Milly’s Pizza in the Pan was one of the biggest hits of the pandemic in Chicago. After being laid off from his job as a server, Robert Maleski set up shop in a ghost kitchen in Logan Square in August 2020 and began making 10 pan pizzas in a night. The pies, made with caramelized cheese baked into the crust in the style of the legendary Burt’s, quickly gained recognition as some of the city’s best, and there was so much demand, Maleski raised his limit to 20, but even then, he sold out regularly.
Maleski’s ambition was always to open a restaurant with seating. When Milly’s first opened, he looked at space in Evanston, but he couldn’t get the financing. But now, as of last Friday, February 18, Milly’s finally has a permanent home in a former diner in Uptown.
In the new space, Maleski will continue to make the same pizzas that made him a success, including the Updog (kumato tomatoes, spinach, red onions, pepperoni, sausage, olives, Cubanelle peppers, fresh mozzarella) and Craigslist.org (peppadew peppers, sausage, mushrooms, red onions, toy box tomatoes, spinach, ricotta cheese). The tiny dining room has room for just 12 people, so for now, business will continue to be primarily take-out and delivery.
“I can’t believe I’m at this point,” he says. “It’s been a year-long process to get the shop up and running.” The restaurant kitchen was already equipped to handle a pizza operation, and Maleski was able to buy the rest of the equipment he needed used, which was fortunate since the operation is entirely self-funded.
Now that he’s not limited by a shared ghost kitchen space, Maleski will be able to work longer hours and make more pizzas. But not that many more: Milly’s, named for his grandmother, is still a one-man, one-oven operation. “I can only fit so many pizzas into the oven,” he said. “I’m hoping to be able to make 40 a night. Right now, I can do 35 on weekends. Weekdays are a bit slower.” In the future, he hopes to be able to buy a second oven and hire someone to help him in the kitchen.
True to form, Milly’s sold out its first weekend in Uptown. Many of Maleski’s Logan Square customers vowed to follow him east to get their pizza if they fell within delivery range.
Maleski says he’s “blessed and fortunate” to have such loyal customers. “This is half my life savings,” he says. “I hope it works.”