WEST LOOP — A pizza place that aims to be family friendly has opened at a spot once home to a controversial nightclub in the West Loop.
Vincenzo's Pizzeria opened last week at 1104 W. Madison St., which was formerly the location of the contentious Plush nightclub before it was closed down by the city last year.
"It's a great Italian pizzeria with a huge neighborhood feel. Very homey. We want it to be a neighborhood place that's never going to go away," said owner Marc Nichols, 27.
In other words, he hopes to attract a different crowd than Plush, which saw its share of problems before it lost its liquor license last May.
A 25-year-old man was shot and killed in front of the club in August 2010, followed by a 43-year-old man getting stabbed in the neck after getting into an argument with another man at Plush in October 2011.
Neighbors had been trying for years to have the bar shut down. Plush's owner claimed the efforts to shut him down were racially motivated, because the club attracted an African-American clientele, but residents and city officials denied that was the reason.
Nichols was among those who attended the community meetings when concerns were raised about the club.
"I knew about the stigma with the location. It was kind of a big hurdle to climb, but we wanted to give the place such a makeover that when you look at it, you wouldn't even think that Plush used to be there," said Nichols.
Local residents said they are pleased with the change.
"We needed a pizza place. There's not really a good place around," said David Izsak, 37, who lives in the West Loop. "It's a good spot to watch games and close to the United Center."
The restaurant offers a selection of 35 craft beers and serves nontraditional pizzas such as Hawaiian, Florentine, Italian beef and margherita. The menu also includes sandwiches, salads, pasta and burgers, including the Diablo Burger with pepper jack cheese and giardiniera for $10.99.
You don't have to look hard to see the family influence: "Grandma's Gravy" is part of the menu and framed pictures of Nichols' grandfather, Vincenzo D'Agostino, sit at the front of the bar.
"Madison Street has transformed so much. It's great to be part of it," said Nichols. "I feel this is one of the best, if not the best, up-and-coming neighborhoods in Chicago."
Vicenzo's is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day except Saturdays, when it closes at 3 a.m.