Giordano’s in Uptown, Minneapolis

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

I remember the taste of Broadway Pizza from after little league games. When I see that cheesy, square-cut beauty, I can still feel the infield dirt trapped in the toes of my stirrups. I’d never argue that it’s objectively great pizza, but it will always be great to me.

As the most ubiquitous food in America, pizza gets weighed against personal history, and there’s just no accounting for taste. Even bad pizza, even frozen pizza, with the right point of view, can magically transcend the sum of its parts (see Rocky Rococo or Heggies, for example). The question is: Is Giordano’s your kind of bad pizza?

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

The first Minnesota outpost of the Chicago-based chain opened Wednesday in Uptown and has been flooded to the tune of three-hour waits at every dinner rush since. The staff predicts that things will settle down in a few weeks, and we’ve noticed that the restaurant is only sporadically populated during lunchtime. This is good, because waiting three hours for any pizza is slightly crazy. But for this pizza, it’s certifiable lunacy.

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

What usually dooms a deep-dish is the cheese — too much of it, or too low quality, usually both. With Giordano’s signature stuffed pizza ($22.25, small special), the cheese may in fact be the best part, sufficiently stringy and flavorful enough to pass. The problem is the crust — it’s as thick, structurally sound, and tasty as mortar. And it’s especially galling that a pizza that takes 45 minutes to cook arrives partly underdone. The crust transitions from rock solid, to pleasantly moist, to nearly raw inside.

The crust does a spectacular job as a presentation piece; the pies look wonderful as the servers hoist above you the first slice from the deep pie, like proof of cheesy concept. But with the texture of hardtack and roughly the same flavor, it has a strange, insulating effect. It renders the mushrooms and peppers on the inside slimy to the touch, not so much cooked as slightly warmed. The mushrooms have no choice but to leak into the filling, which is a one-way ticket on the L train to Glop City.

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

A return visit confirmed that veggies are a problem in these pies. A pepperoni ($17.75, small) arrived much better balanced, but with the same unfortunate crust. And if you’re imagining an abundance of meat in a “stuffed” pepperoni pizza, you’d be mistaken. A few pepperoni slices dot the raw surface beneath a chasm of cheese. In our special, the sausage was almost entirely absent.

Our advice: get a veggieless version and nibble at the interior, stopping before the edges get too thick. Then, you’ll get (at best) mildly flavored, dense, cheesy deep dish. This might be your idea of good “bad pizza,” and if it is, we can’t fault you. But at around $20 for a small — plus a potential three-hour wait, and another 45 minutes for it to cook — it’s not ours. (Note that the menu lists a small as feeding 2 to 3 people. The thought of eating a third, or even second, slice of those stuffed pies is terrifying.)

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

That same problem-crust isn’t limited to pizzas; it plagues the “Northside” Italian Beef sandwich ($10.25) as well. True, our expectations weren’t sky-high when we saw the sandwich on the menu accompanied by the word “beef-za.” The sliced beef remained dry, grey and lifeless inside its doughy fortress. Giordano’s “dipping gravy” tasted like little more than salt water. The garlic-Parmesan fries were McDonald’s-like, and in the context completely fine.

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

But the truly asphyxiated canary in Giordano’s coal mine was the extra-thin Margherita ($18.50, medium), a pie so simple, so routine, it’s hard to imagine how it could possibly go wrong. Here’s how: the strangest tasting crust in recent memory. A tanned, chewy undercoating, somehow unevenly cooked despite being millimeters thin, with a sauce that tasted like little more than canned tomato sprinkled with dried oregano. Excellent pizza is hard to produce, but mediocre pizza is easy, making this pie a travesty.

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

The appetizers are mostly of the “50 Shades of Brown” variety — not Sysco’s best, but also not Sysco’s worst. We liked the cheesy garlic bread in the sampler platter ($13) in about the same way we appreciate Domino’s cheesy bread. If we come back, it’ll be for a full order of cheesy bread and a tall Mich Golden Light in front of the big screens at the bar. The meat in the fried ravioli may seem to be either a Chef Boyardee-like comfort or more of an Alpo texture, most likely depending on your age. You can see the breaded mushrooms (above, center), and the less said about them the better.

The cannoli ($4) suffered from a cottage-cheese-like lumpiness in the filling, and the shells were turning the corner into staleness. Probably our favorite item was a chopped chicken salad ($6.50, starter size), a comforting, church-basement-like workup of industrial lettuce mix with tubetti noodles, bacon, and tomatoes in a mustard vinaigrette. It’s an able stab at the Tucci Benucch classic and comes up not terribly short.

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Look, we know the formula: a focused concept plus great customer service can gloss over poorly executed food. And the staff was unquestionably the highlight of both our visits. From the host who had to greet the hungry hordes, gallantly informing disappointed families about the three-hour waits, to the cheery and prompt waitstaff and bartenders, all were unflinchingly courteous and helpful in the face of an insane opening week.

But with beer selections that don’t get much more adventurous or local than Surly Furious, and “craft” cocktails that include citrus Smirnoff shaken with frozen lemonade, it’s clear Giordano’s isn’t trying to ingratiate itself with the neighborhood. Perhaps with Hennepin-Lake looking more like Southdale every month, it was inevitable that something like Giordano’s would come to 27th Street. It doesn’t look like the crowd from the CC Club are the ones clamoring for Giordano’s. No, that crowd will stick with the perfectly raunchy thin crusts over at Leaning Tower, which remains the neighborhood’s damn respectable bad pizza.

This opening comes smack in the middle of a Twin Cities pizza renaissance. From the continued excellence of Lola, Hello, Black Sheep, Nea, and Burch, to exciting newcomers like Red Wagon and Big River, not the mention all the corner cafes that bake a tasty pie or two in their bread ovens, we’re overflowing with great pizza right now. And it’s not as if chains can’t be part of that — Punch being the prime example, but Blaze Pizza’s new St. Louis Park location is getting some early plaudits as well.

On our walk to and from Giordano’s, we passed by Green Mill, just a block up Hennepin Avenue. We overheard people at many of the sidewalk tables grousing about the wait at Giordano’s, and with their hearts set on pizza, they settled for Green Mill. It might surprise them to know they’d inadvertently made a wise decision.

Giordano’s
Chicago-style stuffed pizza in Uptown
Rating: ½☆☆☆ (flawed)

2700 Hennepin Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
612.444.3143
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-midnight, daily
Bar: Full
Reservations: None
Vegetarian / Vegan: Limited / No
Parking: Street

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About the Author

John Garland

John Garland is a freelance writer living in the East Isles neighborhood of Minneapolis. His area of expertise is wine - thanks to schooling from the International Sommelier Guild and more than a few winery visits during his time at the American University of Rome. He also contributes to Beer Dabbler's Growler Magazine and is always available for writing opportunities and happy hours.

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10 Comments

  1. ddbhack 07/22/2015 Reply

    I have yet to try this Giordano’s but I did grow up in Chicago and was hopeful that I would be able to finally get some kind of deep dish pizza in this town. Even though Giordano’s isn’t my favorite and it’s not deep dish (it’s stuffed), I’ll probably still try it. I’ll take this review with a grain of salt. Considering it’s Chicago-style anything, it’s stuffed pizza, and it’s not a local brand – this review was doomed at the start. I’m not sticking up for Giordano’s as I never went there, even when I lived in Chicago – it’s always been a typical chain with lowest common denominator food options – but this review seems atypically mean spirited for this site.

  2. 1/2 a star is absurd. Granted, I have not been to this location yet (am going tomorrow)…

    It’s probably 3rd or 4th on my list of deep dish joints in Chicago. As many have discussed here and elsewhere, the Twin Cities is in no position to heavily rail on this pizza joint…we’re not exactly rolling in fantastic pizza. Black Sheep? Punch? Pizzeria Lola? Sure, they’re pretty tasty. What is that remarkable about them though?
    We are, in particular, not rolling in quality Deep Dish pizza. There are a few good deep dish choices in town (perhaps better than this Giordano’s location), but it’s good to have more options. There is no doubt, deep dish is a bit of a niche market. It’s my favorite food on earth, so I have strong opinions. My favorite? Pyscho Suzi’s. Followed by Tommy Chicago’s in Mendota Heights and Frankie’s in New Hope. I’m looking forward to see how Giordanos stacks up when I go tomorrow.

    1/2 a star? Come on. No matter how bad it was, it couldn’t have possibly been that bad. If this place gets 1/2 a star, how on earth could you even rank many other places you can get pizza? No stars? Negative stars? Stick to wine and beer ratings…

  3. badgergopher 07/23/2015 Reply

    Don’t hate the reviewer – if the pizza is terrible, the pizza is terrible. I’ve never understood the attraction of Giordano’s in Chicago when there are so many better pizza places. Go to the original Uno’s (or Due’s) or Lou Malnati’s when you’re in Chicago. I was kind of excited that Giordano’s opened here just because, as others have noted, we have a dearth of credible Chicago-style pizza in the Twin Cities. Having said that, though, I have to disagree with other comments – we now have some fantastic pizza in the Twin Cities in Lola, Black Sheep, and Punch, to name just a few. Don’t disparage those treasures, because you are mad at this reviewer. We still need somebody to open up a great Chicago-style place, though. Apparently, this isn’t even close to being it (at least not yet).

  4. Mike N 07/24/2015 Reply

    Most of what you described is EXACTLY what deep dish pizza is meant to me. It’s pizza you have to eat with a fork and knife because at the end of the day it’s a big ball of cheese with a little red sauce and some topping for a little extra flavor. I had it last weekend and absolutely loved it. I was born and raised in Chicago and can tell you that’s exactly what you get back home. Keep in mind giordanos is 4th on the list of best deep dish places in Chicago. They only part of your review I agree with is the crust seemed undercooked once you got past the outside layer. That can easily be explained by the fact there is a 3 hour wait. They have to be churning out these pizzas as fast as possible. I can all but promise that issue goes away once it’s calms down for them. Your point about apatozers is absolutely pointless. Anyone who knows deep dish knows NOT to get an apatizer because if you do you’ll struggle to get through one slice. I give them 5 stars and your review 0. Go back to wine reviews. It’s clearly all you’re good for.

  5. I am surprised no one mentioned Pyscho Suzi’s – their take on deep dish is amazing with or without vegetables and local of course!

  6. LOL CJ 07/25/2015 Reply

    How are you going to complain about someone’s review when you haven’t even been to the restaurant yet? Why do people even complain about reviews, they’re all subjective.

  7. Lisa Reynolds 07/26/2015 Reply

    Drove down to try this new place on Sunday afternoon. after driving around to find a park spot which was a nightmare. We arrived around 2pm and was greeted by a man at the dpor who basically told us we’re closed from 230 to 430 , and we wouldn’t be served…Probably won’t be back

  8. 1/2 a star? I’ve gone to their locations in Chicago and tried the uptown location last night. You were right that the staff was friendly but you seriously missed the mark. All 4 pizzas were thoroughly cooked and hot, tasted like your standard deep dish, 5 star dining it is not but it was good and we all left happy and full. Hope you stick to your wine reviews in the future.

    We waited about 45 min (got there at 5pm), I don’t think any pizza is worth a 3 hour wait but they text you when your table is ready so we walked around the neighborhood.

  9. Totally agree with this review. The pizza crust was raw, we sent it back and got a pizza where the crust was overcooked and still RAW in the middle. It was awful and the sauce was not that great. Also there was no sausage on my sausage pizza???? Go to Pyscho Suzi’s!!!!

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