One of the town’s top practitioners of deep-dish will soon graduate from parking lot pizza handoffs to full-on restaurant.
Since 2019, West of Chicago Pizza Company has baked its cornmeal crust creations in a commissary kitchen in Delridge for customers to take home. In a few months it will open its doors in the former Chaco Canyon space at 3770 SW Alaska St.
Owner Shawn Millard has big plans for his impending 75-seat space. Plans that include the reliable presence of his Italian beef sandwiches, which exist right now only as a coveted ticketed popup item. When he opens his doors,“You’ll be able to get one whenever you walk in the door.”
But the biggest change will be the pizza. Not the pies themselves; that cornmeal crust vessel with toppings lurking beneath a placid marinara surface will remain unchanged (gotta love a pizzeria that lists the depth, as well as the diameter of its pies online). But right now, Millard can make 40 pizzas a night. “With the new ovens, we can do 40 pizzas an hour.”
Yet another conveyor oven will focus on another, more cracker-thin facet of Chicago pizza culture—square-cut tavern-style pies, which Millard confesses he might like even better than his deep-dish. The tavern-style lineup will include an Italian beef thin crust pie in homage to Vito and Nick’s, an iconic pizzeria on Chicago’s South Side.
That volume brings another welcome addition: delivery. So many of us spent the early stages of the pandemic learning the suboptimal economics of delivery apps. Millard wants to do it the right way. He’ll charge a flat $5 fee for deliveries across West Seattle (boundaries will be Roxbury to the south and Highland Way to the east). Half of that five bucks goes directly to the driver; the other covers insurance and drivers’ hourly wages. “I want to be very transparent,” says Millard. “Some drivers, if they take enough deliveries, they’ll be making more than me. I want them to be paid.”
West of Chicago will (hopefully) open in early-ish 2022, right as winter is giving way to spring. Its arrival will create a deep-dish triangulation of sorts with Windy City Pie on Phinney and Breezy Town Pizza on Beacon Hill, two excellent spots that also originated as parking lot handoffs.