When I first moved to Great Neck, the first thing locals said to me was “You have to go to Gino’s”. They raved about how the pizza was the best in the world.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that everyone is fanatical about their local pizza place. Growing up in Princeton Junction, NJ, our local pizza place was a place called Aljon’s. The pizza was floppy and orange grease poured off of it like a faucet, but to this day almost 30 years later my sister and I still say it’s among the best pizza on the face of the planet. I think this is because the local pizzeria transcends mere culinary tastes. It can represent your childhood, or happy times in your life from family gatherings to exciting times watching great sporting events.
I tend to feel the same way about Gino’s pizza, now that I’ve been living in Great Neck for almost 10 years. Their pizza has been very good to me and has brought me through many late nights, ball games, and quick easy meals. As for the pizza itself, there are plenty of stories of locals who feel the pizza is so good they ask to have it packed and delivered cross-country. To be honest, I’m not 100% there yet. Gino’s pizza has a sauce that is second to none, and the cheese is always fresh and chewy and delicious, but I’ve usually found the bottom crust to be just a little thick for my taste. Still, I would confidently say that Gino’s pizza is among the top five that you can find in Nassau County, and certainly among the top 10% of pizza you can find in New York (and in turn, the world).
I decided to try Gino’s sit-down restaurant to see if the magic of their pizza also translated to their Italian fare. The upstairs restaurant was closed, but we sat in back of the downstairs restaurant. As always, we were greeted heartily by the pack of gruff-but-lovable Italian staff behind the counter when we walked in.
The evening started out with a foccacia-like bread.
Of course, the first thing I had to do was to order a cheese slice:
The funny thing is, the slice tasted a hundred times better sitting in the restaurant than it does when I order a pie for delivery. The bottom crust was perfectly crisp, just like good New York pizza should be. My guess is that by the time the pizza takes its journey to my home, it’s had time to get soggy. But when I order it in the restaurant, it’s literally fresh out of the oven. Here, the pizza is a 5 out of 5.
I’ve heard phenomenal things about the Vodka slice, so I ordered one of those too.
Again, this was startlingly good. The vodka sauce on the pizza was sweeter and lighter than the marinara sauce, and it worked very, very well. It was like having two meals in one, an excellent pasta dish and an excellent pizza. I can see why people rave about this. Again, 5 out of 5.
Lisa decided to order the Linguini in clam sauce.
This was very good. The dish was very light, with linguini cooked to a perfect al dente, and a light butter sauce over it, with parsley and clams. The clams were a little mushy, making me wonder whether they were fresh or from a can. This dish was a 3 of 5.
I asked the waitress what their most popular dish was, and the first thing she said was the Chicken Parm.
I ordered mine with a side of spaghetti.
Again, it was definitely good “comfort food” with generous portions and cooked to a perfect al dente. The marinara sauce is the same they use in their pizza–chunky and thick with generous Italian spices. I give this dish a solid 4 of 5.
The verdict? Gino’s is the place to be if you’re in the need for some good comfort food. It’s a step below a gourmet restaurant, but two steps above cafeteria food. I’d say the perfect way to describe it is that it’s exactly the way that Mom used to make, if your mom is a smiling and rotund Italian woman. Highly recommended.
4 of 5 stars.