Did you hear?
Gino’s is coming back!
That’s right, the Gino’s hamburger chain has been resurrected and is coming back to Maryland after a 29-year hiatus.
Now, the chain, Gino’s Burgers & Chicken, plans to re-enter the Baltimore market with 10 locations, . The chain says it plans to open its first Maryland Gino's in the fall in the suburbs of Baltimore.
In King of Prussia, PA, where the chain is based, fans got their first taste of a Gino Giant in nearly three decades with the grand opening of the first 21st century Gino's there in November, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
A bit of history: In 1959, Baltimore Colts star defensive end and team captain Gino Marchetti lent his name to a hamburger joint that teammates Alan Ameche and Joe Campanella, along with Louis Fischer, had opened two years earlier at 4009 North Point Rd. in Dundalk.
Gino's Drive-In was born, and the next year, the fledgling company went public, seeking funds to expand. Eventually, Gino's Restaurants would spread to locations up and down the Mid-Atlantic from North Carolina to New England.
At this time, there weren’t too many hamburger chain restaurants, with McDonald's being the one exception.
Gino’s, with its strong hometown connection with the Colts, expanded quickly in Maryland. The company entered a co-branding agreement with Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1965, making the marriage of burgers and chicken a match made in fast-food heaven.
Around that time, the Gino's in Aberdeen opened in Aberdeen, on Route 40, in what is now Pat’s Pizzeria.
Now remember, there was a McDonald's already in Aberdeen and right down the street on Route 40, but with the exception of the Musical Inn and its ubiquitous green light, there were no other fast-food joints in Aberdeen.
Gino’s quickly became the place to go after the dances at Aberdeen High School, after football and basketball games and for Sunday dinner when a bucket or barrel of Kentucky Fried Chicken made the perfect meal.
Fast-forward to November, 1974 and this writer was hired after being recommended by my cousin Scott, who was already employed at Gino’s.
This was my first job and I couldn’t wait to get started! (More on that below.)
So now, after more than a quarter-century's absence, Gino’s is coming back to the Baltimore area. The Gino Giant, the milkshakes, the fries and maybe even the Sirloiner, are all going to be enjoyed by a new generation of kids and adults. Marchetti and Fischer have returned to the business, and Thomas Romano, who had been chief operating office when Gino's had 359 restaurats, is president.
Gino’s not only became a fixture in these parts, it also employed thousands of kids and taught them how to work and how to get along with others. Its absence created a void in the fast-food jungle but now, let’s hope, Gino’s can recapture some of that long-gone magic. Here’s to hoping that we once again hear: “Everybody goes to Gino’s, because Gino’s is the place to go.”
Thanks to the people who put together the Gino’s Tribute Site for their dedication and information used in this article.
Memories of Working the Fyers at Gino's
Making $1.80 an hour—minimum wage at the time was $1.90 per hour but we got our meals free so the company deducted 10 cents per hour from our wages—I was employed! Training consisted of learning how to cook chicken, fries and burgers, including the delicious Gino Giant.
Deep-frying the Colonel’s famous Kentucky Fried Chicken was a little more complicated than you would think.
The chicken came refrigerated or frozen in 70-pound boxes. In those boxes were bags of chicken parts. Each bag consisted of four legs, four breasts, four thighs, four wings and two keels.
The procedure to cook the chicken involved making the batter, adding the salt and the bag of “11 secret herbs and spices” to a large bag of flour. After emptying the bag of chicken parts, you would break the thigh to expose the bone, allowing the meat to cook and twist off the little “tail” on the end of the thigh. Then bring the skin down over the legs and fold the wings. You put all of the parts in a wire basket and lower the basket into the batter before dumping the chicken pieces into the flower and breading the chicken.
It’s the next step that proved to be a little tricky.
You see, originally, the “regular” as opposed to "extra crispy" chicken, was cooked in pressure cooker pots. These pots held approximately two gallons of hot oil. You would slide the breaded chicken into the pots of very hot oil, made hot by a gas range and turn on a mechanical timer.
After approximately 90 seconds, you would grab the lid for the pot, stored over the range, and cap the pot of cooking chicken. A quick twist of the pressure valve located on top of the lid and the chicken was now cooking under pressure. The chicken cooked under pressure for about 17 minutes. The same timer would go off, you’d release the pressure, and remove the lid.
This is where cooking Kentucky Fried Chicken got a little dicey.
You now had to carry the pot of very, very hot oil and chicken over to a dump table where a series of pumps and filters recycled the oil to be used again. The pots were hot and heavy and the oil was near boiling. (Why more accidents involving scalding hot oil didn’t occur, is amazing.) In time the pots were replaced with Henny Penny cookers that were much safer and much more efficient.
Gino’s was known almost as much for Kentucky Fried Chicken as it was known for its hamburgers. The Gino Giant and later, the Sirloiner, did and still have their ardent supporters, and who could blame them? Both burgers were in a class by themselves and are still fondly remembered by countless fans.
I spent 6 1/2 years at the Aberdeen Gino’s, eventually becoming a crew chief and managing a couple of nights a week. All my buddies worked there, including my best friend, Jon, whom I recommended, and all of the girls I dated worked there.
After January 1975, I never made minimum wage again.
I worked hard and was given raises and more responsibility. I really enjoyed my time at Gino’s. Assistant managers came and went but the main manager, Dick Smith, was there for six of the years I worked there. Dick was a tough but fair manager who worked hard to ensure a quality food product and good customer service. He taught me a lot about responsibility and good work habits. I have Dick Smith to thank for much of what I learned in the workplace.
If you have stories to share about Gino’s, e-mail me at Aberdeenhappenings@comcast.net and tell me about them.
(Mark Schlottman writes "Aberdeen Happenings," a weekly column that appears on Tuesdays. If you have a column idea or would like to reach Mark, e-mail email@example.com.)