A corner storefront in Wicker Park across from Sultan’s Market that has been vacant for decades will see new life later this month or in early February with the addition of an independently-owned pizzeria named Knead, according to its owner.
“Knead is my take on Neapolitan-style pizza, great genuine food that you can eat every day, with the highest quality ingredients,” said Knead’s owner Mike Waicekauskas.
For more than two years, Waicekauskas, whose family owns the storefront and apartments above it, has been meticulously building out every component of the 30-seat corner eatery. He described the interior as having an earthy tone and industrial chic feel, with lots of reclaimed wood.
Located at 2101 W. North Avenue on the southwest corner of Hoyne and North avenues — just west of the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection — Knead will occupy a storefront at the base of a three-story, yellow brick apartment building that spans nearly one-half-block. The apartment building was once a hotel called The Victor, according to “Wicker Park: From 1673 thru 1929, A Walking Tour Guide,” by Elaine Coorens. The apartments above the building were rehabbed in 2008 by the Waicekauskas family, who did not own the hotel, and the storefront has been empty since the hotel closed in the 1990s.
Waicekauskas, who is in his 30s, said that his dad owned a pizzeria named Lincoln Avenue Pizza at 2245 N. Lincoln Avenue from the late 80s until 2001, when it was sold to new owners. “I grew up around pizza and have worked in the restaurant industry and real estate for most of my life,” he said.
Knead’s pizza will be thin-crust round pies only. “There’s no need to have slices out getting cold when I can cook a pizza in 2 minutes or less,” Waicekauskas said, adding that he will make heart-shaped pies for Valentine’s Day and football shaped pies for the Super Bowl. In addition to pizza, Knead will also serve fresh pasta made onsite daily and offer a “unique wine and craft beer list” along with a few signature cocktails, he said.
In the warmer months, Waicekauskas plans to apply for a patio cafe permit and offer sidewalk seating on the Hoyne Avenue side of the corner, facing Sultan’s Market.
When asked why pizza was chosen for the corner considering Wicker Park has a fair share of spots to grab pizza, Waicekauskas said “Why not pizza? Everyone loves pizza.” Knead’s pizza will be cooked by Waicekauskas in an 800–900 degree gas-fired dome oven, in an open kitchen facing a bar that offers counter seating, so folks can watch their pizza being cooked if they want.
Waicekauskas also said he’ll reveal the menu and launch its website in the coming days. When Knead finally opens, it will join Wicker Park’s robust and growing pizza scene: The owners of Homeslice and Happy Camper recently began renovations in a one story building just a few doors away from mainstay Piece Pizzeria at 1927 W. North Avenue, and Italian-born Bonci is eying the former Dox Quality Greek storefront at 1566 N. Damen Avenue, near the CTA Damen Blue Line “L” station.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, there’s Craft Pizza, Dimo’s, Pizza Metro, Pizano’s and Michigan-based chain Jet’s, which opened last year. Within the past few years, local pizza shutterings have included Santullo’s and chains Toppers and Papa John’s.