Chicago Food Wars: Giordano's vs Lou Malnati's

Chicago Food Wars: Giordano's vs Lou Malnati's

Vonnie Coleman, the 4-Star Explorer here, bringing our second installment of Chicago Food Wars which covers some of the city's most famous and prominent food rivalries. Keeping in true savory style we hit up the Chicago institution that is deep dish pizza.

Pizza, along with some of the other fine things that have sparked out of Italy along with Armani; Michelangelo's Statue of David; and a centralized water system, has immigrated into the hearts of all residents of the United States as an American tradition. Though all unite in the joy of the saucy slice-able treat its various spawning has been the cause of division among groups. For instance, there is one certain east coastal area with the state and city sharing the same name (think Ol' Blue Eyes and the Yankees for those scratching their heads) that proclaimed having the best pizza in the nation. Now I'm not sure of its historical accuracy but I could imagine a young cook from Chicago thinking of something to really show up those Big Apple brats. Second city, my ass!

It's always been a cause for debate but records show that Lou Malnati's opened its doors in 1971. Much of the credit for the original recipe goes to Lou's father, Rudy Malnati, whom Lou studied with at pioneering the revolutionary Chicago-style dish.  Giordano's on the other hand wasn't opened until 1974 and much like Malnati's, was a family affair as brothers, Efren and Joseph Boglio immigrated from Argentina to open up the iconic pizzeria.

When judging which sultan of slices would reign supreme I tried to take a few things into consideration. I chose to reward a winner of the following criteria: Taste, Service/Decor, Price, and Overall Experience.

For each restaurant we ordered their version of a specialty pizza featuring spinach, mushrooms and sausage. "The Lou" from Lou Malnati's and "The Special subbed with Spinach" from Giordano's. We also ordered a thin crust pizza to act as sort of a control group for our little eatery experiment.

Taste: Deep Dish taste goes to Giordano's.

I thought it was appropriate how the two of standards of deep dish were complete opposites of one another. Lou Malnati's favored more of an old world, al fresco style.

The sauce wasn't much of one seeming more like a broth of fresh vine ripe tomatoes placed on top of the other ingredients. Giordano's on the other hand is more of what traditional Chicago food has become known for, devilish decadent delectables. Celebrating major excess in the way of thick chunky sauce, atop with pounds of meats and veggies, Giordano's iconic slice is a meal within itself.

Seriously, I had two pieces and was out for the count. Add that to the crunchy yet soft crust opposing the gritty and lacking crust of Lou Malnati's, Giordano's deep dish pizza was the easy win in  my  mind.

If it's any consolation, though Lou Malnati's didn't work for my deep dish expectations, I did find that the thin crust version was better than Giordano's.

Service/Decor: Giordano's.

Though the service did leave more to be desired (of which was reflected in her tip) I must say that I really appreciated the charm of Giordano's restaurant. I tried to have an "out of borough" experience, like if I was coming from out of town what would I be looking for in a Chicago pizza place. Giordano's gives you that, what with the different jerseys of time honored sports teams like the Bulls and Blackhawks but also features memorabilia from events like Taste of Chicago and the World's Fair. It shows authentic shields and badges from our city's finest. While dining I had a full on Sex and the City moment. I mean what was more Chicago than having a deep dish pizza, a beer, and watching the Bears play on a Sunday evening?

Price: Lou Malnati's.

Lou Malnati's is definitely the better deal. With a deep dish pizza for two pricing at $12.40 while the competition prices a similar meal at $19.75. And if you start adding extra ingredients you're looking at almost $25! Lou Malnati's also offers 4 sizes including a one serving mini pizza. While Giordano's only offers the 3 sizes starting off at the two serving.

Overall: Stalemate.

Though both excel at varying factors over the competitor, I couldn't  comfortably choose which is the better overall pizzeria. Like the Sox and Cubs, O'Hare and Midway, sometimes ya gotta have both! I feel proud that in true bigger and better Chicago form we have not one, but two great deep dish pizza places to glorify.

So, like many clueless people before me have asked, "how was it for you?" Tell us at fourstar.explorer@yahoo.com or just comment below. Also, don't forget to visit us at facebook.com/4StarExplorer to view the other mouthwatering photos we collected on our excursions, and please, don't drool on the keyboard.

Visit these and other Chicagoland Area Locations!!!
Lou Malnati's
805 South State Street
Chicago, IL

Giordano's
6314 South Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL

Comments

Leave a comment
  • Lou Malnati's............stop playin'

  • Lou Malnati's!

  • fb_avatar

    LOU,S ya Cant Loose Its got Chicago,s SOUL.

  • fb_avatar

    Giordanos uses precooked frozen crap that comes from the factory. Never tried Lou but most of these places order their sauce from
    "vendors" and Nothing is homemade.
    Giordanos is the Olive Garden of Chicago! The only people that
    patronize these places are non italian people who have never
    Tasted real italian food in their lives. Giordanos is on par with McDonalds if you like bland tasteless pre packaged factory food.

  • In reply to ChiChinodeux:

    I can see your point. But to use one of my favorite quotes "I may not know art but I know what I like." Same rule applies here. Nowadays we as Americans don't know what is in our food on any given day but that doesn't make it any less delicious.

    I'm not sure of the stats but I would venture to guess that majority of these pizzerias' customers are non Italian but does that mean that they can't eat or have no taste in cuisine? No, it just means they haven't been exposed to it yet. I did this and other Chicago Food Wars entries to debate some of Chicago's most popular food rivalries. I can't tell you enough how many times I've had this argument of Lou's versus Giordano's with friends. It's just to spotlight them both and get the conversation started. At the end of the day as long as you're happy with what you put in your mouth (pun very much intended) then nothing else really matters.

  • First, get rid of the spam on your pizza or your blog.

    Lou's hits me as more authentic compared to what I remember Due's to be. And, as you mention, more affordable.

    Of course, my main gripe was America's Test Kitchen coming out here to try to get Lou's secret recipe for the crust. I am convinced that it is not made like a puff pastry, which ATK purported to recreate. And they didn't have to go to Chicago to get that, as the bankrupt owners of Uno Chicago Grill are in Boston.

    My impression of Giordano's is that it is something a bankrupt Greek would do to try to recreate Chicago deep dish pizza. Which in fact is what happened.

  • In reply to jack:

    Spam has been ridded. Duly noted. I agree with the authentic comment. As I mentioned it was very much Al fresco in taste to me, more Old World roots. And I've asked and looked around and Lou's seems to use fresh ingredients but it's like the difference between a home cooked meal and a cheeseburger from your favorite pub. Giordano's provides a different kind of comfort for me. Just reminds me of men with thick Mike Ditka mustaches and beer. If that makes any sense.

  • Lou's all day, get the butter crust and bring some friends and have the Malnati salad, its a done deal. And Lou's have great decor too but rhe pizza is so good, does it really matter?

  • In reply to Charles W. Johnson:

    Hmm...I must try this butter crust you speak of. Plus I'm a woman...do you have to ask if decor matters lol Thanks for commenting

  • fb_avatar

    You're attempting to use logic to solve a problem of passion.

  • In reply to JonnyO:

    I have got to say this is either the best or worse response to one of my articles lol I'm usually passion all the way. I will argue any day with a New Yorker over why Chicago has the best pizza and hotdogs. But I wanted to take a break from my usual rants and pub brawls and really sit down and look at each one critically.

  • Neither!! Chokordano's and Malnotties are both amateurs compared to Gino's East pizza!

  • In reply to zack66:

    Now, I've tried Gino's East before and I've got to say, didn't do anything for me. Hmm, maybe our palates are just different.

  • This question was answered when Giordano's kept branching out further and further as a chain, and stopped using quality ingredients. As happens often when great franchises are handed down to the children of the original owners, it completely lost its edge. Malnati's, however, has kept up the quality. What used to be a tough call here is now a unanimous decision for Lou!

  • In reply to PeteD:

    Hmm, I can see your point. I can't call it either way but I will say that Lou Malnati's has indeed kept up a very classy exterior of quality. Which I experienced first hand today when a rep from their company emailed me inquiring on my experience at their restaurant and was very interested in making it better. That to me shows a brand and business you can trust. But I like that Chicago has two very different and very amazing pizza places. We've actually got more than that but these are just two of the more popular branches.

  • fb_avatar

    Lou Malnati's all the way! The crust is not 'gritty', it's sensational. The sauce is thicker and acidic on Giordano's, Lou's is the right balance of sweet and acidic, and lighter. You missed the boat completely on this comparison. Lou's is better than Due's, too, in my not so humble opinion.

  • In reply to Mary Dawson:

    As a reader I certainly respect your opinion but I've got to tell you that crust was gritty for me, I mean the little of it that I got to taste. My pizza seemed to be 80% cheese, spinach and mushrooms while only 20% actual crust and it broke up in my mouth quite suddenly.

    Everybody's experience is different. And while you may feel I "missed the boat" you can't argue with taste buds. I mean you literally can not argue with them, I don't think taste buds talk. lol

  • fb_avatar

    I love Giordanos!! We having a fundraiser there :D

Leave a comment