Elementary, My Dear Luigi

Later this coming week I’ll be heading back home to Chicago for a few days, and I have a pretty good idea what I’m going to do once I get there: eat. Top of the menu: pizza, especailly Gino’s East Pizza who’s crust recipe I’m within a hair’s breadth of cracking. I know I’ve got all the ingredients, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got the process (or something darn close to it).

How am I so sure? By application of the principal of Occam’s Razor, which states that all things being equal, simple explanations tend to be right, and by further application of Occam’s First Food Corollary, which states that for any given restaurant you see, there’s an owner who’s cheap. I applied both to the ingredient list and to the process.

You’ll notice that there’s nothing on the ingredient list that is in any way extraordinary. None of the odd colorings, flavorings or strange dough conditioners that you see on some pizza making web sites. It’s all readily available from virtually any indregient source. That’s important for two reasons. First, because wide availability has a direct effect on cost. Second, speaking as a former food business owner, you always want your ingredients available to you — from your ingredient purveyor yes, but also from Sam’s Club or better still the Piggly Wiggly if you should ever find yourself in a jam. Exotic ingredients only tend to get you in trouble, especially in the world of food purveyors, who, upon discovering that you rely on them for something you can’t get anywhere else, apply their thick hands to your gonads and squeeze.

Next, it’s as easy as can be to make. Yes, I call for overnight dough development, but that’s not at all necessary. The crust can be scaled, mixed, risen and ready to hit the pan in an hour. That again is important for two reasons. First, because any joker off the street can be trained to do it, saving labor costs. And second, in the event of an unexpected rush, more dough can be cranked out at a moment’s notice.

I think the big giveaway for me was when I read on their web site that Gino’s is not an old-school historic pizza parlor like, say, Uno’s. It was founded in the 60’s by three guys who weren’t even Italian. That was the point that I stopped thinking bread and started thinking biscuit. These were not three immigrants trying to find a way to take an Old World recipe and make it work in the context of fast food. These were three entrepreneurs looking for a heck of a margin with a product that could be anything they wanted so long as they called it pizza. What they came up with, I’m fairly certain, is very close to the recipe under the header to the right.

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