The pizza forecast for 2018 looks solid — and crowded — along Wicker Park’s North Avenue. Earlier this month, a venture headed by Josh Iachelli and Clay Hamilton, co-owners of Old Town’s Happy Camper and Lincoln Park’s Homeslice, secured a city permit to make repairs to a one-story, standalone building at 1913 W. North Avenue. Empty since Northwestern Medicine moved out almost two years ago, the building is just a couple of doors east of Eater Chicago 38 member Piece Pizzeria & Brewery.
Hamilton declined to elaborate on whether his new concept would be pizza focused and cautioned that it’s in “very early stages.”
“It will not be Homeslice or Happy Camper. You can expect an approachable menu combined with a fun atmosphere. We love the neighborhood and all the exciting new developments happening in Wicker [Park],” Hamilton wrote in an email.
Bill Jacobs, proprietor of Piece, 1927 W. North Avenue, said he was aware of the forthcoming spot — but he did not appear to be terribly concerned about the potential competitor. “At this stage of the game, we’re pretty damn secure in what we do. I wish them well. I’m not here to disparage them,” Jacobs said.
Piece opened in 2001 and bought its 5,800 square-foot building in 2012. “All I know is we do a great job,” Jacobs said. “We put out a great product. I think people have options and they will choose the very best pizza; that’s what it comes down to.”
Piece, Homeslice, and Happy Camper are all known for their thin-crust pizzas. Piece is located in a former auto garage; at Happy Camper, there’s an RV booth in the back of the space with a ceiling lit up, hoping to make diners feel like they’re camping under the stars. At Homeslice, an Airstream trailer was turned it into a heated lounge.
The former medical clinic already has the needed zoning that would allow a tavern to operate there without needing any city or community approvals. As an added perk, there are 10 parking spaces out front, a boon considering most places — including Piece — are forced to offer valet due to a shortage of on-street parking on weekend nights.
Hamilton did not have a timeline for when the new concept could debut, outside of saying that he and Iachelli are aiming for 2018. “We really just loved the location and potential it has,” Hamilton said of the building.
Elsewhere on North Avenue, a corner restaurant named Knead Pizzeria Company hopes to open in January at 2101 W. North Avenue, according to owner Mike Waicekauskas. Check back for updates on both.