Starbucks is opening the newest restaurant on Randolph Street, home to big-name chefs like Stephanie Izard and Rick Bayless. The coffee giant is bringing pizza al taglio and more to Chicago next week when it opens the second U.S. outlet of Princi, a bakery from Italy that arrived stateside earlier this summer in Seattle. A New York location will open this fall.
Tuesday is opening day at 1000 W. Randolph Street. Princi blends the traditional Starbucks experiences with a few wrinkles. They’ll have wine and beer at Bar Mixato, creating the type of atmosphere piloted by Starbucks when it launched its Starbucks Evenings program. Baristas will pour upscale and pricier Starbucks Reserve coffees. A happy hour-style offering will give customers free pieces of pizza from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily with purchase of a cocktail like an aperol spritz. The breads will be baked at a commissary at Orleans and Chestnut — just north of Chicago Avenue — and delivered to Princi daily.
The restaurant is a collaboration with Rocco Princi, a Milanese baker who owns bakeries in Europe. The American version of the restaurants will feature pizza al taglio, the Roman-style pizza slices introduced to Chicago last year by another Italian import, Bonci. Bonci’s first U.S. location is also in the West Loop, minutes away from the Chicago location of Princi. Princi isn’t personal friends with Bonci, but Starbucks has observed Bonci’s success in Chicago.
“I think Chicago is proud of its own pizza tradition but not limited to it,” said Selim Giray, VP of Princi business planning at Starbucks. “I think we can bring something in that’s beautifully differentiated, but I would say Princi represents so much more than just pizza.”
The menu will change seasonally. The strawberry powered crostata fragole will be swapped for a new dessert this fall. Perhaps Starbucks could explore something new and try a pumpkin-spiced item. There are salads and specialty breads that could compete with area bakeries like One Off Hospitality’s Publican Quality Bread and Izard’s Little Goat Bread.
Starbucks plans to open a massive new roastery next year on Michigan Avenue inside the former Crate & Barrel space. Princi items will be available, but it’s unclear if it will be the full menu as offered in the West Loop. A Starbucks coffee shop across the street from Princi will remain open — the company doesn’t want to disrupt anyone’s regular routine.
Starbucks joins McDonald’s, which this year opened its new headquarters across the street, as a global chain that’s upping its profile along Randolph. Like McDonald’s, Starbucks is opening a restaurant that goes beyond the offerings found at its typical stores. It leaves the question to what will be the next chain that wants to do the same in the area. While pondering that, know Princi makes its Chicago debut next week.