CHICAGO — A culinary institution is celebrating a big milestone Thursday, as Vito & Nick’s celebrates 100 years of bringing tavern-style pizza to hungry Chicagoans.
It’s the celebration of a century for 73-year-old Rose George and her beloved pizza parlor. Nick was her father, and Vito was her grandfather.
The pandemic forced some changes to the celebration, which instead of 1,000 guests has 300 on hand, but little else has changed in 100 years.
“My grandfather started in 1920 on Congress, moved to 80th and Halsted, then moved to its current location in 1965,” George said.
For the last 55 years, Vito & Nicks has stood at 84th Street and Pulaski Road in the Ashburn neighborhood. Legend has it, the classic tavern square cut was invented there.
“The square cut originated as pizza on a bar, and everybody helped themselves in small pieces – you really do not need a plate, everybody uses a napkin and it was passed down the bar,” George said.
It was a stroke of genius in the service of good business. Her grandfather knew that if he passed around more pizzas, people would buy more beers. And while there’s a full bar, there’s really one proper beer at Vito and Nick’s.
“We’ve had Old Style since day one. We’re the oldest client that they have, and we sell the most barrels of Old Style in the City of Chicago,” George said.
Rose has worked at Vito and Nick’s for 68 years, and she’s been in charge for the last two decades. Her son and grandsons now work with her, making what has been consistently called the best thin crust pizza in the city
“We take a lot of dedication to the work we put out,” Alex George said.
While deep dish is deeply connected to Chicago, George says her tavern style is the most authentic.
“Thin crust. Crispy. Cracker, not hard. And it’s thin enough and crispy enough that it pretty much holds up to all the toppings,” George said.
That’s a metaphor for the city itself: built to last, holding up no matter what gets piled on our big shoulders.