If Jim & Pete’s has been around 1941, then it certainly makes a run for the oldest pizza place we visited in the Chicago area. In the same year America went to war, two partners, Jim Sorce, Sr. and Pete Sizzo, opened a pizza counter at Chicago and Pulaski avenues in the West Humboldt Park in Chicago . By the 1950s, they had expanded service to a full service restaurant in River Forest. They operated until the mid-1980s when they moved to the current location. The Sorce family (including Jim’s son, Jim Jr.), along with the nephew of the other original partner, run Jim & Pete’s to this day, using the recipes of Jim Sr.’s wife for many of the dishes. Check out this great old photograph of the original location from the official website!
The trek to Jim & Pete’s was a relatively easy one for us. Ernie jumped in the passenger seat and we headed west on North Avenue to the city limits, then traveling through Oak Park to Elmwood Park. North Avenue serves as the border between Elmwood Park and the beautiful tree-lined streets of River Forest, which with the expensive, large homes on large lots looks like a scene out of a 1980s John Hughes movie.
A few other restaurants dot this stretch of North Avenue. One such establishment is the fantastic Chicago classic, Johnnie’s Beef. There always seems to be a line of customers running outside around the building. The wait is worth it, though, as they serve one of the tastiest, mouthwatering beefs in Chicago. The Italian sausage and fries are great, too.
We called in the order, then drove around the neighborhood to check it out. Lots of one-and-a-half story, single family yellow brick homes and some more spacious two-story ones, each with a very neat lawn. Many appear to have been built in the 1940s and ’50s. Some homes in Elmwood Park, particularly those in the section north of Grand Avenue, were constructed in the 1920s,
Just bit west toward the river was Russell’s Barbecue on Thatcher Avenue, which looks straight out of an old Route 66 postcard, with a lot beautiful neon signage. We’ve never tasted the food at Russell’s, but I once bought a bottle of their signature sauce. To my taste, it was pretty strange, with a preponderance of an unidentifiable spice. That said, it deserves points for being unique. But anyway, we got back pretty quickly, though, as the pizza was surely ready in the standard Chicago “15 to 20.”
It was a weekend summer evening, and business was good at Jim & Pete’s. This newer building, though it’s built up to the sidewalk, looks a bit like a suburban style restaurant with parking lots on the sides. The staff was very friendly and welcoming, and they directed me to the small pickup window in the back. We had a coupon for a free bottle of Pepsi and our bill came out to about $22 including tax. As the sun set, we headed back east on North Avenue. Once at home, we opened up the treasure.
Ernie was very interested in this pizza.
This extra large pizza–18 inches–was something to behold. While it may look just like all the others, it was better than most. Even with simple toppings like sausage and pepperoni it somehow transcended such a basic formula. The cheese and sausage were very good, with the sausage and pepperoni found mostly on top of the cheese. The sauce was fantastic and formed a small flavorful ring around the edge leaving a small bit of crust visible. And the crust, too, was outstanding. Very, very thin and crispy–perfect for an occasional treat for Ernie. I have to admit, though, it was hard to give up any of this pizza, even to the little guy.
Jim & Pete’s also serves double dough, pan, stuffed, and “hand rolled” crusts–and I bet they do each of them well. The thin crust was excellent, though, and I wish we could have it again. Way to go, Pizza Hound!
We highly recommend the pizza at Jim & Pete’s. It’s amazing how any place can maintain quality for 75 years. From its earliest days in West Humbolt Park to over three decades in down the street in River Forest to today in Elmwood Park, somehow Jim & Pete’s has done it.
Jim & Pete’s is located at 7806 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park, IL 60707