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'Breakfast Queen' Returns to Her West Loop Digs For Lou Malnati's Pizza

By Janet Rausa Fuller | October 20, 2014 5:25am
 Marc Malnati will serve the first meal at Lou Malnati's in the West Loop to restaurateur Ina Pinkney.
Lou Malnati's and Ina Pinkney
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WEST LOOP — When Ina Pinkney closed her restaurant after 33 years in the business on New Year's Eve, she served the last dish to fellow restaurateur Marc Malnati.

It was by design, Pinkney's choice. Malnati was taking over the restaurant. His order: granola, his favorite.

On Monday, Malnati will return the favor.

When he opens the 39th Lou Malnati's pizzeria at 4 p.m., his first customer will be Pinkney.

"I'm going to have the Lou's [pizza], which has fresh Roma tomatoes on top, he tells me," Pinkney said.

The torch-passing tradition at 1235 W. Randolph St. actually goes back further. The day Pinkney opened her breakfast and brunch spot in 2001, John Panagakos was there. His family had run the restaurant before her at that address for 44 years.

Janet Fuller says the owners' hand off is authentic, not a stunt:

Panagakos also will be at Malnati's on opening day.

The pizzeria will be open for dinner and will add lunch service next week, said Malnati's spokeswoman Meggie Lindberg.

Pinkney opened Ina's in 1991 in a different location. After a falling out with her then-business partner and a hiatus, she reopened on Randolph Street. Over the years, she served countless politicians, business bigwigs, Hollywood types and regular Joes.

She is now out of the restaurant business, but not out of food. She does signings and talks to promote her cookbook, "Taste Memories: Recipes for Life and Breakfast." She continues to write and distribute by e-mail a newsletter, a tradition she started at the restaurant. And she writes a monthly column for the Tribune about a very familiar topic — breakfast places around town.

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