Unfortunately, the day I arrived in Chicago, it was too late in the afternoon to get pizza and not spoil my appetite for dinner at Frontera Grill. The second day, I had already packed in too many other meals, so the morning I left for Wisconsin, I was supposed to maybe squeeze in pizza for breakfast…but let’s just say that festivities from the night before left me with nothing but a serious craving for…Alka Seltzer Morning Relief.

On the last day of my Midwest vacation, in the car en route from my two-day stop-off in Milwaukee back to O’Hare, I put the small handheld wireless fruit to good use. It was now or not-until-after-snow. How can I strategically maneuver along this freeway such that I can eat real Chicago-style deep dish pizza and still have time to put gas in the rental car myself so that I’m not charged $12 a gallon?! Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be able to try Lou Malnati’s for the first time like I had hoped back when my ass was attached to my couch, the closest Giordano’s was too far away to make it without sweating through the security line at ORD, but Gino’s East had a location right there…wait! There’s my exit!

gino's east, chicago, illinois
there is no gino’s west
gino's east, chicago, illinois
gratuitous photo with “delicious”

Gino’s East looks like any other pizza parlor, with red vinyl booths, red and white checked vinyl tablecloths, and tall red plastic cups for drinks. We didn’t need to look too closely at the menu other than to decide what kind of deep dish pizza. I would have slapped myself if I had flown all the way to Chicago, sat down in Gino’s East, and even entertained the idea of pasta or regular thin-crust pizza or worse yet *gasp!* a salad. Supreme with everything? Meaty Legend (and we all know that every once in a while, a girl’s got to get her meat), Bacon Cheeseburger? That’s taking it a bit far – bacon and cheese and burger in a pizza. I sort of felt my jeans tightening just reading the description and since I can’t afford to buy another pair of these…we ordered Spinach.

gino's east, chicago, illinois - deep dish spinach
now that’s deep

It took a long time for our pizza order to come out. I gave Gino’s East ample time to accommodate the heavy iron pan, the thick crust, the deep-dishness of the entire pizza, but somehow I knew that parent-child-pair-bearing-wrapped-gift after parent-child-pair-bearing-balloons filtering through that front door to some secret hideaway in the back was a kiddie birthday party throwing the kitchen all out of whack. Finally, I had to ask the server, “Is there any way you could check on…airport…home to LA…” She came back wielding a pair of pliers latched onto a cast iron pan that was emitting volcanic steam like it was about to erupt. She clanked the pizza pan down on the table and served us our slices, warning us that the pan was very very hot. Dumbasses, in case you’re blind and can’t see this steam, or stupid and can’t figure out that your pizza is oozing all over the place because it’s hot, be careful – you might burn yourselves. I think the kiddie birthday was in her section, too.

gino's east, chicago, illinois - slice of deep dish spinach
can ywe really call this mountain just a “slice?”

The anxiety. The tension. The excitement that had been building up slowly over the course of a month and accelerated into a psychotic drive along the I-90 east freeway was finally about to erupt into one last gluttonous supper of spinach, mozzarella and chopped tomatoes spilling out like white-hot molten lava all over a thick, golden crust. The fork was poised. I could hardly wait. But of course, we had to pause for a photo. LOL! How anti-climatic.

And to be quite honest, my first bite of Gino’s East’s deep dish spinach pizza was a bit anti-climactic. I never thought I’d say something this ridiculously stupid, but there was *ahem* too much cheese. *gasp!* Too much cheese?!?! Surely I jest! No, surely I do not. It was just a little bit too much cheese, not enough spinach and tomatoes, and not enough of a crust that I wasn’t sure I would want more of anyway because it had the texture of a shortbread cracker. The crust was dry and crumbly, which is fine with currant jelly and tea, not mozzarella cheese. The thing is, I think this is actually one of the selling points for Gino’s East. They have this special crumbly golden crust. I just happen to like my crusts to taste more like a yeasted bread, crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, rather than like a…scone. Oh well, despite the anti-climax, it’s still pizza, and we all know about the rarity of real pizza-gasms ;)

All that cheese made me sleepy and heavy. I could hardly keep up with the chaotic return process through Alamo, impatient ride on the shuttle, and the final mad dash through the rainbow lightshow tunnel. I was carrying the leftover pizza in a little box, because even though I didn’t love Gino’s East, thirty years with my parents had brainwashed me into not wasting anything. At least not wasting so overtly without trying to save the leftovers.

Waiting for all the passengers to board, getting safely stowed away and strapped in for take-off…Wait. What? What do you mean the return flight home is an hour longer than the flight out?! There’s turbulence over the Rockies?! What kind of TURBULENCE?!?! *gripping arm rests* Worst of all, what do you mean the in-flight movie is The Island?!?

Aw, hell. The smell of the pizza wafting up from the under-seat storage and a very full stomach was better than Xanax for the flight home to LA.

Gino’s East (multiple locations)

Gino’s East – O’Hare Plaza
8725 West Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631

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  • Anonymous

    That pizza looks sooo good! I’m licking my computer screen! JP.

  • djjewelz

    Damn it I miss deep dish pizza. When will this LAX 2 ORD journey end so that I don’t have to keep thinking about it!

  • U

    Gino’s East has the corn crust, right? It has been about ten years since I last ate there, but I remember it being great pizza.

    Their location just off of Michigan avenue, just south of Chicago avenue, was full of graffiti all over the walls, lamps, benches, etc. That was their ‘style’… I guess the other Gino’s Easts aren’t like that?

  • sarah

    don’t worry, this is the last one – gino’s east was my last lunch before i got on the plane back to home.

    and u – thank you – yes, you are right, it must be a cornmeal crust that made it so crumbly. unfortunately, i didn’t love the crust :)

  • Anonymous

    sarah–have you ever tried the spinach deep dish pizza at zak’s in berkeley? the best i have ever tried!!

  • sarah

    anonynous: spinach and mushroom?!? are you kidding me?! whenever i vist the bay area, i bring home a half-baked from zachary’s and stick in my freezer to save it for a rainy day. LOL!

  • Anonymous

    Stay in California. You obviously have no idea what good pizza is! And by the way, Lou Malnati’s is NOT it. Gino’s East is one of the best. There are also other crust alternatives in Chicago that are great too. Giordano’s, Uno’s, Due’s, too name a few. Also, I love the Food Network and all of it shows. Sorry your life is so boring that all you have to do is watch tv all day. Get a life!

  • Anonymous

    I hated Gino’s and I love Zackary’s. The crust at Gino’s ruined it for me. Sadly, that was the only pizza I had when I was in chicago. So, I have yet to taste good Chicago pizza.

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