Make no mistake, Nick Nitti loves pizza — he eats it every day. But the pizza maker behind two locations of Forno Rosso pizzeria wants to show Chicago that he can make more than the award-winning Neapolitan crusts served in Dunning and West Loop. That’s why he’s opening a third restaurant, Cucina 3 Italian Street Food, next month on the city’s North Side. His family’s southern Italian roots will provide Nitti with inspiration for a menu of fresh pastas, sandwiches, and salads.
The restaurant, 4630 N. Cumberland Avenue, should open around March 11, Nitti said — the debut date’s flexible for the second week of the month. It’s a fast-serve restaurant and the new spot will also have pastas and sauces to go. Nitti figures it’s a sound business strategy, a way to get repeat customers. He feels most consumers no longer dine at a single restaurant multiple times a week. At Cucina he wants to give them an option to heat up and enjoy their bolognese and vodka sauces from the comforts of their homes.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the restaurant is what Nitti wants to do with specials. He’s going to have a suggestion box where customers can mention any nostalgic Italian dishes they grew up eating. If the idea catches Nitti’s eye, he’ll create a recipe and run that has a special for a week or two, he said.
“It just lets people enjoy and express what they grew up eating,” Nitti said.
Nitti is excited about the ribeye steak sandwich topped with bruschetta tomatoes. They’ll have fresh fried mozzarella sticks and a few baked pastas including lasagna, stuffed shells, and Sicilian-style pasta rings (anellini al forno). Desserts will include the signature tiramisu served at Forno Rosso and fried dough with gelato.
Forno Rosso opened in 2013 in Dunning, and the second location debuted in 2016 in West Loop. Nitti and his crew are fixtures at the annual World Pizza Championships in Las Vegas. But Nitti’s more than pizza, and he hopes his third restaurant will allow him to stretch his legs and introduce more Chicagoans to different regional Italian cooking. Stay tuned for more coverage.