When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Gino’s East of Chicago
Location: 3626 East Indian School Road
Open: Less than two months
Eats: Deep dish, Chicago-style pizza
Chicagoans have been coming to Phoenix – and staying put – for a long time now, and from their baseball teams to their art museums to their air show, former residents of the Windy City will go on (and on and on) about everything they left behind. But perhaps the thing they’re proudest of is their famous deep dish pizza, which is hearty, cheesy, and at least four times thicker than your average pie.
For as long as there have been snowbirds, there has been deep dish pizza in Phoenix. Oregano’s (a local chain with 20 locations throughout Arizona) and Rosati’s (a nationwide franchise) have been doing Chicago-style pizza in the Valley for years now. But the recent openings of Lou Malanati’s in central Phoenix and Gino’s East in Arcadia have increased the supply of pie, and wait times at either restaurant on any given Friday night suggest that the demand is certainly there to meet it.
Gino's location — in what is quickly becoming an epicurean neighborhood, 36th Street and Indian School, across the road from Crudo, Nook, and Beckett’s Table — means that the restaurant is set up for success. Dress is casual and the menu is approachably Italian-American, with classic appetizers, like the minestrone or the fried calamari, and not-so-usual ones, like the eggplant burrata bowl and deep dish nachos. A handful of salads, three sandwiches, and some pasta dishes round out the offerings.
But you’re here for the pizza.
Gino’s kindly offers several thin crust pizza options and plenty of topping choices should you want to build your own, but the six deep dish options are where the restaurant shines.
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Two or three adults could split a small pizza, and a large pie would easily feed five hungry grownups. We ordered the Gino’s Supreme ($25 for a medium), and were supremely happy with the result. A buttery, golden crust crumbled only slightly under the weight of all that cheese, Italian sausage, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. The mozzarella was ooey, gooey, and delicious; the pleasant crunch of a green pepper or sweet bite of Italian sausage was present in every mouthful.
This is knife and fork pizza, and it easily could be a whole meal in and of itself.
Although we didn’t try a dessert on this visit, on a return, we’d be tempted to forgo the standard tiramisu, apple crumble, or lemon sorbet for the delicious-sounding cinnamon sugar beignet balls.
In a town as pizza savvy as this one, in a neighborhood increasingly filled with foodies, will Gino’s stand the test of time? As long as there is cold beer, good air-conditioning, and homesick Midwesterners, Gino’s East will probably be just fine.