Wicker Park could be where Bonci opens its second U.S. location following the world-famous Italian pizzeria’s American debut with an August opening in the West Loop. Bonci USA, the company tasked with growing Gabriele Bonci’s famed pizza restaurant stateside, has been long interested in a space at 1566 N. Damen Avenue, where Dox Quality Greek stood until the fast-casual restaurant closed last week. Bonci USA’s Rick Tasman said no lease has been signed, but he reiterated that Bonci is interested in a second Chicago location.
There’s a sign at Dox that reads the space is closed for remodeling, but there’s been a lot of chatter that a replacement tenant is already in place. Bonci is one of the world’s most-famous pizzerias thanks to its namesake chef’s unique topping combinations and a light, airy crust. The experience is like ordering meat from a deli counter. Customers point at the pizzas they want and tell staffers how much they want — they’re charged by the pound. After workers cut the square pizzas using scissors, and they’re heated up in Bonci’s ovens. Many tourists return home from Italy raving about Bonci, including Anthony Bourdain. The first Bonci opened in 2003.
Tasman has called Chicago a pizza town, and though he and business partner, Chakib Touhami, want to open Boncis in other parts of the country and world, they’ve been searching for new location in Chicago over the past few months. Dox opened in December 2016 and lasted barely a year. While Dox was routinely empty, Bonci in West Loop is regularly filled with customers and long lines.
The Wicker Park location would feature more seating space, unlike the tiny West Loop location which offers only a few stools against the wall and limited seating in the back. While that set up may evoke more of the cramped spirit of Boncis in Italy, the American consumer is different. The Dox space also comes with a liquor license. While Bonci West Loop served bottled beer and boxed wine, Touhami has said that he’s wanted to offer more drink options. The Wicker Park space, right at the intersection of North/Milwaukee/Damen, would — presumably — provide more space for customers to leisurely enjoy any beer or cocktails.
Be patient, Chicago — confirmation could be coming in a few weeks.