SOUTH LOOP — The South Loop is getting a slice of the Northwest Side to replace a neighborhood fixture.
Armand's Pizzeria, a Northwest Side staple since its founding 60 years ago in Elmwood Park, is setting up shop in the storefront previously occupied by City Tavern, 1416 S. Michigan Ave.
"It's a wonderful space," said Armand's co-owner Mark Cecola. "As far as cosmetically, there's not a ton to do at all." He plans a midsummer opening.
"We're really excited about it," Cecola added. "We love the area."
Cecola lives in the West Loop, but has been eyeing the Near South Side.
"I've admired it for a long time, and it's such a vibrant, growing area," Cecola said. "I think we've gotten in at just the best time possible. It's a real neighborhood now, and everything is growing.
"It's a big step for us," he added. "We're more excited about being part of that community than anything."
City Tavern was a well-respected restaurant with a classic wood interior that remains intact, but it closed two years ago. Across the street, the Chicago Firehouse remains closed after being damaged by a fire almost 1½ years ago.
Now Cecola is bringing a classic style of thin-crust pizza — which boasts of being "Chicago's best" — to an area that can use the infusion.
"We're a neighborhood place," he said. "That's our thing. We're not one of those big chains — flash and dash."
Armand's is growing, however. The South Loop Armand's will be the 11th, following city outlets at 6694 N. Northwest Highway, 4159 N. Western Ave., 2121 W. Division St. and 151 N. Michigan Ave. in Metra's Millennium Station. The others are in the suburbs, including the original Elmwood Park flagship.
Cecola credited partner Anthony Gambino, who also runs Taco Fresco, with the smooth and successful expansion.
The South Loop, however, is suddenly a battleground for pizzerias. Armand's will have to compete not only with a Giordano's up Michigan, but also an Aurelio's, a south suburban thin-crust specialist that made its return to Chicago at Michigan and Roosevelt Road just last year.
Yet Cecola, an heir to the original Armand's owners, said he falls back on advice from his grandfather: "When you're done fixing every issue you have, and you've made as much money as possible out of your four walls, and you don't have any concerns, then you worry about what's going on with other people."
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