To many Chicagoans, Dimo’s Pizza is pretty damn close to the platonic ideal of a late-night pizza joint. Those who find themselves fresh out of a Cub’s game or looking to satisfy post-last-call cravings see the by-the-slice institution as the spot to be. In fact, it’s not unusual to see customers forming lines at 2 a.m. like drunken moths drawn to a tasty flame.
Fortunately for its many fans, in early April Dimo’s will bring its funky spirit to Dimo’s Cafe, a new full-service restaurant in Lincoln Square. The brand is known for its creative pizza interpretations of Reubens, banh mi, mac and cheese, and chicken and waffles (it even had a Malört pizza at one point), and the menu will boast the same whole pies seen at Dimo’s Pizza. It’ll also include a smattering of small dishes to share, including smashed fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus, and focaccia with whipped ricotta. Items will rotate according to the season and the creative whims of the chef.
Formerly associated with Wisconsin pizza chain Ian’s, Dimo’s branched off from the company in 2012 and opened locations in Wrigleyville, Wicker Park, and inside Revival Food Hall in the Loop. But after years of reliable walk-in business, the pandemic forced Dimo’s (and its peers) to pivot at breakneck speed. This meant selling pizza kits, take-and-bake lasagna meals, and even wine from its storefront. While the brand survived and, in some ways, even flourished, this moment became a time of serious reflection for founder Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau.
“We’ve been doing this since 2008 in the city; that’s a very long time to be doing just pizza,” he says. “Pizza got a beautiful renaissance during the pandemic, but we also realized we want to do something more. We want to flex our creative muscles because we’ve done this for so long.”
At Dimo’s Cafe, the interior is fun, yet welcoming — or as designer Linsey Rosen puts it, a “classic, funky pizza cafe.” Details like customized plates and coffee mugs, along with the imported Portuguese chairs, echo the creative, do-it-our-way soul of Dimo’s. It will also incorporate a robust cocktail menu that injects the inventive energy customers come to expect from its pizzas into its drinks. That means fun takes on old staples, or “classics with a riff,” says general manager Patrick Bourne.
The approach bears similarities to Dimo’s habit of reconceiving dishes like chicken and waffles into a pizza. “I tried to take all the cocktails that people know and love to do something that is out of the ordinary,” Borne says. “They’re familiar with it, but they haven’t had it this way.”
That means customers can expect drinks like the Banana Bird, a banana-infused riff on the classic Jungle Bird. Naturally. The team also had to infuse Chicago’s infamous bitter liquor into a cocktail. The result: a Malört Sour appropriately dubbed the Don’t Shoot the Bartender. Along with cocktails, Dimo’s is also making space for a new wine program. Diners will be able to order wines by the glass or even take a bottle home at the end of the night.
Syrkin-Nikolau hopes the restaurant will carve out a niche as the kind of place where locals will feel good about taking a few friends for brunch or a date out for dinner — elevated enough to satisfy refined palettes, but fun enough to be unpretentious. That ethos jives with the space’s predecessor, Costello’s Sandwiches, which closed in 2016.
The space, menu, and drinks push Dimo’s into new territory. However, not everything is changing — patrons will still be able to grab pizza by the slice at the counter. Traditions are something that Syrkin-Nikolau felt were important to hold onto. The cafe represents a bold new chapter for Dimo’s, a continuation of the spirit and soul cultivated over more than a decade: making confident moves, experimenting with new flavors, and slinging pizza one slice at a time.
Dimo’s Cafe, 4647 N. Lincoln Avenue; scheduled to open in early April.