THE LOOP — A new chain will try to bridge the wood-fired pizza trend and the finer side of Loop fast food when it opens Wednesday.
Persona Wood-Fired Pizzeria opens its fourth location nationally at 170 W. Washington Blvd. at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Kenwood restaurateur Greg Dunn opens the first Chicago franchise with a gas-enhanced wood-burning oven that might offend purists, but that he says can crank out freshly rolled and loaded pizzas in 1½ minutes. The gas gives it a steady temperature, while the wood provides the flavor for seemingly the best of both worlds.
The concept is the brainchild of Glenn Cybulski, a Rome- and Naples-trained pizza maker who aspires to mimic the "street pizza vendors in Italy" while delivering quick, personal lunches and dinners to Loop office workers, tourists and Downtown theatergoers.
"We make everything we have here from scratch," Cybulski said: pizzas loaded on a line Chipotle-style before being tossed in the oven, salads and even the desserts that are to come.
Everything is made before one's eyes, with the customer selecting ingredients, but there are also "chef's choice pizzas" such as a carne (pepperoni and sausage), Buffalo bleu (Buffalo chicken and bleu cheese), a barbecue pulled pork (nuff said) and an already award-winning chipotle chicken with roasted chicken and chipotle dressing.
There are strombolis and calzones as well.
Persona debuted in Santa Barbara, Calif., with Cybulski boasting, "It's just crushed it from day one." A Columbia, S.C., franchise followed, and now Dunn's outlet in the Chicago Loop.
There it will be tested by office workers packing places for lunch, but Cybulski said the oven at peak efficiency can serve 150 pizzas in an hour. Cybulski stands by the product, but said he's not really competing with trendy wood-burning pizza spots like Coalfire or Pizzeria Da Nella so much as with finer Loop lunch outlets like Luke's Lobster around the corner on LaSalle Street.
Persona opens Wednesday with hours set for 11 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. weekends. It plans to offer alcohol as soon as the license comes through.
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