Location: Chicago, Illinois
We broke the big news several entries ago that Chicagoans do not exclusively eat deep dish pizza, and in fact, often prefer their local establishments, leaving the deep dish places for us tourists that like to arrive via $45 horse-drawn carriage rides while still wearing their Cubs foam fingers. I get that. I was in Memphis several years ago when a friendly Memphian asked if I was going to visit Graceland during my stay (duh!) and when I asked for strategies, he said he's never been. Personally, I found that to be inexplicable, but there are probably many residents that have managed to circumvent major attractions within their communities, which certainly seem plausible when you're living out a typical unremarkable or non-vacation life. But for better or for worse, we always stop at Giordano's when we're in town.
My brother Commissioner Jeff introduced the family to Giordano's around 1988 while he was living in Chicago, and in the ensuing years we've probably enjoyed it on 6-8 occasions. It's always had that "event" feel to it, but that's somewhat dissipating since their restaurants now populate huge swaths of the country, with about 60-70 locations across ten states. A few years back at the Milwaukee/Chicago GoCon, and I had to hustle a pizza home for the family to enjoy the next day. But while the experiential component might be waning, the pizza remains as strong as ever. I mean, look at that photo. No human digestive tract can break down that much cheese without a radiation treatment. The crust is tender, rich and flaky, and the tomatoes are ground into a sauce so fine that even a food skeptic like me can be reduced to tears when indulging.
While it holds a unique place in Pizza Kingdom, I'm not sure this could ever be an everyday pizza—it's more like Jim Thome in his later years when, if used properly, it will provide stunning results on a part-time basis. In total, I've been to four different locations and the environment runs the full gamut, from pubs with traditional red-checkered tablecloths, to upscale dining rooms clad in reclaimed wood with brushed metal accents, to high-beamed ceilings designed to amplify ambient noise, Giordano's has covered all its architectural bases. My favorite will always be the Rush Street location, but there's no wrong place to enjoy Giordano's. (9 of 10 stars)
PS: Happy birthday, Puffy. This pizza is for you!