Villa Napoli Pizzeria – Norridge, IL

Since 1984

Villa Napoli is yet another decades-old Northwest Side/Northwest Suburbs Chicago-style pizza joint with likely a devoted local following.

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The Pizza Hound and I made our way there one summer night. From the city, we headed north on Harlem Avenue to the suburb of Harwood Heights (home of the original Jay’s Beef!), then headed west on Lawrence Avenue. It was around Fourth of July, and we passed a great bright carnival, with all kinds of lights, rides, and people. It was packed. After a few miles, we arrived at our destination. Tucked in the corner of strip mall that it shares with a hairdresser, a liquor store, and Polish bar called Lazer Knights (!), Villa Napoli serves pizza to area unique part of the Chicago area, the island of Norridge and Harwood Heights.

Villa Napoli Exterior from Google Street

Source: Google Street View

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, Norridge–home of Villa Napoli and today a community of about 14,500 people within about 1.8 square miles–takes its name from the nearby Chicago community area Norwood Park and the suburb of Park Ridge to the north. In the late 1940s, local residents resisted annexation by the city of Chicago, and later founded present day Norridge. Today, Norridge and the neighboring Harwood Heights (which also denied annexation), form an independent island with the Chicago city limits, much like the much larger Detroit surrounds the small city of Hamtramck. In fact, it turns out that that big fair we passed earlier was the annual Island In The City Festival!

Most streets in Norridge are lined with brick single-family homes built in the postwar decades, with a few apartment buildings and autocentric commercial developments found mostly along major roads such as Lawrence Avenue. The nearby Harlem Irving Plaza was built on former farmland in the mid-1950s, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the landscape today. O’Hare Airport is just to the west and you can almost feel it. You can definitely hear it.

Villa Napoli - Norridge from Google Maps

Source: Google Maps

There’s no shortage of pizza with in a mile or so in the Norridge area. Annetti’s and Original Mama Mia’s are both on Cumberland Avenue to the east, and Al’s (“Est. 1999” and “Home of Chicago’s Thinnest Pizza”) is on Lawrence just a block or so away from Villa Napoli. Not to mention Bije’s on Irving Park Road in southeast corner of Norridge, and the great pizza places on Harlem Avenue in the city. There are likely more, too. Villa Napoli, however, was our primary focus for the evening.

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Inside, several tables and chairs, with booths lining the wall, and white walls with a few faded framed pictures made a dining room that was not all that remarkable. Pizza was why were there, though. A couple of guys sat at table enjoying their own cheesy extra large pizza. It looked really good.

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I headed to the counter in the back. A few older photos, some faded with time, and some newspaper articles adorned the walls by the counter. Apparently, Villa Napoli was highly rated by former Sun-Times food critic Pat Bruno. Again, we got a extra large all pepperoni, half sausage. And, of course, we ordered thin crust, the true Chicago standard.

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While this pizza was not one of our favorites, it admittedly suffered from the long drive home. The cheese had predictably hardened as it cooled, which is fine, but upon reheating it did not seem melt very well. That said, by the time we finished it (after munching on it later that night and the next day), it really grew on us. The sauce was tasty. We may not go out of our way to get it again, but it certainly is a decent Chicago-style thin crust pizza. Probably best if had at the restaurant or for carryout/delivery nearby when it’s hot and fresh. I’m sure there are people that swear by this pizza as the best, and no doubt many locals in the Norridge/Harwood Heights area collect a lot of these coupons!

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Villa Napoli offers pan and stuffed pizza, too. They have a wider variety of toppings than your typical Chicago area pizza joint, as well, with “fancy”toppings such as capers, prosciutto, and artichoke hearts, and they also have more-common, unique-to-Chicago such as Italian beef and hot giardiniera. Not to worry, there’s also plenty of old fashioned sausage, too.

Hey, Villa Napoli guy…

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do you work somewhere on the South Side, too?

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Check it out if you are in the near Northwest Suburbs. As the menu says, “Serving Chicago, Elmwood Park, Franklin Park, River Grove, Rosemont, O’Hare Airport, Park Ridge, Schiller Park, Norridge, Harwood Heights.” Interestingly, the owner apparently ran for the Norridge Village Board last year. We’re picking no sides in that fight. Still, the Hound and I fully support the inclusion of pizza in our local and national political discourse.

Villa Napoli Pizzeria is located at 8546 W. Lawrence Ave., Norridge, IL 60706

(708) 456-5022

One of the three websites for Villa Napoli we could find.

Villa Napoli on Facebook (unofficial)

Lonnie’s Pizzeria – Dunning, Chicago

Since c.1999

Situated in just west of the Schiller Woods on Irving Park Road at N. Cumberland, Lonnie’s Pizzeria isn’t too far from O’Hare airport, in the Dunning neighborhood. About one hundred years ago, the surrounding area was relatively sparsely populated, but today the community is made up of over 40,000 residents who live mostly in single-family homes. Those residents are lucky enough to not be too far from a few great pizza restaurants, but make no mistake, Lonnie’s is itself a great stop for pizza on the Northwest Side.

Lonnie’s Pizzeria is a little younger than many of the pizza places Ernie and I have visited (as the menu proclaims “Celebrating Our 15th Anniversary), but Lonnie’s is definitely well on it’s way to a long life selling great pizza. The Pizza Hound directed us there on a drizzly spring night to try it out for ourselves.

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Lonnie’s is housed in a small take-out building, with a few bar stools and a counter. We’re not entirely sure, but the building could have been a hot dog stand or fast food restaurant at one point. According to the official website, the owners originally dreamed of a successful hot dog cart, but pizza ended up as their calling.

Which is great for the Pizza Hound and me because Lonnie’s has great Chicago-style thin crust at probably the most affordable price of any pizza of it’s kind in Chicagoland. The total came out to just over $14 for an extra large topping-and-a-half pizza. That’s shockingly affordable for such a great pizza, especially when it seems that most of the pizzas of comparable style and number of toppings seem to hover between $18 and $20 at most places.

The pizza was delicious, too, and went over very well back at the homestead. Good crust, cheese, and sauce. They also offer pan and stuffed crusts, as well as a few specialty pizzas. The Pizza Hound definitely recommends Lonnie’s as a great choice for a quick pizza carryout if you are in the area.

Here’s the front of the menu:

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Collect 20 coupons for a free pizza!

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Lonnie’s Pizza is located at 8343 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL 60634

(773) 589-1501

Lonnie’s Pizzeria Official Website

Lonnie’s Pizzeria on Facebook

Jake’s Pizza – Franklin Park, IL

 Since 1966

Located just a short drive out of the Chicago city limits, Jake’s Pizza is a great little pizza joint perfect for after a family night out. The Pizza Hound had to stay home because the trip to Jake’s happened on a night out with my great friend Tom. Of course, I need the Hound to to give me instructions on how to get there. Once again, he did not disappoint.

Jake's Pizza - Franklin Park Google Map

Source: Google Maps

Tom and I decided to check out a Saturday show of the local independent pro wrestling organization PCW at the Franklin Park Legion Hall. So, we headed west out of the city on Grand Avenue. On our way to the event, we could not resist grabbing some classic Chicago hot dogs at Gene & Jude’s, an institution in River Grove since 1946!  Despite a very long line that took up much of the standing room inside, we moved to the registers very quickly. While Tom had a veggie dog, I opted for the classic!

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We then headed down the road to the show. The near northwest suburb Franklin Park is located not too far outside the city south of O’Hare Airport. The community of about 18,000 people has a business district that runs along Franklin Avenue, and just to the north on the other side of the railroad tracks on Pacific Avenue is the American Legion Post 974 hall.

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The Butcher, P.L. Myers, and others exchange words and get ready for action.

We arrived just before bell time and found two open seats in otherwise fairly full house. The show, to say the least, was a lot of fun. Family friendly, with lots kids yelling excitedly at the matches. They loved guys like “The Party Animal” Wally Wilde and hated the evil manager P.L. Myers. They even yelled, “You’re scared!” to the cowardly champion, Rion Skillz! We talked to a local fan in the crowd, who was there to his neighbor wrestle, too. During the intermission, all the wrestlers–good guys and bad guys–came out for free photos with the fans, which was really cool. Snacks were available for sale, and if Dad or Mom wanted a beer, a bar area was located in another room. All this made for a fun show for us, and I highly recommend a PCW show for an affordable, memorable night for wrestling fans, young and old.

Tom and me PCW 2.26.13 Franklin Park

Tom and me with one of the good guys, Jarod Priest.

After the show, I called in my order to Jake’s for a quick pick-up. We hit Rolling Stones, a classic Chicago music store at Irving Park near Harlem Avenue, quickly perused their stock of thousands of new CDs, and I even bought one. By then, the pizza was ready.

Jake's Pizza - Official Facebook

Source: Jake’s Pizza official Facebook page.

Jake’s occupies a one-story brick storefront along a typical inner ring suburban business strip. The strip itself last for blocks and looks somewhat between a classic main street and a more auto-centric focus of development. There were a couple of other nearby pizza options, but Jake’s was the focus of the night. The storefront was small–though with a relatively large front window–but the inside feels smaller: basically just a small counter for carryout and a small counter with a couple of lonely stools. The kitchen in the back was slightly visible. Service was very friendly. It’s take-out and delivery only (aside from that small counter), and they follow the great tradition of giving you a free pop with your pizza.

Once I got home, I was able to check out the pizza itself, with a little help from the Pizza Hound. It was a classic tavern cut thin crust. Extra large, all pepperoni and half-sausage, and a good price. Like many Chicago pizza joints, Jake’s gives you coupons to collect to get a free pizza.

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If you live in the area or are catching a PCW show at the American Legion Hall on a weekend night, Jake’s is no doubt an excellent pizza option. We’ll have to wait to join PCW at Kenootz’s Pizza in Midlothian after the next show…

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The program from the show gives a nice rundown of story so far…

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…and it provides an official space on the back for kids (and adults) to get autographs from their favorite stars. How great is that?! And if you have ever dreamed of being a wrestler, PCW can train you!

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The show was a great family-friendly event, and Jake’s was a delicious, family-friendly pizza. Wish we had more pictures of this one!

It was great having Tom out on this run, too.  Months later he and his dog would accompany Ernie and me on another pizza run. We made a pretty good team. That’s a story for another time.

Jake’s Pizza is located at 9802 Grand Ave., Franklin Park, IL 60131

(847) 455-6122

Jake’s Pizza on Facebook

Pro Championship Wrestling Chicago on Facebook