Secaucus, NJ – by Devorah Paltiel, KT Features Editor – What do you get when you cross a rabbi from Chicago with a world-famous pizzeria chain? You get a kosher certified version of Gino’s East Deep Dish Pizza. What’s more, you also get the winner of this year’s “Best in Show” product at the annual Kosherfest New Product Competition. Distributed by Kayco, one of the world’s largest kosher food distributors, Gino’s East Deep Dish Pizza is a frozen kosher version of the iconic deep dish pizza. It was a big hit at last week’s Kosherfest.
The story behind Gino’s venture into kosher is one for the books. A number of years ago Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz, Director of Chabad of Bucktown, established a Young Jewish Professionals’ (YJP) hub known as The Living Room in one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Chicago. “I had always dreamed of housing a kosher restaurant in our building, although Chicago isn’t exactly known for its kosher establishments,” explained Rabbi Moscowitz. “Then at one of our programs I met a young relative of the owners of the Gino’s restaurant chain and a light bulb went on. Initially the owners were very reluctant to establish a kosher Gino’s. Their argument was that it would be impossible to recreate the quality and taste of their world-famous pizza. However after about a year I was able to convince them to try recreating their recipe with kosher ingredients.” Once product testing was in full swing and knowing that the restaurant might take a little longer to establish than he first anticipated, Rabbi Moscowitz encouraged the Gino’s team to produce their pizza as a frozen kosher retail item.
Rabbi Moscowitz continued: “It was incredible! The initial testing occurred in the Gino’s kitchen, but the final stages took place in my humble kosher kitchen. The Gino’s product developers had to create a kosher equivalent of their “secret” spice blend, so they set up scales and a spice testing lab while we watched.” The pizza was recreated to the point that it is the perfect match to the non-kosher deep dish pizza that the Gino’s name is synonymous with.
After three years of hard work, the Gino’s kosher version launched right after Passover in Chicago’s Jewel-Osco stores and was met with rave reviews. “The feedback was incredible, with sales far exceeding our expectations,” said Rabbi Moscowitz. “Gino’s is like nothing the kosher world has ever tasted before. In fact we have already changed the packaging to explain to consumers that the pizza is unlike the frozen pizza they are used to – it must be cooked for at least 40 minutes.” Kim Cassar, VP of Marketing at Kayco, told Kosher Today: “Everyone’s been raving about the pizza’s incredible taste and delicious thick crust.”