Some restaurants, including Italian American red sauce joints, are so embedded in this country’s dining culture that the food comforts nearly all who eat it. That nostalgia runs through the menu at DeNuccis, a new Italian restaurant and pizzeria from the team behind Gemini and Old Pueblo Cantina.
The team from Ballyhoo Hospitality took over the former Four Farthings Tavern & Grill which is right across the street from their first restaurant, Gemini, which opened in 2009. The team has accrued a legion of loyal customers over the last 14 years which is why they pursued this second venture at 503 W. Dickens Avenue.
The restaurant at Lincoln and Dickens opened over the weekend and was open for takeout in July serving the same pizza as Pizza by Sal’s, Ballyhoo’s take-out operation in suburban Wilmette. There’s even a pickup window on Dickens where customers can pick up their orders without venturing inside.
The Lincoln Park crowd shares much of the same demographics as the suburbs. So DeNuccis is family friendly with an all-day lineup that plays the hits. There are 16-inch white and red pizzas with a tinge of New York style — topping options include New Haven clams and spicy pepperoni, respectively — and Sicilian gluten-free pies created by pizzaiolo Salvadore “Sal” Lo Cascio (Forno Rosso). A notable portion of the menu is devoted to pasta such as lobster mezzaluna and Ragù alla Joe, red sauce pasta studded with beef short rib, meatballs, and Italian sausage. The pasta won’t be made on-site, as Ballyhoo founder Ryan O’Donnell told Eater in April that his team is sourcing the best dried pasta available.
The gravy train keeps rolling with a handful of entrees such as veal scallopini (piccata, marsala, or parm) and branzino livornese, supplemented by a rotating daily entree special. Mondays, for example, portend eggplant parmesan, while Fridays will feature lobster fra diavolo.
O’Donnell had long eyed Four Farthings, founded in 1963 with a name lifted from Lord of the Rings, from his vantage point across the street at 13-year-old neighborhood standby Gemini. The tavern changed hands several times throughout its tenure before closing permanently during the early stages of the pandemic. His patience paid off when he snagged the lease on the corner space that workers have since gutted aside from the bar’s old millwork. They also moved the entrance from Cleveland to Dickens and created a 96-seat outdoor patio.
Ballyhoo hopes that DeNuccis will be able to replicate what Gemini has achieved — a loyal contingent of customers in the area who stop in once, or even several times, per week. O’Donnell has even referred to the restaurant as an “Italian Gemini.”
This is Ballyhoo’s ninth restaurant.
DeNuccis, 503 W. Dickens Avenue, open 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and Sunday; 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.