4110 East 82nd Street (Reviewed)
Indianapolis, IN 46250
43 North Illinois Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
In multiple trips I have made to Chicago for both work and leisure, I have always looked forward to satisfying my craving for Chicago-style hot dogs, and deep dish Chicago pizza. One chain always stood out for me on those trips in regard to pizza, and that was Giordano’s. It was somewhat of a hearty and guilty pleasure on solo work trips to order a medium pizza and a 2 liter of pop to go(diet, of course, to counter the calories of that pie), and head back to my hotel for some HBO and an evening of carbohydrate laden gluttony. I was delighted to find out the chain was coming to Indianapolis a couple years ago, and have been eagerly awaiting my opportunity to go there. Now, I’m not one to wait two hours to get a table. Unfortunately, this was the case for many patrons eager to give the restaurant a try. I therefore waited for an opportune time, both when I would make it to the Keystone region and when it may be an off hour to eat. I lucked out recently on a Sunday afternoon after my son’s nearby baseball game. No wait, with little fanfare between me and my pizza. Did it live up to my memory of unparalleled pizza from days gone by in Chicago? Well, yes and no.
Giordano’s began operations in Chicago in 1974 on the south side. Two brothers brought with them from northern Italy their mother’s recipe for Italian Easter Pie, which became their signature pizza when they opened their restaurant. The stuffed crust pizza is a deeper variation of the older deep dish pizza style pioneered in Chicago, with Giordano’s and Nancy’s Pizza leading the onset of this style around the same time as each other. Ownership of the company has changed hands a number of times, and the chain has successfully expanded outside of the Chicago area in recent years. Central Indiana became one of those regions, giving Hoosiers outside of the north end of the state a chance to taste this Chicago tradition.
To be frank. this review will not include a discussion of who makes the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. Gino’s East, Lou Malnati’s, and Pizzeria Uno are all great. As a non-Chicagoan, I have no stake in that argument.
The Castleton/Keystone location across the promenade from Harry and Izzy’s is where I visited. To be fair, I am used to the older brick and darker wood look of many of the Giordano’s locations in downtown Chicago. The location I visited here was surprisingly light and airy, with a long back of windows heading back towards an enclosed patio overseeing the White River, and a separate bar room off to the side. It had a clean, almost industrial feel with tabes and booths. I immediately felt I was in unfamiliar territory, until I spied the menu and began perusing through my choices. Our server was nice, but was a little slow to refill drinks. Given that it can take up to 45 minutes for a stuffed pizza to cook, out food wait time was not too bad, and the appetizers and salads kept us busy.
The menu features a moderate amount of selection outside of the pizza I will describe later. Appetizers include wings, garlic parmesan fries, calamari, a tomato bruschetta, cheesy garlic bread, as well as their version of mozzarella sticks- fried mozzarella triangles. Several salads are offered in both starter and full size, of which Italiano salad stood out for me. Loaded with cold Italian meats, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, olives, banana peppers, and red wine vinaigrette, I found this to be a close cousin to an antipasto platter. It’s cousin, the Greek salad, makes an appearance as well.
Sandwiches are present for those who care not to dine on pizza, including a requisite Chicago style Italian beef, a chicken parmesan, meatball, buffalo chicken, and Italian meat sandwiches. A chicken club sandwich seems to appear as a lighter choice. Classic Italian-American fare makes its way onto the menu as entrees, including lasagna, chicken parmesan, fettuccine alfredo, and spaghetti.
The real draw to this restaurant is of course the pizza. Thin and extra-thin crust pizza is served, but who cares. The stuffed deep dish pizza is the reason why one eats at Giordano’s. Loaded with meat and cheese atop and under a flaky but an unfortunately flavorless crust and doused by a tangy and savory tomato sauce, the pizza is what I remembered. It comes in a deep metal pan placed atop a wire rack which one would expect to sag with the weight of the pie. The menu gives several options for pre-made pies. I prefer to select my own two or three ingredients (any more and you can’t taste them individually). There is not much else to say, only that this pizza is good, and two or three pieces fills most adults. Of note to try on my next visit would be the limited-time offering of Bratwurst pizza, which apparently is loaded with bratwurst, caramelized onions, and topper with mustard in addition to the tomato sauce. Sounds strange but intriguing nonetheless.
Desserts are featured, and recently included Tiramisu, brownie bites, and a skillet cookie. Understanding who would have room to enjoy these after a couple pieces of stuffed pizza is beyond me.
Unfortunately, the discord between my memories of this pizza and the reality of its taste has been torn by new palates developed during my time as a Hoosier. Specifically, the excellent deep dish pizza offerings at both local favorites Ale Emporium (and its brother-in-recipe Alibis), as well as Union Jack have changed my perception of how to enjoy deep dish pizza. The crusts at these local gems are far tastier, and the sauces equally savory, with dense cheese oozing off the slices. I simply enjoy them more, but still appreciate the great stuffed pies offered by Giordano’s.