"Chicago's World Famous Stuffed Pizza"
|Key people||Yorgo Koutsogiorgas, CEO|
Brothers Efren and Joseph Boglio immigrated to the United States from Argentina and in 1974 they founded Giordano's. Efren Boglio told Chicago Magazine that he and his brother were born in a small town near Turin, Italy, where their mother had been known for the quality of her recipes. He added that his family was most fond of her Easter pizza pies. Upon arriving in America, Efren began working at a pizzeria in Chicago, but was not satisfied with the pizzas he tasted and decided to open his own restaurant called Roma. When his brother Joseph came to Chicago, Efren claims they decided to open a restaurant using their mother's recipe and after experimenting over several months developed the stuffed pizza.
Several commentators have questioned the restaurant's claim about the creation of the stuffed pizza, noting similarities with the origin story of Nancy's Pizza, which had introduced its own stuffed pizza in the same year. Both chains claim to have based the pizza off a family recipe for scarciedda, an Easter dish common to Basilicata and Apulia, two regions of Italy. Due to the similarities commentators have suggested there is a connection between the founders of the two pizza chains.
John Apostolou, together with his wife Eva, acquired Giordano's in 1988 and in 1993 he told Crain's Chicago Business about an ambitious plan to expand the chain by opening over 100 new locations in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. However, this desired expansion never materialized. Under Apostolou's stewardship, Giordano's opened a restaurant in Milwaukee in 1995 and planned for five more, but the Milwaukee location closed in 2002. The first major expansion outside Illinois began in 2005 when Giordano's opened locations in Florida.
Due to weak economic conditions, the Apostolou family faced difficulty in leasing and selling their commercial real estate properties. Their firm, Randolph Partners LLC, eventually defaulted on its real estate loans on January 1, 2011, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on February 8, 2011. Due to sharing the same primary lender, Giordano's was included in the proceedings along with over 30 affiliate companies. Overall, the companies listed nearly $50 million in combined liabilities to Fifth Third Bank and $2 million to two additional banks and were able to obtain emergency financing in order to stay in operation. While Giordano's entered bankruptcy at a time when many other restaurant chains and pizzerias were being forced to re-organize due to faltering sales, the company's bankruptcy attorney, Michael Gesas, assuaged concerns about the chain's viability and stated that real estate was the reason for the bankruptcy.
The firm was auctioned off in November that year for $61.6 million to a group including private equity firms Victory Park, Origin Capital, and Atria Group, and George and Bill Apostolou (the sons of John and Eva Apostolou, who owned Giordano's prior to bankruptcy.)
Prior to filing for bankruptcy, Giordano's had 13 restaurants in Chicago and another 30 locations in the Chicago metropolitan area. The firm opened its first locations outside of Illinois in northern and central Florida in 2005. Early Florida locations were opened in Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee. By October 2007, Giordano's had opened stores in Port Richey, Brandon, and Tampa.
Giordano's is one of the most famous of Chicago's pizzerias, and its major competitors in the Chicago-style deep dish field are Pizzeria Uno, Nancy's, Gino's East, Pizano's, and Lou Malnati's while its thin crust pizza competes primarily with Home Run Inn, Connie's, Aurelio's and Rosati's. Along with Uno's and Gino's, Giordano's has been described as one of Chicago's "main pizza triumvirate".
The stuffed pizza at Giordano's has a top and bottom crust with cheese stuffed in between and the option of additional toppings in the middle such as pepperoni, Italian sausage, and spinach, while sauce and parmesan are added on top of the crust. Giordano's pizza crust is made from dough high in gluten, which takes several days to prepare. The crust has been described as being soft and flaky, while not having much flavor, with the shape being in the traditional Chicago-style. It can be ordered in several sizes, including individual sizes, though it is considered to be sufficiently filling that even smaller sizes of the pizza can be enough for more than one person.
Giordano's stuffed pizza has received wide acclaim from critics, being named "Best Pizza in the City" by Chicago Magazine and "Best Pizza in America" by NBC's The Today Show. On Serious Eats, Daniel Zemans, praised the sauce used in the stuffed pizza for having a strong tomato and herb flavor, while noting the crust as a less enthusing yet suitable element of the pizza. Denise Du Vernay, in a review of several Chicago-area pizzerias for Patch.com, described the stuffed pizza at Giordano's as "perfect" and superior to the stuffed pizza offered at Aurelio's Pizza. In an article for the Christian Science Monitor, Giordano's was listed at fourth in a ranking of pizzerias in the Chicago area, with the article praising its stuffed pizza. The Rough Guide to Chicago said in 2003, "Although most pizza parlors offer deep-dish, the following places have perfected it: Pizzeria Uno, Lou Malnati's ..., and Giordano's." One criticism raised about the pizza is the time it takes for the pizza to cook, with a stuffed pizza having an average preparation time of up to 45 minutes. Diners can shorten this waiting period by ordering ahead or taking a half-baked pizza so they can finish baking it in their home oven.
In addition to its stuffed pizza, Giordano's offers traditional thin crust pizzas, which take half as much time to cook and use the same toppings. Their thin crust offering was reviewed in Serious Eats, with the reviewer approving of the cheese and other toppings on the thin crust pizzas, but criticizing the crust for being dry and thick. The reviewer also expressed dissatisfaction with the limited amount of sauce on the pizza.
Aside from pizza, entrées at Giordano's include many traditional Italian dishes such as a variety of pastas, including spaghetti with meat or marinara sauce and fettuccine Alfredo. Other entrées offered at Giordano's are items such as chicken or eggplant parmesan, and a selection of sandwiches that include an Italian beef sandwich. The menu also offers salads such as an avocado salad and antipasto salad. Appetizers include many common dishes such as fried calamari, mozzarella sticks, and chicken wings, with a review by the Tampa Bay Times also favorably noting its zucchini fritters. Giordano's offers several items for dessert including tiramisu, cannolis, and cheesecake. Beverages at Giordano's include soda, which can be ordered in a can, and alcoholic beverages.
Giordano's delivers orders to homes that are within ten minutes of its locations. Another service offered by Giordano's is delivery by mail where customers can order stuffed pizzas that are then frozen and packed with dry ice to be mailed to the customer's home.
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