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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Frozen’

Home Cookin’ – Gino’s East Frozen Thin Crust Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza


I’ve tested this one before, in my smackdown of local Chicago frozen pizzas.  This time around, it’s the Sausage and Pepperoni combo.  Gino’s East has some serious Chicago history behind it.  A couple of Chicago taxi drivers,  Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli, and a friend, George Loverde, opened Gino’s East just off the Magnificent Mile, or North Michigan Avenue.

The location is notable for its contribution to the growth of deep dish (Chicago-style) pizza, which features the toppings on the bottom, then the cheese, then the sauce.  The pizzas are cooked in cast iron pans.   A feature of dining at Gino’s East became carving or writing your name on the walls, and the tradition continues to this day.  Gino’s East has expanded to multiple locations around the greater Chicagoland.

Ingredients are fairly pure, with minor amounts of additives as preservatives in the meat.  Instructions call for 425 for 15-18 minues on the upper rack.   The pic belows shows the pie after 13 minutes.

To visit a Gino’s East location when you’re in Chicago, find a location here.  To have Gino’s East deep dish pies shipped to your house, order online.

Gino's East Frozen Pizza


Home Cookin’ – Reggio’s Frozen Sausage Pizza – Personal Size


I’ve written about frozen pizzas specific to the Chicago area previously, and about this particular brand, Reggio’s.  Reggio’s is one of my two favorite Chicago area frozen pies, and it’s a toss up for the number one spot.

The personal sized sausage pizza clocks in at 8 ounces, with a half of a pie as a serving, for 280 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 33 g carbs.  It can be “baked” either in the microwave or regular oven, and if you’re a regular reader, you know I always opt for the conventional method.

The instructions say 400 for about 7-10 minutes, and I went with the full 10.   It’s a flavorful pie, with a buttery, crisp crust.  You’ll like the natural cheese Reggio’s uses;  at least I do.

Here are pix of the pie ‘before and after’.

Reggio's Frozen Pizza












Reggio's Frozen Pizza






Home Cookin’ – Home Run Inn Frozen (6 inch) Pizza


I’ve written about Home Run Inn frozen pizzas previously;  it’s the best-selling pie in the greater Chicagoland area.

Today I sampled one of their individual-sized pies (what?  Extra large is “individual-sized” for me!)  These are generally at the grocery for around $3.69 each, of three for $10.   They weigh 8.75 ounces, when their “regular” size pizza clocks in at 31 ounces.  Sometimes I like to buy weight/value, and even at three for $10, the individual pies are “less value” (price per ounce)  than HRI’s “regular” size.

The “Classic” line Sausage and Pepperoni features uncured pepperoni.  Uncured deli meats are all the range these days, appealing to that portion of the population looking for ‘healthy alternatives’, or at least convincing themselves that they are.

The rest of the pie’s ingredients are fairly straight forward, to wit:

Crust: Wheat flour, water, corn oil, yeast, salt
Mozzarella Cheese: Pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes
Sauce: Tomato puree, water, oregano, salt, black pepper
Sausage: Pork, salt, spices, flavoring

It’s a great Italian sausage, one of the best available in frozen pizzas, in my opinion.

Home Run Inn claims their frozen pies are made exactly like the ones in their pizzerias, and you’ll get no argument from me on that.   If you’ve been paying attention to previous posts, you’ll know that HRI is one of my very favorite frozen pies, hands down.  The individual sized, btw, can be prepared in either a conventional or microwave oven.

They aren’t distributed nationwide, but you can order online, and have them shipped directly to you.  I recommend that you do.  Frequently.

By the way? If you’re paying attention to the whole “GMO” thing, Home Run Inn passes the test as not being a user or affiliate of GMO ingredients, according to the droid app “Buycott”.

Uncooked pie:

Home Run Inn Frozen Pizza


Jewel Brand Take & Bake Pizza


Tried another Chicago area frozen pizza, tho this one wasn’t frozen, it was ‘fresh” in the deli section of the Jewel Grocery.  Jewel is the Chicago area brand for SuperValu, which also owns Albertsons, Cub, Lucky, Save-a-Lot and others.

SuperValu itself was the successor of a company started by Hugh Harrison, in 1870, as a wholesaler serving merchants in Minneapolis and St. Paul. (Of course, haven’t you learned all good things come from Minnesota?  True!)  This pie is made for SuperValu by the Swiss food giant Aryzta, which had acquired the plant of Great Kitchens in Romeoville, IL, for $180 million in 2010.

This pie weighed in at a hefty 31 ½ ounces for about $7.00 or 22 cents an ounce.  A good value.   The box is labeled simply “Take & Bake” and this variety was “Italian Sausage with a Blend of Five Cheeses on Our Premium Crust.”

Instructions called for 15-18 minutes at 375, pretty low heat for a cook at home pizza.   After 15 minutes in this oven, it wasn’t quite done enough for my satisfaction, but after the full 18, it was.

The sauce is very sweet, the sausage is good, the crumbles a little small for my preference.   The crust is doughy, doesn’t crisp up, and is a little thicker than I would like.

But it’s adequate for general tastes, and as I said, a good value.

Jewel Take & Bake Pizza

Jewel Take & Bake Pizza

Jewel Take & Bake Pizza


Jewel Take & Bake Pizza

After 15 minutes at 375




Gino’s East Frozen Thin Crust Sausage Pizza


Last in a series of Chicago’s local frozen pizzas,  up today is Gino’s East Thin Crust Sausage.   Gino’s is well known for their Chicago deep dish, (recent review) but can they cut the cheese with a thin crust?

We’ve previously looked at competing brands,  Home Run Inn and Reggio’s, and Connie’s.

At $4 bucks on sale for 18 ounces, right away it’s a pretty good value.  Baking instructions call for 15- 18 minutes, middle shelf, 425, so we started with 15, and that was sufficient.

This is a seriously thin crust.  Cracker or less!  (fine with me)

Toppings are ample;  I prefer larger sausage pieces than Gino provides.  That’s just a personal thing. The sausage has a good flavor, on the milder side, but the sauce has a little bit of spice to it.   Overall?  It’s a good deal, and better taste/texture than the major frozen players, in my opinion.  I’d do it again.

To find it in a grocery near you, use their locator and grab some coupons, too.

To visit an actual Gino’s East, you’ll find them here.

Gino's Frozen Thin Crust Pizza

Out of the package, ready to bake


Gino's East Frozen Thin Crust Pizza

After 15 minutes at 425


Connie’s “Naturals” – Another Chicago Frozen Pizza


Connie’s “Natural” is another frozen pie spawned from a Chicago pizzeria.   Their hook is the product is “all natural”, which isn’t a selling point for me, personally, but it appears to make some people happy.

In 1963, Jim Stolfe traded his 1962 Oldsmobile for a small pizza shop on Chicago’s south side.  Over the past 50 years, the family has grown that small pizzeria into a mini empire, comprised of restaurants, branded concepts, commercial food service, and frozen product for consumers.

I reviewed some other Chicago frozen pies recently, and today we’ll see how Connie’s stands up to the others.  First off, it was on sale for $5, and at 23.3 ounces, that comes in at about 21 cents per ounce, and that’s  a pretty good deal in frozen pizza land.

The ingredient list does, indeed, look all “natural.”  The crust is flour, water, oil, sugar, yeas, salt, milk, cornmeal, granulated garlic.  That’s the same ingredient list that I use to make crust from scratch at home.

Mozzarella Cheese.  Sauce is tomatoes, water, oil, salt seasoning, cheese.  Sausage is pork, spices, water, salt, sugar, dried garlic, lemon juice, rosemary extract, and oil.  You can get much more “natural” than that!

Directions are to bake at 400 for 16-18 minutes.  Results are pictured below.  It’s a fairly crispy crust; the box’s suggestion for a crispier crust, brush the bottom and sides of the crust with olive oil before baking.  I did not try that method this time.  The tomato sauce tastes like……………….tomatoes!   Cheese is good; it’s shredded on the pie.  The sausage didn’t grab me.  I’d like larger chunks, more of them, with more flavor.  I personally subscribe to the school of thought that Italian sausage needs fennel, and Connie’s lacks it.  Just a personal preference.

Overall, it’s a good pie.  Would I buy it regularly ahead of the other Chicago frozens, Home Run or Reggios?   Don’t think so, but I’d buy it if it was at this same sale price again, and it’d be my first choice if HRI or Reggios wasn’t available.

The pie I bought, thin crust sausage, is described here.

If you’re in the Chicago area, and want to visit a Connie’s restaurant, here’s a typical menu.

Connie's Frozen Pizza

Connie’s, Unbaked


Connie's Frozen Pizza

Baked at 400, 18 minutse


Frozen Pie Smackdown – Home Run Inn vs Reggio’s


Years ago, when I lived in Chicago, Home Run Inn or Reggio’s was my choice of frozen pizzas.   Which one I picked up just depended on what the store I was visiting, was carrying.  I always considered them equals, and among the best of the best in frozen pies.

The taste and appearance are similar, as are the value. (weight v price).  Usually one or the other is on sale.

Both companies started as single pizzerias in the Chicago area, with Home Run Inn predating Reggio’s by a few decades.  Both pies tout a “butter flavored crust” and both (in the classic line) would be defined as “Chicago thin crust”, which is my personal favorite.

I think they products have a similar taste, tho I prefer the sausage on Reggio’s, it is more flavorful;  Home Run Inn is more generous with their toppings.

The verdict?  For me, it’s a tie.  I’ll keep on enjoying both.

Home Run Inn Classic Sausage


Reggio’s Class Sausage



Gino’s East of Chicago – Frozen Classic Sausage Patty Deep Dish Pizza


(From our archives) True “Chicago Deep Dish” pizza was ‘invented’ in the 1940s by Pizzeria Uno.   Some folks claim the Malnati family deserves the credit too.   But in 1966, two cabbies and a friend started Gino’s East in downtown Chicago, and for me, that’s the epitome of Chicago deep dish.

Chicago deep dish should not be confused with offerings of the same name in other parts of the country, the Chicago crust is nearly thin, and the “deep’ comes from the toppings piled into the pie pan.   Some establishments, like Gino’s,  layer the pizza thusly,  crust/cheese/meat/sauce/seasonings, and in the case of the sausage pie, the sausage stretches the entire diameter of the pizza, forming a rather large Italian sausage patty.

Few restaurants have been able to translate their recipes to the grocery store successfully, but Gino’s makes the grade with their Classic Sausage Patty, two-pound, handmade pie.    The ingredients are not adulterated by a lot of additives; the pie is fairly pure on the ingredient list.  Many Chicago pie crust makers add a “buttery flavor” to the dough, and Gino’s is no exception.

It takes about 40 minutes in a 425 oven to bring this beauty to the plate.

The wait is worth it.

To find Gino’s frozen pies near you, use the locator, or you can have them shipped to you, as well.

Gino's East Frozen Classic Sausage Deep Dish Pizza

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