LINCOLN SQUARE — Nick Sarillo wants to open a family pizza restaurant in Lincoln Square, and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) is on board.
The restaurateur said he was still in the "early early stages" of claiming the vacant space at the corner of Montrose and Artesian avenues. But if all goes well, the first urban branch of Nick's Pizza & Pub will be on track to open by "spring or early summer" of 2017.
With two locations already serving up pies in Elgin and Crystal Lake, Sarillo said Lincoln Square would be a perfect fit for his family-focused brand.
The corner in question is surrounded mostly by houses and apartments, about four blocks from the busy restaurant corridor along Lincoln Avenue. Across the street is an Aldi grocery store undergoing a massive renovation this summer.
"We want to have the kind of place where kids can get done playing at [Welles Park] and come over with the whole football team," Sarillo said. "We want it to be a place for kids and families to have fun and feel at home."
But the restaurant would have some grown-up appeal, too, he added, promising a "full bar" pouring local craft beer. As for food, Sarillo described a "simple menu" featuring hot dogs, salads and Italian sandwiches alongside an array of thin-crust pizzas.
Sarillo foresees a dining area large enough to fit about 200 people, he said.
Unlike his two existing suburban locations, which operate inside repurposed barns, Sarillo said the new outpost would be designed with "antique elements" and a "rustic decor" to fit the low-lying brick structure built in 1933.
Pawar predicted that the concept would "do extremely well" at a location that "has had its ups and downs."
But more than that, Pawar said, Nick's Pizza & Pub stood out for its record as a "pro-employee business."
"It's about having policies in place where you can move up internally, where the owner isn't just concerned about the bottom line," Pawar said. "To have an open-book policy like Nick has, where everyone is working together instead of it being top-down — that's impressive. We're always looking for businesses like that."
It's a reputation Sarillo has carved out not only with his restaurants, but with his public persona.
In 2012 he published "A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business," detailing his supportive and inclusive policies toward workers. He's since continued to spread the message through Ted Talks and speaking engagements.
"For us it's not just about having a restaurant, but a space that serves the community, where everyone is supporting each other," Sarillo said. "So I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen, and until then, you'll be seeing me around the neighborhood a lot."
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