SOUTH LOOP — The wait is over.
After more than a year of delays — permit woes, construction troubles, including a swimming pool buried under a thin layer of concrete and so much more — Aurelio’s Pizza has finally made its triumphant return to Chicago.
After my cousin Taters, a fella with excellent taste in pizza, texted me the good news Tuesday, I rushed to the corner to the Michigan and Roosevelt, ordered up a lightly charred thin crust just the way I like it — slathered in that trademark sweet sauce covered in salty mozzarella, tangy homemade sausage and peppers — and enjoyed every bite from the rooftop deck overlooking Grant Park.
Aurelio's signature thin crust pizza served at the new South Loop shop's patio. [DNAinfo/Mark Konkol]
For guys who grew up in the south suburbs like me, Aurelio’s has always been part of the family.
It’s the pizza beloved by my late grandfather, my mother and my pals — especially my Thornwood High School football teammates who regularly devoured the all-you-can-eat buffet at the South Holland restaurant.
In a city best known for deep-dish pizza — Lou Malnati’s, Uno, Due and Pequod’s among the best — Aurelio’s big move to the southwest corner of Chicago’s front lawn puts arguably one of the finest thin-crust pies back on the map after a franchise at the Holiday Inn on Harrison and Canal streets closed a few years back.
“We’re so happy to be back in Chicago,” owner Joe Aurelio said. “You know, it’s kind of a secret that we’re one of the oldest pizza companies in Chicago. Most people live in the city or on the North Side have kind of heard of us. But now we’ve got a spot that gives us a lot of notoriety and a great place to hang out.”
Especially on the double-decker patio at 1212 S. Michigan Ave. that offers seating for 100 and a pretty nice view of Grant Park, especially for the Navy Pier fireworks shows on Wednesday and Saturday nights.
“Our location is awesome. It was my vision to lift up the patio and share the great view we have here with the great Chicago customers while they enjoy the greatest thin-crust pizza Chicago has,” Aurelio said without a hint of modesty.
The South Loop location’s menu mirrors the offerings served at Aurelio’s flagship restaurant in suburban Homewood with a few new dishes — including bruschetta, caprese salad and other upscale nibblers — to fit in with the neighborhood’s fancier tastes.
Aurelio said he even brought in some of the well-seasoned pizza pans from the original restaurant to ensure the signature pies taste just right.
Owner Joe Aurelio [DNAinfo/Mark Konkol]
The 200-seat dining room is decorated with the Aurelio’s story — vintage black-and-white pictures of the restaurant's early years and Chicago sports celebrities who became friends over pizza dinners literally paper the walls — and there’s room for another 100 pizza eaters on the patio.
In the next few weeks, Aurelio said the restaurant will start offering delivery, but not until he’s sure his kitchen staff has the pizza recipe perfected.
And in the next year or so, Aurelio said, the plan is to open another spot somewhere near Wrigley Field.
North Siders might not realize that’s the best pizza news ever, but it is.
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