When we were home for Thanksgiving, one of the places J’s step-dad recommended we eat was Vito & Nick’s on Chicago’s south side. We passed and went for ribs instead. Imagine our surprise when we saw the pizzeria on Diner’s, Drive-In’s, and Dives earlier this month.
After that airing, we decided on our next trip home, we would check the place out. It’s not far from J’s parents, so we hit the place up for lunch on a Wednesday afternoon. J’s mom was off work so she decided to join us. Vito and Nick’s was a place her parents used to take her, but she hasn’t been there in a number of years and wanted to see if it was the place she remembered.
The Original Vito & Nick’s is located on 84th Place and Pulaski. There’s another location in Lemont, but we wanted to go to the one in Chicago. J’s mom said she remembered the place as having a red, white and green awning and that’s what we looked for. By the time she saw it, I had missed the parking lot, so we had to circle around the neighborhood to get back.
When you walk in from the parking lot, you enter the carry out section of the store. From there, you can see into the kitchen and watch the cooks make the pizza. On a busy night, you can literally see pizza peels flying around the kitchen. From there, you can head into the dining room/bar area.
Vito & Nick’s is a traditional neighborhood pub. The decor is straight from the 70’s with wood paneling and shag carpet on the walls. Yes, the walls from the chair rail to the ceiling are carpeted. There’s a number of tables and a few booths in a dining room that probably seats around 125. When we showed up a little after noon, there was no one at any of the tables and only five or six guys at the bar. From the service we got, you would have thought it was a busy Saturday night.
We took a seat at a table near the bar, but not right next to it. We sat for a while before the bartender/waitress finished her conversation with the regulars at the bar and brought us menus. She dropped them off and took drink orders. I ordered a RC Cola while J and her mom ordered Diet Rite’s. The waitress said it would be cheaper for them to get a half pitcher, so they did. Since it was just pizza, we didn’t need too much time, but it was another ten to fifteen minutes before she came back to get our orders.
We went with two large pies. One was just cheese. The other was Italian Beef. YES! Italian beef on a pizza. Only in Chicago. So, we put the order in..and waited…and waited…and waited. Yes, this is Chicago. No, these are not deep dish pizzas. Like everything else in Chicago, the pizza scene is divided into north side and south side. The northsiders are famous for the pizza most people associate with Chicago. On the south side, they tend to prefer thin and crispy pies. These are thin crust pizzas and it still took almost 40 minutes for us to get the two pizzas. If they were packed, I could see it, but again, there were maybe nine people in the restaurant and most were just drinking. I only noticed two or three people come in for carry out, so there’s no way there was a huge load.
Finally, 45 minutes after we sat down, we get our two pizzas. The Italian beef pizza was pretty much mine and the waitress set it down in front of me. J’s mom grabbed a coule slices, so I did have some help, but not a lot. This pizza was amazing. They took my two favorite foods and made them one meal. The Italian beef was plentiful. It was delicous and it was one of the best pizza’s I have ever eaten. The cheese was nice and golden brown and the crust, at least around the edges, was nice and crispy. The middle was a little soft, but not bad. The pizza was really, really greasy. Even blotting the top with napkins didn’t pick up a third of the grease, but that’s what makes this pizza so good.
J and her mom went to town on the cheese, but still didn’t eat as much of theirs as I did of mine. They both liked it and it was what J’s mom remembered. Her memories were really about how the grease would make the paper under the pie turn clear. When we picked the pizza up, sure enough, you could see through the sheet of wax paper that was put underneath it.
So, the pizza was awesome. One of the best I’ve ever eaten and right on par with my favorite Chicago pizza from Palermo’s 95th, but the service was awful. It got worse after we got our pizza. Once we were done, we sat for fifteen more minutes hoping a waitress would come back and give us a box. I saw them on a buffet along the wall in the dining room so I got up and got it myself. As I was putting the pizza in the box, the waitress came over and apologized and said she would have gotten those for me. Then she asked if we needed anything else. We said just our check. She went to the bar and started talking to patrons at the bar again. She filled a couple beer mugs and disappeared for ten minutes. Finally, she came back with our bill.
The two large pizzas and the pop cost us just over $37. Not terrible for the three of us, but lunch, on a Wednesday afternoon, on a day when there were no more than ten people in the bar took an hour and forty five minutes. We walked in about 12:15 and left at 2:05. I mean, it’s pizza! It doesn’t take fourty minutes to make a thin crust pizza. It sucks because I so want to like Vito & Nick’s. I want to go back because the pizza was that good, but I don’t like spending that much time on lunch. The space is great, but if you’re not a neighborhood regular, it was like they didn’t really care about you.
Final verdict, give it a try and hope you have better luck than we do. The pizza is worth the trip. I’m glad we went because I’ve never had an Italian beef pizza that tasted as good as the one from Vito & Nick’s did.