My brother has recently found South Side Chicago pizza. Last summer, he went to a White Sox game with my aunt and some of her co-workers. Those co-workers stopped at a pizzeria in Matteson where my brother had a cracker thin crust Italian beef pizza for the first time. Since then, he’s talked about it on many occasions.
When J and I can only make it back as far as Chicago, we usually meet my parents for lunch on Sunday before heading back to Michigan. J hasn’t seen my niece since February, so I asked my brother if he wanted to meet for pizza in Tinley Park. Of course, he said yes.
I need to start this off by explaining the lineage of Vito & Nick’s. A few months ago, I reviewed The Original Vito & Nick’s on 84th and Pulaski. Vito & Nick’s II is not part of the original restaurant, but it is an offshoot of that tavern owned by the son of namesake Vito Barraco. That son opened two stores called Vito & Nick’s II which are in no way affiliated with the Original. The Tinley Park location isn’t one of those two. After the original Vito & Nick’s II stores took off, the store started to franchise. The Tinley Park store is one of those franchises. So even though it’s not a direct descendant of the legendary tavern on Chicago’s south side, they do have a pretty similar menu.
They open the store on 183rd near Harlem at noon on Sunday’s. We got there just a little before noon. By the time we got my niece out of her carseat and started walking towards the restaurant, a man was coming out to unlock the door. The waitress must have seen us as he was starting to push two tables together as we were walking in.
The restaurant was surprisingly small. There’s a bar on one side with a few booths and then a small dining room with more tables on the other side. For most of the meal, we were the only people there, but another large group with small children did join us near the end of the meal.
As we started looking over the menu, my brother asked what the plan was. I knew J and I wanted a pizza, but if the rest of my family wanted sandwiches, my brother was just going to do that too. We all eventually agreed that we wanted pizza and decided on two larges.
The menu is huge and we had a hard time actually finding the pizza section. I assumed it would be prominently displayed since that’s what Vito & Nick’s II is known for, but it was sort of hidden on the back page. I wanted a roast beef pizza and J wanted just cheese. My parents wanted something more, so we got one large pie with half roast beef and half cheese. My parents, brother, and aunt agreed on a large pizza with sausage, green olives, and onions. We also put in an appetizer order for Big’Ah Nick’s Classic Appetizer Platter. My mom thought it would be a good way to sample a lot of different things and it had something for everyone.
The appetizer came out first. It was two plates that were filled with tomato bread, cheese sticks, Brushetta, Pita Asiago, Zucchini, wings, da Breaded ravioli, An De Shrimp. I dove in to the ravioli and cheese sticks while my brother cornered the wings. My dad was the only one that liked shrimp so he got them all to himself. Everyone surprinsgly liked the pita Asiago even though they didn’t know what Pita Bread was. I would have liked it, but it was chock full of red onions. We polished off the fried goodness pretty quickly.
About twenty minutes after ordering, our two pizzas came out. They were perfectly cooked south side Chicago cracker thin crust pies. I really like the way Vito & Nick’s II does the roast beef. They put large chunks on the pizza instead of flattening out long strips. My brother has become a fan of the Italian beef pizza at a few other places, so he tried a bite. He liked it, but didn’t think the roast beef was as good as Italian beef. My dad really likes thin crust pizzas and this was right up his alley. Both pizzas were well done (I believe that’s also a south side Chicago thing…it basically means the pizza is a dark golden brown and the crust is really crispy).
I know there’s ultimately going to be a comparison to the Original Vito & Nick’s. The pizzas were really similar except I thought the pizza we had at Vito & Nick’s II was much less greasy than the pizzas we had at the original. Other than that, I didn’t see much of a difference. The service was MUCH better at Vito & Nick’s II than what we had at The Original. My niece is only 7 months old and we didn’t know how she’d act at a restaurant, but she did really well. The waitress brought over a high chair just in case my brother wanted to take her out of the car seat and no one said a thing when I picked her up and started walking her around the store. It’s something I never would have done had there been more patrons there, but since it was just two groups and the other group had small children too, I didn’t think anyone would care. The waitress was really good about giving us space, but making sure we always had full drinks. Vito & Nick’s II doesn’t have the atmosphere that The Original has and I would be they’re not throwing pizza peels around the kitchen, but the pizza is still really good and really worth the trip. I think my family was really happy with this foreign style of pizza to them and it’s something I could see them making the drive an hour north for.
Our bill was pretty expensive, but there were six of us. I never got an exact total, but I know it was over sixty bucks. Vito & Nick’s II was the perfect spot to meet my family for lunch before we headed back to Michigan. There are a lot of pizza places in Chicago and even though Vito & Nick’s II isn’t the largest chain, they do have some of the best pizza in the Chicagoland area.