Attention all Chicagoland expats: There is now more tavern-style pizza in Los Angeles. The regionally specific, thin-crust style is often cited as the true pizza style of the Windy City, though it’s the behemoth deep dish that gets most of the national attention. Now Gino’s East, the deep dish franchise that opened a West Coast location in Sherman Oaks last December, is doing tavern pizza as well, which means more nostalgia eating for any midwesterner missing the flavors of home.
How does tavern style pizza differ from other pies? For one, the crust is meant to be exceptionally thin, sometimes with slightly charred edges for extra crispiness. There is a bit of chew as the dough thickens towards the middle, but it’s mostly a vehicle for sauce and cheese and toppings, which run edge to edge. Because there’s no real cornicione (that slightly inflated ring of crust at the edge of many pies), tavern style pizzas — also known with some regional variation as bar pies — are cut into smaller slices, mostly squares, for maximum snacking. Normally these pizzas would be consumed en masse by a group while downing pints and watching a game at the sports bar, but times being what they are, the slice sizes are still useful for sharing at home.
Remarkable as it may seem, the new Gino’s East addition is now one of only a few well-known places doing this specific style of pizza anywhere in the area, including Stella Barra in Hollywood and Santa Monica and an infrequent underground bar pie pop-up also in the Valley. Rance’s Chicago Pizza, with locations in Long Beach and Costa Mesa, does what they dub as a ‘thin crust’ pizza that is also cut square, and mostly features ingredients pushed edge-to-edge.
Meanwhile, Detroit-style pizzas and their many medium-pan local variations have taken over Los Angeles since the start of the pandemic, ranging from chef Chad Colby’s version at Antico to underground spots like Schell’s Pizza Hole in Downtown LA to the crisp-edged offering at Cafe Birdie in Highland Park.
Even deep dish has grown in popularity over the years across Southern California, with names like Blackbird Pizza Shop, Hollywood Pies, Dough Box, Rance’s, and Patxi’s now on the scene. Gino’s East still sells more of their popular deep dish pizzas than the new tavern-style pies too, but having both on the menu (along with Italian beef sandwiches) should be a boon to any locked-down Chicagoan eager for a taste of home.