Gino’s East – Chicago, IL
The bite: Chicago-style (deep dish) pizza
The inspiration: entrepreneurial spirit
Artwork by Sorin
Chicago-style pizza is a far cry from the pizza originated in Naples, Italy. The two are opposites in almost every way. Chicago-style pizza is deep dish pizza. It’s an Italian-American version of pizza which features a deeper, crunchier crust, the toppings on the bottom, then the cheese, then the sauce on top.The classic Neoploitan pizza is a small (about 10-inch diameter), thin-crust pizza made in a very HOT wood-burning oven. A deep dish pizza cooks in 40 minutes; a Neopolitan pizza finishes in about 2 minutes or less.
Just as deep dish pizza doesn’t conform to the traditional Neopolitan style, the founders of the famed Chicago pizzeria, Gino’s East, are much more than their humble beginnings. The legend goes that in 1966 two Chicago taxi drivers, Fred Bartoli and Sam Levine, got fed up with their jobs and opened a deep dish pizzeria, Gino’s East. Though true, the fact is that Levine and Bartoli were skilled entrepreneurs who owned four taxi companies and were successful enough to afford property just off Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.
Born in Illinois, Mr. Bartoli, the son of Italian immigrants, had to leave school after the fifth grade to help support his family during the Depression. After serving in WWll, he and friend Sam Levine drove taxicabs and were savvy enough to buy four cab companies in the Chicago area.
In 1966, Bartoli, Levine, and friend George Loverde (a grocer) purchased a cozy, old brownstone to use as investment property just off Michigan Avenue on Superior Street. Since deep dish was new to Chicago at the time, the three friends decided they would open a deep-dish pizzeria.
Not knowing the first thing about pizza, these enterprising gentlemen were very clever and knew how to hire the right people, namely Alice May Redmond and her sister, Ruth Hadley, credited with creating the original recipe for Chicago-style pizza. Talk about smart connections!
Now with several locations in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Texas, Gino’s East is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. No matter where you dig into your deep dish, this trademark eatery, which welcomes graffitti on any available surface, is still a classic Chicago experience.