New York Style pizza with sausage and pepperoni as served at Betty’s Pizza and Pasta in Oak Park. The restaurant opens to the public on June 16. | Melissa Elsmo

To fold or not to fold? It is debatable whether extra-large slices of New York style pizza should be folded in half before eating. Some folks do it to avoid the dreaded “flop,” while others collapse the crust to keep the cheese from sliding off in a gooey avalanche. Anti-folders keep their meal a two-handed affair likely preferring to double the number of bites it takes to finish their coveted slice. No matter how you prefer to eat your pie, Betty’s Pizza and Pasta, 1003 South Blvd., Oak Park, is poised to bring a taste of the Big Apple to the Pleasant District. The highly anticipated restaurant opens to the public Thursday, June 16.

Brought to life by Wil and Justine Greenwald, Rob Guenthner and Katie Ashton and Pete and Fran Lisnic co-owners of Kettlestrings Tavern, 800 S. Oak Park Ave., and Kettlestrings Grove, 105 S. Marion St., Betty’s Pizza and Pasta completes the Kettlestings’ trifecta.

Earlier this week owners welcomed friends and family to a duo of private dinners designed to serve as a soft opening for the family friendly restaurant. The fun and unfussy vibe is meant to reflect the pizza joint co-owner Rob Guenthner remembers frequenting as a child. Expect traditional red and white checkered tablecloths and traditional red cups to evoke a throwback vibe.

Proper New York Style pizza is both crunchy on the bottom and soft enough to fold. A slice from Betty’s achieves both. | Melissa Elsmo

While the restaurant’s name pays homage to the founding British matriarch of Oak Park, Betty Kettlestrings, the menu at the South Blvd. establishment is decidedly Italian-American. Dan Swartz, operations director, and consulting chef, Tanya Baker worked to develop Betty’s pizza recipe and broader menu from the ground up.

“I love pizza and our partner Wil Greenwald helped me realize that New York makes a purposeful style of pizza,” said Guenthner. “It turns out its pretty complicated to get right, but I think we’ve accomplished it.”

The pizzas, available in the traditional 18-inch size, are pie cut into eight generously sized slices. The bottom of the crust is crispy while the top remains fluffy and soft. A regular pie features whole milk mozzarella and up to two toppings. Sixteen toppings are available. Our pie featured properly cupped (if only slightly charred) pepperoni and crumbled sausage. Toppings were thoughtfully distributed across the pie and leftovers reheated beautifully in a hot oven. A quartet of specialty pizzas like Buffalo chicken, are also on the menu. Guenthner was pleasantly surprised at the popularity of Betty’s garlic and zucchini pie—the white pizza features herb butter, sliced summer squash, mozzarella, parmesan, and fresh thyme.

“People were impressed with the crispy and chewy crust and that’s the hard part,” said Guenthner. “We’ve been hyper-focused on getting our team ready to get pizza that’s cooked consistently and in reasonable time. Everybody seemed to enjoy it.”

Betty’s meatballs with Arrabiata sauce pack a spicy punch while the house salad boasts banana peppers and a sweet onion vinaigrette. | Melissa Elsmo

In addition to pizza Betty’s offers appetizers like meatballs, mozzarella sticks, garlic knots. The menu features four pasta dishes including wild mushroom fettuccine with garlic cream sauce as well as salads in small and large sizes. The arugula and quinoa salad with apples, blue cheese and bacon proved to be a popular choice during the soft opening seatings.

The new eatery shares a kitchen with Kettlestrings Grove, located just around the corner. Guenthner said he and his team were worried about the kitchen serving a dual purpose for the first time, but service at their sibling establishment did not suffer with Betty’s pizza ovens fired up and customers in the dining room.

“It all went better than we thought it would,” said Guenthner. “Everything went smoothly and there was never a feeling of panic. It was just what we wanted; everyone was comfortable and having a good time.”

Betty’s Pizza and Pasta will be open for dinner service only; weekday lunch service, including sale of individual slices, is planned for the future. Customers can dine-in or carry out; owners are evaluating whether delivery will become part of the program in the future. Like many dishes, New York style pizza is best enjoyed hot and fresh from the oven.

Betty’s will be open Tuesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For now, owners are keenly aware there is pent up demand for New York Style pizza in the community and look forward to everyone in the community getting an opportunity to give their pizza a try.

Let’s welcome Betty’s Pizza and Pasta to the Oak Park restaurant fold!

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