DeSalvo’s Pizza to open in Central Street Retail District


There is an empty storefront where Symphony’s Cafe used to be located, but it will soon be occupied by DeSalvo Pizza, a new pizza restaurant that will open this month. It will serve pizza by the slice, along with other foods, and aims to become a community gathering place for Evanston residents.

DeSalvo Pizza, named after the co-owners, will be located at 1945 Central Street, in the Central Street Retail District. The area is already occupied by a variety of restaurants, coffeeshops, bakeries and boutiques, and is always bustling, especially on the weekends. If everything goes according to plan, patrons will be able to enjoy a slice of pizza starting around mid-November.

There will be a variety of foods to choose from, most of them related to Italian cuisine. 

“It’s going to be a New York style pizza place; we’re gonna be a slice shop. So you’ll come in, and you’ll see a big case full of food with different pizzas, slices to get, sausage rolls, frombolis, focaccia, a lot of sandwiches, all sorts of delights; garlic knots with dipping sauce. We’ll have soft serve and root beer on tap, root beer floats, and, overall, build a beautiful and delicious space together,” Alex DeSalvo, one of the owners, described.

The restaurant will be set up like a slice shop, and customers will be able to walk in and grab a meal or a quick snack. There will be places to sit down and eat as well as a party room in the back for bigger groups.

“So if you can picture a casual ‘come in, come out’ quick service spot. I think that’s what it’s gonna be. But there’ll be a party room in the back,” John Kim, a co-owner explained. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to serve the needs of the community.”

Kim, one of three co-owners, is well known in the neighborhood. He has started multiple coffee shops, including Brothers K, the Other Brother and most recently, Backlot Coffee, a coffee shop and bakery with locations in the Chicago area. One of Backlot’s locations is right across the street from the soon to be DeSalvo Pizza and is a very popular spot for people to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee while working or talking. Previously, Kim was involved in the restaurant Boltwood, which was located in Downtown Evanston while it was operating.

The two other owners are husband and wife, Alex and Stacia DeSalvo. They both decided they wanted to use their combined experience in the restaurant industry to start a pizza business, and the opportunity arose when Symphony’s shut down.

“After the pandemic, we just decided to do something new,” Alex DeSalvo said.

Previously, the two met at a pizza restaurant in Colorado. They then moved to Chicago, where Alex went to culinary school. He then got a job as a chef at Boltwood, which was where he met Kim. After Boltwood shut down, he worked for Lettuce Entertain You, a restaurant group in downtown Chicago. Meanwhile, Stacia was also working at restaurants, in a variety of positions such as manager, hostess and bartender. 

DeSalvo Pizza won’t be the only pizza restaurant in the same area of Central Street. Just down the road is Bake Homemade, a restaurant that was based on the concept of bake at home pizza. Customers can order pizza, take it home, and then cook it and enjoy it at their house. Even though there are two pizza places on one block, the DeSalvos don’t consider it a competition. From their perspective, the two business models are different enough to attract different sets of customers.

“The other thing [is] that, when we think about anybody else on Central and really even other people who sell pizza, we tend to think of it as a cross pollination rather than competition, that there’s room for everybody. And I know that, for me, sometimes I like pizza from one place and pizza from another place, just depending on what you’re in the mood for. So, I mean, I don’t think it’s competition by any means,” Stacia DeSalvo commented.

Either way, DeSalvo Pizza will be located in an ideal place for attracting the after-school and after-work crowd. It will be near the Metra stop and Haven Middle School, and the food they’ll serve has all the makings of it becoming a very popular place to stop by for a quick slice or snack after school or work. 

“In my hometown, there was a pizza joint that was really similar. And I know after school, just getting something small to eat was something that I loved to do with my friends. So I definitely envision kids coming after school, I envision families coming in from the park, since we’re so near the park. And Central Street, I mean, this community is very family oriented so we’ll definitely be family friendly. But also anyone who wants to gather, we’re going to do our best to just make it a really fun place to be no matter who you are,” Stacia DeSalvo said.

In continuation of that effort to be a popular and inclusive spot, DeSalvo Pizza will offer gluten free and vegan options, so that customers of any dietary restrictions can enjoy their food.

Stacia DeSalvo mentioned, “A lot of people might hear ‘pizza shop’ and say, well, that’s not for me if they can’t eat bread…”

“But we say pizzas for everyone,” finished Alex DeSalvo.

The mission of DeSalvo Pizza is to create a space to serve the community that they love, and to make good food in the process.

“We love Evanston. We are Evanston, Skokie people. And we love this area. We love the community. And we’re excited,” Kim said.

Alex DeSalvo added, “We want to bring good food and a great space to the neighborhood and the area that we love.”