Nancy’s Pizza, the iconic Chicago brand that invented the stuffed pizza, opened this past November in Chicago’s restaurant district at 1000 West Washington in the West Loop. While there are currently 31 Nancy’s locations, this one is special as it brings the brand back to the center of the culinary world at the heart of Chicago’s West Loop. Nancy’s has a story to tell, and they’re telling it in a swanky, retro spot that pays homage to its 1971 roots – the year in which the original stuffed pie’s creators, Rocco and Nancy (Annunziata) Palese, introduced the gooey delicacy to their customers.
Rocco came up with the idea when the patrons of his tavern style pizza place wanted him to jump on the burgeoning deep-dish pizza craze. A proud and independent Italian immigrant, Rocco resisted the call to imitate. He instead created a delightful dish that was inspired by pan pizza, yet deliciously different: he created a thicker, cheesier pizza that resurrected an Italian family tradition – the Easter Pie. For the uninitiated, an Easter Pie is a tart packed with Italian meats and cheeses that are bound together with eggs and enclosed with a pastry top.
The Nancy’s culinary team includes Chef Kayla Howey, an acclaimed chef, food blogger, photographer and Culinary Institute of America graduate, who is also a member of the Howey family that grew up on Nancy’s Pizza.
The restaurant’s design is reminiscent of the 1970s, with winks at retro design including lots of wood veneer (including bespoke wood veneer tables), wallpaper that varies from flocked and geometrically patterned to a tribute to Andy Warhol in the men’s room (the ladies will have to take a peek). Vintage black and white photos and painted pizza pans adorn the walls, and mid-century-inspired seating made with 1970s materials dotting the floors.
Besides the famous stuffed pizza, Nancy’s has updated the original menu which offers other thin crust pizzas, salads, pastas, sandwiches, appetizers and desserts. The bar offers craft, imported domestic beer, signature cocktails and a selection of wines. The menu accommodates both meat eaters and vegetarians alike. There is something for just about everyone, including gluten and allergen-free options. Everything on the menu is housemade and from scratch, which is evident in the food when it is served to your table.
My guest and I enjoyed a marvelous dining experience at Nancy’s with tons of gooey cheese, good talk and great service! We especially came to eat there in order to sample the signature stuffed pizza, but ordered other tasty options along the way including delicious appetizers of onions rings with a zesty, savory cheese sauce and homemade fried mozzarella sticks. The sticks were huge and came with choices of marinara and pesto sauce for dipping. The marinara was fresh but the pesto sauce was also delightful for dipping. We also balanced all the cheese and fried food with a simple house salad, which was a nice contrast to the rest of the meal.
My guest and I took our time deciding on the perfect choice for our original stuffed pizza pie to order for our table. I had been looking forward to this. We eventually chose the Northern Italian Veggie with added spinach (roasted red peppers, garlic, black olives, basil), which was the right decision. Terry Parfey, the very kind and welcoming general manager (also a renowned wine sommelier), brought it to us himself and cut it for us. I simply loved watching him pull up a slice with the pizza slicer as the melted, warm cheese stretched out nicely. The inviting, wonderful aroma of cheese, buttery baked crust, fresh basil, and veggies was pure torture as we had to wait for it to cool a bit before digging in.
After dinner, we were granted a behind the scenes tour of the kitchens where all the magic happens. It was really interesting to see the pizza making process and how it comes out perfectly for customers.
What makes the entire Nancy’s Pizza a legacy and still going strong since ‘71, is that it is a very family oriented business. It is also a warm and welcoming place where anyone can go for great pizza and a fun time. My guest and I had huge smiles on our faces at the end of the meal, that paralleled the “Get Stuffed!” smiley face on the restaurant wall.
Photos: Jennifer Lunz
1000 W Washington Blvd
Chicago, IL 60607
Carry-Out and Delivery: 312-773-9920, or at the website.
Hours of operation are:
Monday – Thursday: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.