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Pompei On Sheffield Closes After A Year Of Stiff Competition, Owner Says

By Ariel Cheung | July 11, 2016 4:17pm
 After a yearlong return to Sheffield and Wellington, Pompei has closed again.
After a yearlong return to Sheffield and Wellington, Pompei has closed again.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

LAKEVIEW — It's a sad end to what could have been the return of a family dynasty.

Just over a year after returning to 2955 N. Sheffield Ave., Pompei on Sheffield has closed its doors. The restaurant faced stiffer competition along Sheffield and Belmont avenues than during its original run, and owner Ralph Davino said he simply couldn't afford the rent.

"The [first] time I was there, we made a lot more money, but now there are more businesses," Davino said Monday. "I based by rent on doing 'X' amount of dollars of business, and I lost of lot of money there."

The Pistachio ice cream parlor and cafe located in a subsection of Pompei also closed.

Pompei stood at Wellington and Sheffield for seven years before Davino first sold the business rights in 2004. After eight years partnering with the new owner, Davino was unsatisfied with the results and sued in 2013. He claimed the operators had run the business into the ground and cost him $3 million.

Pompei closed amid the legal battle, so the building's landlord briefly converted the space and opened City Dough. The bakery lasted seven months before shuttering in May 2014.

When Davino returned to Sheffield Avenue last year, he said he was unaware of the many changes on the Belmont corridor. Bob's El Stop set up shop next door one year after Pompei reopened, followed by Blackwood BBQ and Beef Shack on Belmont Avenue.

RELATED: Pompei Pizza Owner Hints At Third Location After Lakeview Reopening

Home Run Inn also followed Pompei to Lakeview, opening in the former Leona's at 3215 N. Sheffield Ave. in October. DMK Burger Bar and Fish Bar are two other nearby choices.

The heightened competition was too much for Pompei, Davino said.

"There's more to draw from, more businesses," Davino said. "And if I had known that, I never would have signed for that high of rent."

For now, Davino will focus his attention on Pompei on Taylor, the family's original Little Italy restaurant. He said one day, he'd like to open another location, but he's "not sure how I'm going to recuperate my losses" from the past year on Sheffield.

The Davino patriarch, Luigi Davino, opened the first Pompei in 1909, near Our Lady of Pompei Church in Little Italy. The restaurant and its neighboring bakery passed from father to son to nephew, with Davinos living in apartments above the establishments.

Ralph Davino took over Pompei Bakery in 1984 after running a tavern on Taylor Street. Originally a carryout location with two seats, the bakery expanded in a new Western Avenue location.

Two years after he opened Pompei on Sheffield in 1997, Davino built the current Taylor Street building and opened additional locations in Oak Brook, Schaumburg and Downtown.

He sold everything except the Taylor Street location in 2004.

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