For Austin restaurateur Doug Guller, it was time to get out of bikinis.
“That market keeps growing smaller,” he said, referring to the customer base and not the employee uniform for his Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill chain, converting to Gino’s East pizzerias beginning Monday in Arlington.
“When I lived in Chicago, I really liked Gino’s pizza. We decided to try and make a go of it.”
With the blessing of the owners, the Himmel family, Guller has opened four Texas locations including the new Arlington Gino’s at 1350 E. Copeland Road near Globe Life Park. (The others are in San Antonio and the Houston area.)
A fifth, in Dallas later this year, will replace a Bikinis on Lombardy Lane.
But be warned: Gino’s will be busy.
It’ll be mobbed by Chicago expatriates hungry for their deep-dish favorite. But each pizza takes 45 minutes to cook.
“We were very overwhelmed in Houston,” he said.
Wait until a Monday or Tuesday. Better yet, just wait.
“We know we’ll be on an hour, hour-and-a-half wait weekends,” he said.
“We have signs — ‘Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the wait time.’”
A soft opening Thursday drew steadily growing crowds munching their first tastes of Gino’s crunchy, pie-like crust.
In fact, the biggest challenge on opening day involved servers trying to slice the thick, heavy pizza crust. It took more than one server several tries just to cut and serve slices.
The pizzas are deeper and the crust is even more dense than at Uno Chicago Grill, the original Chicago deep-dish pizza (founded by Texas Longhorns football star Ike Sewell of Wills Point.)
Specialty deep-dish pizzas start at $21 for a four-slice small (but thick) pizza or $15 for the most basic. Gino’s also serves thin-crust pizzas for $15 and up.
Texas-only items include a smoked brisket deep-dish pizza and a new deep-dish nachos platter served in a pizza pan.
Gino’s, marking its 50th year, is now regarded as Chicago’s deep-dish nostalgia pizza since corporate changes at Uno, which still has a location in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square.
Tastings on West 7th
Bites & Flights, the nosh-around at West 7th restaurants, is Sunday and offers tastes of nine restaurants for $25, with $2.50 of that going to Tarrant Area Food Bank. An optional wine tasting is $12.
Participating restaurants include newcomers Brewsters (sliders), Rafain (kebabs) and Kona Grill (white chocolate cheesecake), plus familiar hangouts such as American Food + Beverage (shrimp boudin balls).
It’s limited to 250 guests; west-7th.com.
Spicy, not fiery
Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe reopened within a day this week after a fire caused by a lightning strike.
Firefighters were on the scene quickly enough to not only save the 30-year-old Cityview landmark building, but also protect the food inventory. It’s open daily for lunch and dinner; 4700 Bryant Irvin Road, razzoos.com.
Before Mother’s Day, celebrate an anniversary.
Saint-Émilion Restaurant will mark 30 years with a tent party 6-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, serving hors d’oeuvres and wines for a $25 donation to the Humane Society of North Texas.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Wednesdays in Life & Arts and Fridays in DFW.com. 817-390-7538