I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Quest for the Holy Grail of Pizza - Gino's East

For some reason blogger puts the newest posts of the day on top of the older ones. If I were reading this blog, I would start with the oldest post of the day and move up the page. A lot of the recipes I am going to post will require a lot of explaining and if you start from the top it might not make sense.

Getting Back to the Quest for the Holy Grail of Pizza

During my second year of medical school I had eaten Gino's enough and had experimented enough to have figured out most of the pizza. I knew how to make their sauce, I knew where they got their pepperoni from (more on all of these subjects later), and I was closing in on the crust. The hardest part about making Gino's East pizza is getting the crust right. Like I said earlier, they have a really yellow crust. Most of my efforts to duplicate the crust centered around getting enough cornmeal into the crust to make it yellow without having it be grainy. At some point I got the right method down, or at least what I thought was the right method. When that first pizza came out of the oven using the new method my wife and I loved it. It was the closest thing to Gino's that I had ever eaten outside of Gino's. It was still a little off but it was almost 100% like the real thing. I was so excited that I posted the recipe on a website forum called topsecretrecipes.com. I included my email address in that original recipe and I got emails from all over the world with testimonials about how close it was to the real thing. I don't think that forum exists anymore but if you want to see a remnant of that recipe you can go to google and type in the words 'Gino's East Pizza Recipe.' The top link that pops up links to my recipe, although it has been trimmed down quite a bit from the original post, and they don't give me any credit. The no credit thing is fine by me, because they trimmed the original post down so much that the recipe doesn't make any sense. The other thing is that I have finally perfected the pizza, and I no longer make it according to that old recipe, in fact my new recipe is much simpler. I will go through each of the components of Gino's pizza in turn and then tomorrow I will post the crust recipe.

The Sauce

Gino's East and many other Chicago pizza restaraunts serve their deep dish pizza with the sauce on top of the cheese and other ingredients. If you are used to Pizza Hut, the whole sauce on top thing might freak you out. The other thing that is different is that the sauce has chunks of tomato in it, and that is much different than typical chain pizza sauce.

One thing that I learned from The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook
is that many of the Chicago pizza restaraunts use 6-in-1 Brand tomatos. Giordanos uses 6-in-1 to top their stuffed crust pizza for instance. Finding these 6-in-1 tomatos is difficult even in large cities, and forget about it if you are in a small town. The best place to find them is in a big city at an Italian Grocery Mart or Deli. Honestly that is the only place I have ever seen them, so whenever I go to an Italian Deli I stock up on 6-in-1.

You're in luck though, because Gino's doesn't use 6-in-1. They have a sauce made from plum or roma tomatos and you can easily duplicate it at home with no difficulty. To make enough sauce for 1 - 12 inch pizza you only need 1 28 ounce can of plum tomatos. Which brand you choose is not hugely important. Remember, a restaraunt like Gino's wants a big profit margin, and they are not going to want to spend a lot of money on crazy expensive tomatos like San Marzano or something else. In a pinch I will use canned plum tomatos or even canned whole tomatos if plum are not available. Mostly what I do is make my sauce from actual plum tomatos but it certainly isn't necessary. I grow a strain of tomatos in my garden called Super San Marzano. I think they make a pretty good sauce. We can a bunch of them up every year so I either have some canned ones on hand or there are fresh ones in the garden. To make the sauce from fresh tomatos I will get a pot of boiling water going on the stove. I drop the tomatos into the boiling water for a minute or so and then remove them, placing them in cold water. This allows the skin to separate from the tomato. Once I have a fair number of peeled tomatos I put them into a pan and cook away, using a potato masher to chunk them up after they get going.

I will assume that you are not into making pizza sauce from fresh tomatos, and that is just fine. Here is how I make Gino's East Pizza sauce from canned plum tomatos:

one 28 ounce can of plum or roma tomatos

about 1 tablespoon of salt

a pinch of basil

a pinch of oregano

fresh ground black pepper

Take the tomatos and sauce and place into a bowl. Using a potato masher or just your hands, mash the tomatos up so that there are no chunks bigger around than a quarter. Once this is done, add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Do not use too much basil or oregano.

You don't need to cook the tomatos, just make sure they are well combined. Be very careful with the basil and oregano. Gino's uses very little if any. Why add expense? One trap that I used to get into when I first started cooking was too add more basil and oregano or other spices to a dish to make it taste right. The herbs and spices aren't really there for taste in most cases, they are their to add subtle overtones and smells to a dish. I finally figured out that the reason the food didn't taste quite right is that there wasn't enough salt in it. Gino's sauce, if you taste it by itself, is very salty. That is the secret of Gino's sauce - not too much on the herb/spice side, and a healthy dose of salt. Make sure you taste it often when you are adding the salt though. The pizza is for you, not for me.

The Cheese

Gino's East of course uses mozzarella cheese. I was unable to bribe any of the wait staff to get the brand, and I am sure they probably don't know. I imagine that Gino's is like most restaraunts and their cheese comes in huge plastic bags without any labels from some local supplier. It probably is not a brand name that you can just go out and buy. So don't worry about it. I experimented with all sorts of different cheeses and I have yet to find anything that works much better than Kraft low-moisture part skim mozzarella. Just be absolutely sure that you don't buy the low fat version of any mozzarella. It will not melt right and you will hate it.


I will be making a pepperoni pizza on Friday, but Gino's offers lots of toppings. As extra toppings you can order Sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, canadian bacon, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, green olives, sliced tomatoes, fresh garlic, anchovies, pineapple, jalapeno’s and extra cheese.

The Gino's Supreme comes with cheese, sausage or pepperoni, onions, mushrooms
and green peppers. The Gino's Vegetarian comes with Cheese, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, green peppers, asparagus, red peppers, yellow squash. They also make a spinach pizza.

I once left a hefty tip for a waiter to figure out what Gino's uses for pepperoni. They use Anichini Brothers in Chicago. I think I remember walking by this place a few times. It is right downtown there, I think on Clark Street. Their phone number is 312-644-8004. I don't know if they would sell you any pepperoni or not. I doubt it. I haven't found any pepperoni that tastes exactly like it, but I have found some that have been satisfying enough. What you want is a pepperoni that is cut a little bit thicker than the garden variety Hormel brand at your local grocery. If you want something real close go to the deli counter at your grocery store and ask them to cut you some pepperoni just a little bit thicker than Hormel cuts it. You want it to be about as thick as if you stuck 3 Hormel pieces on top of one another.

Now you know everything you need to know about the sauce, the cheese and the pepperoni. Tomorrow I will post the recipe for the crust and how to put everything together.