WICKER PARK — The nation's first Gino's East Kosher pizzeria is still in the works for a Wicker Park storefront, but the religious leader behind the long-anticipated spot and the president of the iconic deep dish pizza chain say frozen pies will come first.
Set to be available for sale at a five Jewel grocery stores next Wednesday, the Gino’s East Kosher pizzas will be offered in cheese and cheese and spinach varieties, according to Jeffrey Himmel, president of Chicago-based Gino’s East Restaurant Corp.
"It's been a long process. We have been testing cheese to get a match for over 20 years. My dad has been the driver on this… He is going to be 91. He kept pushing me and asking about it,” said Himmel, who co-owns Gino's East with his father Ivan Himmel.
Himmel said the price of the 9-inch frozen pies will be $11.99, but Gino's plans to offer a buy-one, get-one free promotion near the end of April. Himmel said at least six Jewel stores will carry the pizzas to start.
Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz, leader of the Bucktown Wicker Park Chabad at 1630 N. Milwaukee Ave., announced plans for the fully Kosher Gino’s pizzeria in 2014, to be called "Gino's East Vegetarian" and located on the ground floor of the Jewish center.
Himmel confirmed on Tuesday that Moscowitz signed a franchise agreement last year after a few years of negotiations. Himmel said Moscowitz has the green light to open the city's first Gino’s East Kosher pizzeria.
“He is working on it, he does have the right to do it and hopefully he can do it. From what I understand, their facility is under renovations,” said Himmel.
Himmel said that the Moscowitz is involved in Gino's frozen Kosher pizza operation as a partner, and has been testing recipes and giving feedback, but that the brand is still wholly owned by Gino's East.
Before a Passover seder on Monday, Moscowitz said that the group has been delayed with getting permits for its pizzeria but the restaurant is still planned for the future.
Last Friday, Moscowitz shared the announcement of the frozen pizzas — "Our delicious, elevated version of Chicago's famous deep dish pizza"— on his Facebook page.
"Stay tuned in the coming months for more on our brick-and-mortar pizzeria, and enjoy your break from chametz because once it's over, it's going to taste better than ever!" Moscowitz posted.
Chametz is the Hebrew word for leavened food items such as bread, which are prohibited during the eight day Passover holiday, which started on Monday and ends next Tuesday night.
The frozen pizzas will debut at the grocery's top 5 stores for Kosher sales before spreading to more Jewels and eventually more grocers with Kosher sections.
Those stores are: 2485 Howard Street in Evanston (across the street from West Ridge); 3531 N. Broadway in Lakeview; 1600 Deerfield Road in Highland Park; 9449 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie; and 79 McHenry Road in Buffalo Grove.
And while right now there is one Wisconsin-based supplier for the cheese used in the pies, Himmel said other vendors could likely start making Kosher cheese if the pies are a hit sales wise.
Though Jeffrey Himmel said his early years were spent growing up in a Kosher household, he emphasized that there is a wider market for Kosher foods than Jewish people.
"A lot of people eat Kosher food who aren't Jewish," Himmel said.
Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz and five of his seven children, at top left; a group taste testing a frozen Kosher pizza and frozen Kosher Ginos's pizzas just out of the oven. [Provided]