Vito & Nick's
About six years ago, I started a foodie bucket list. Since starting this food blog with my sister, I was always being given dining suggestions or told about new places I needed to try. When one sounded intriguing, I’d add it to my foodie bucket list. One of the first ones I added to it was Vito & Nick’s.
I often make notes about who told me about the place or where I learned about it. I didn’t have a note about Vito & Nick’s - probably because so many people had told me I needed to go there. I later saw TV segments about it on Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives and on Chicago’s Best. And ever since I first put it on that list, it’s been tugging at me.
When we got into 2019, I looked back at that foodie bucket list and added a few. And I saw that I actually still had a handful from that 2013 list that I still haven’t made it to. I decided that in the new year, I’m going to cross more off of this list that have been lingering for years. So, I saw that I had a free Sunday afternoon and decided to make a visit to Vito & Nick’s.
I figured one of my kids would agree to come along if it meant they got to eat pizza - but you know, teenage boys are not all that keen on hanging with their mom. They all had other plans or had to work. So, I called my foodie friend, Karen. Her husband Paul is one of those guys who knows the city like the back of his hand — and all the good eateries, sometimes it’s a trendy new one, but more often it’s a classic, old-school one tucked away in less-traveled area. They had been to Vito & Nick’s, but it had been a long time since they were last there and they also had a free afternoon, so they decided to accompany me on my foodie adventure. We also visited another spot afterwards that I just heard about for the first time, Lindy’s Chili and Gertie’s Ice Cream (a post on that visit will be coming soon - it was AWESOME.)
We arrived at Vito & Nick's and were lucky to see a few empty tables in the dining room. I was told by the waitress that Sundays are always busy and that customers sometimes wait for an hour or more to be seated - with no complaints, she added, because they love the pizza so much.
The current location at 8433 S. Pulaski, has been there since 1965. It’s charmingly still in that era - it doesn’t look like much has changed, but that’s such a good thing. The recipes are the original ones that have been made for decades. Paul was wowed by one throwback in the decor - carpet above the bar. It’s such an awesome blast from the past - even though I wasn’t born yet in 1965, it brings back good memories of my 70s/80s upbringing and the dining establishments I remember as a kid.
Rose, the granddaughter of the original owner and the sassy and lovable lady running the joint now, filled me in on the history.
In 1920, her grandfather, Vito, had a tavern on Congress Parkway that he later moved to 80th & Halsted. The next move was to 79th & Carpenter where they introduced pizza in September 1945 right after World War II. “The place was called Vito’s Tavern, however, my father, Nick, joined his father. The name still remained Vito’s Tavern until we opened at the current location 1965,” said Rose. “He did not want to take the name away from his father.”
When they moved into the new building, the new sign for “Vito & Nick’s” was made by Old Style Beer. Rose is the third generation in the business and members of the fourth and fifth generation also work there, so the chances of this pizza paradise continuing for many years to come are pretty good. Next year in June they’ll celebrate a century in business.
Rose added that in 1922, food service began at the tavern with her grandmother introducing her sandwiches and spaghetti. As tempting as it is to go there and gorge yourself on nothing but pizza, you really need to venture out and try some other stuff as well. They brought out two appetizers for us to try - the calamari and the fried ravioli and both were quite amazing.
But the pizza - the pizza is definitely the star of the place. If you think Chicago pizza means deep dish, it’s really not all that true. The city has some wonderful deep-dish and that’s kind of what is equated with Chicago pizza, but really the majority of pizza eaten in Chicagoland is thin-crust.
I’m of the mindset that the thinner it is, the better. I love a crunch to my crust and this is absolutely the best when it comes to cracker thin classic pizza. I’ve been hearing it for years and now that I finally tried it, I am totally a believer. I tried out a simple cheese and sausage - really my favorite way to enjoy a pizza - and it was incredible. They’re also known for their pizza with egg added to it and for their Italian beef and giardiniera pizza.
I had never hear the term “well-done” in relation to pizza before, but Paul informed me that when you order pizzas, you can request that they are “well-done” and left in a little longer so that the cheese bubbles up and you even get a little bit of blackened edges that are really crispy. That’s how he orders it from his favorite local place, Rico’s. Vito & Nick’s is done in this manner - well-done. So, be prepared for that - if it’s not your thing, don’t hold it against them. For what they do - they do it incredibly well. I could not have loved it more and I have been dreaming of that pizza ever since my visit there two weeks ago.
I also have to add that - and many others have agreed with me - the mark of a really good pizza is if you can eat it cold for breakfast the next day and still love it. Vito & Nick’s passed that test. It’s cut tavern-style in those tiny square pieces and I enjoyed a few of those the next morning. And then later that day I almost cried when I learned my kids had finished off the rest. It’s a bit of a trek for me to get out there, but it’s so worth the trip. So, no matter where you are in Chicagoland (or even if you’re from out of the area), put this place on your foodie bucket list. And make the trip! And tell them the Chicago Foodie Sisters sent you. You can thank me in advance. And then thank me profusely again after you try it. :)
Vito & Nick’s
8433 S. Pulaski
***Also, just an FYI, Vito & Nick's is CASH ONLY.
***Also, just an FYI, Vito & Nick's is CASH ONLY.