Oak Park residents will soon be able to grab a slice of wood-fired pizza in the Hemingway District, thanks to a new restaurant headed to the village.
Bricks Wood-Fired Pizza Café is aiming to open their newest site at 128 N. Oak Park Ave. sometime in September.
The restaurant will take the place of the shuttered student-run restaurant previously operated by Robert Morris University.
Ric Gruber Jr., a Bricks Wood-Fired Pizza Café co-owner, said in a telephone interview that the university left the space with a full kitchen and dining room intact.
"A lot of that stuff we're not going to need because we cook everything in a wood-fired oven," Gruber said, noting that their kitchen doesn't use gas-powered ovens.
Gruber is an Oak Park resident, but his family, with whom he co-owns the business, largely lives in Naperville, he said.
He was looking for a new space for the company's seventh location — Bricks also has two shops in Lombard and one each in Wheaton, Naperville, Mount Prospect and West Dundee — and spotted the empty storefront.
"I saw it and peeked in and said, 'Wow that's exactly what we needed for our store,'" he said. "Oak Park is the place where we wanted to be from the very beginning, but we never found the right spot."
He said the first Bricks opened 13 years ago in a 1,200-foot storefront in downtown Lombard. That was when wood-fired pizza was practically unheard of in Chicago.
"When we started, there were less than a handful of brick ovens in Illinois," he said. "We were out ahead of the market, but the space has become more crowded."
He said Bricks has been able to stand out from the crowd by offering not only pizzas but salads, sandwiches, soups, beer and wine. The group also does catering, said Gruber, noting that the restaurant is a family affair because his brother, an architect, designs all the stores; his father is founder and operator; and his mother does the accounting.
Gruber, an attorney by training, handles the startup, administrative and legal work associated with Bricks.
He described Bricks as a gourmet café that uses the best ingredients.
"It's more about the quality of the product than anything else," he said. "We have specialty pizzas from classic margarita pizza all the way to barbecue chicken pizza and very veggie pizza."
Gruber said he's excited about the location and the opportunity to be in Oak Park, in part because of new residential development headed to the downtown area.
"It wouldn't have changed our decision, but what's exciting is seeing multi-unit residences go up — you know there's going to be enough people there," he said.
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