Thanks to writing this blog every week, I am always on the look-out for things that are new and exciting.
While Gino’s Grille isn’t new – the restaurant opened a year ago – they did have something new to offer: wood-fired pizza debuted on the menu in late August, and we couldn’t wait to try it.
The building along Lancaster Avenue in Shillington was most recently home to a second location for Bella’s Subs and Pizza. That closed a few years ago, and Gino’s opened in its place.
When we arrived, the parking lot was full, but we found one of the final two spots. Upon entering, we were escorted to one of the last remaining tables in a crowded dining room.
Our waitress warned us that the kitchen was backed up, but we had our hearts set on trying Gino’s new wood-fired pizzas.
The oven was new for Gino’s, and the pizzas had only been added to the menu about a week before our visit. The menu includes 24 artisanal pies, from simple margherita to non-traditional varieties, like the Pittsburgh – topped with French fries, burger, eggs and mozzarella.
Julie and I each ordered our own pie with side salads, hoping to tame our appetites, at least temporarily.
We knew it was going to be a long night when our salads took nearly 20 minutes to arrive. There wasn’t anything special about the salads, just your normal greens with tomatoes and croutons. The lettuce itself wasn’t the freshest as the tips on many pieces had begun to turn brown. It wasn’t rotten, but it’s not a good look for any restaurant.
The wait was excruciating. Thank goodness for the salads because without them, I don’t know how we would have been able to make it without going next door to the Arby’s drive-thru.
It was more than an hour from the time we arrived before our pizza was delivered to the table. Because of the high temperatures, wood-fired ovens can generally cook a pizza in less than five minutes.
Clearly the kitchen was just unprepared for a full dining room.
But the pizzas did arrive, and we excitedly dug into them. For me, I opted for the Aime Special, a unique topping combination with fig, gorgonzola, prosciutto and caramelized onions.
It’s unlike any other pizza that I have tried – that’s why I ordered it – but the first bite was jarring. It was all gorgonzola. Very strong gorgonzola. On its own, it’s not the most pleasant taste.
Thankfully, it got better from there. Once I was able to get a little fig and some of the prosciutto, it made it all the difference.
The fig and prosciutto are a sweet-and-salty match made in heaven, one that cut through the pungent gorgonzola. Together, it made for an excellent flavor. But when one or both of those ingredients were missing, and the cheese was left by itself, it was way too powerful for me.
If you really like gorgonzola, I recommend the Aime special. I’ll be ordering something else next time.
Julie went with a more conventional unconventional pizza (if that makes any sense) with her chicken bacon ranch pie. While you likely won’t find this in the Old World, it’s a common site on menus around Berks.
Chunks of chicken breast meat and large bacon crumbles were topped with a pool of ranch dressing.
That pool of dressing was not uniform across the pie – parts of it had more ranch, parts of it less. But when all three came together (with the mozzarella base), it was a very good pie. The creamy ranch mixed with the crispy, salty bacon was very enjoyable. The chicken was good, but didn’t add much in the way of flavor.
One thing that I will say about both pies is that the crust didn’t feel like the wood-fried pizza. It was fine, but lacked that distinct char on the bottom. It was also inconsistent around the edges with one side being more well-done than the other, probably because the kitchen was too overwhelmed to give it the proper attention throughout its time in the oven.
As usual, 12-inch pies sound smaller than they really are so we took home half a pie each. It also meant we paid for two meals, with a total bill that was around $30.
I have to note that our waitress was as accommodating as she could be given the circumstances. We were offered free dessert at the end of the meal for our troubles, but declined – partly because we were now very full, partly because we had already stayed longer than we had hoped.
By the time we paid the bill and were out the door, we had spent an hour-and-a-half at the restaurant. For a nice two- or three-course dinner, that’s not bad. For pizza, it felt like an eternity.
I’m not going to blacklist Gino’s based on one visit. The wood-fired pizza was still very new when we visited. But we still left feeling disappointed in our experience.
Will we go back? Sure.
But we’ll be waiting a while.
Gino’s Grille Wood-Fired Pizza & Bar
2233 Lancaster Pk
Shillington, PA 19607