Whether you are from Chicago, visit Chicago frequently or are just passing through and grabbing a bite, few things top the experience of a tried-and-true Windy City deep dish pizza.
And no. We’re not talking about simply a more robust crust.
“A lot of people confuse the two,” said Kathleen Patterson. “Throughout the Midwest, you’ll see ‘Chicago-style pizza’ included on menus and what it really is is a tavern-style thick-crust, with more breading. There is some great tavern-style pizza out there. But a true Chicago-style pizza is a deep dish — the kind you need to eat with a fork and a knife.”
Patterson would know.
A native of Willow Springs, Ill., in Chicago’s suburbs, she also is the franchise operator of Gino’s East of Dubuque, along with her husband, Dave. The restaurant quietly opened for carry out and delivery in Novelty Iron Works in Dubuque’s Historic Millwork District last spring. But the idea to bring the longtime Chicago pizzeria to Dubuque has been more than a decade in the making.
“I had met Bob Johnson (co-owner and developer of Novelty Iron Works) in 2008, and Dave and I became one of the first investors for Novelty Iron Works,” she said. “From the beginning, we always envisioned a pizza restaurant on the corner of East 10th and Washington streets. It seemed like the perfect place for it.”
But like any good deep dish, the idea took time to prepare.
After the opening of The Comedy Bar and the closing of The Foundry — another restaurant that originally had opened at the location — Johnson approached the Pattersons in June 2019 about the possibility of bringing the Gino’s East franchise to the building.
“We thought it was a great idea, so we came up with the funds to get it going,” Patterson said.
But soon, the couple would be taking on a more active role than funding the project, just as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
“Dave was in Dubuque helping with some other issues with the building,” Patterson said. “I had just been furloughed from my job because of COVID. Bob asked, ‘Would you be willing to take Gino’s East on?’ I said, ‘Sure. Why not?’ That’s how my involvement as franchise operator began.”
While the pandemic has created challenges to the restaurant industry as a whole, Patterson said those who have caught on to Gino’s East of Dubuque have had positive feedback about the new location’s presence in the community.
When the restaurant will open its doors for dine-in is unknown due to ongoing concerns for the pandemic and staffing challenges.
“We’ve been reluctant to set any hard dates on opening because every time we tried throughout the pandemic, we missed a deadline,” she said. “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this right. That’s our mission. You only have one chance to make a first impression.”
The philosophy behind the business carries through to the philosophy behind the preparation of each dish on the menu — which includes a lot more than just pizza.
From deep dish and thin crust pizza pies to pastas, soups, salads, sandwiches, appetizers, desserts and additional entrees, Patterson said that Gino’s has long prided itself on the use of fresh ingredients and the care it takes in creating a top-notch dining experience.
“The quality is very high,” Patterson said. “They don’t compromise. The restaurant employees make most of the menu items in-house — the cookies, brownies, pizza dough and sauce — daily. Breadsticks and mozzarella sticks are made by Gino’s East. This greatly contributes to the quality that I have experienced.”
That, too, is of importance to Patterson, who works in health care. In addition to her role with Gino’s East of Dubuque, she is a clinical specialist in gerontological nursing and a consultant for nursing homes.
She also has long been an advocate for environmental issues, establishing an organization known as Broken Arrow with former husband Martin Murray. Its mission was to clean up nuclear waste in Red Gate Woods, a forest preserve in Cook County, Ill.
Her interest the environment also is what prompted her involvement with Johnson and and Novelty Iron Works.
“His vision was consistent with my environmental perspective,” Patterson said. “He was striving to be environmentally friendly.”
That is reflected in Gino’s East of Dubuque, which reused and repurposed materials in the creation of the restaurant.
Old tables were refinished and repurposed. Existing light fixtures were transformed, as a local artisan used pizza pans to craft light fixtures that matched the restaurant’s interior vibe. A window canopy was found in the basement and had a Gino’s East logo applied. Furniture, fixtures and equipment were transported from a Gino’s East location in Chicago to the restaurant in Dubuque. The existing bar was modified, and granite in the restaurant was refabricated for the bar and host station.
“When creating the bar, I insisted on having wheelchair accessibility,” Patterson said. “In today’s world, mobility with wheels is no longer an exception. Wheelchair accessible bar space in the plan was a struggle. Eventually, I won.”
Patterson said she has a knack for getting involved in fields that she initially knows little about but ultimately ends up discovering a passion.
“I love unique challenges, and I love learning new things,” she said, with a laugh. “When people tell me I can’t do something, then guess what? That’s when I hear it as, ‘I can.’”
Patterson hopes that can-do spirit will translate well to Dubuque — a city she said that she and Dave have embraced as a kind of second home.
“We love Dubuque,” she said. “What has really impressed me is how supportive and helpful the other restaurants have been. Considering we might be their competition, and considering that everyone has been struggling due to COVID, that has been wonderful. Particularly in the Millwork District, I think they see Gino’s East as being one more great restaurant that will help bring exposure to that area, in addition to Brazen, 7 Hills, Backpocket, Inspire, Gary Dolphin’s Iron Bar — all offer a very quality experience.
“We’re in good company, and Dubuque is a great community for someplace like Gino’s East.”
Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.