New LaGrange Ave. Restaurant Wants to Be 'Subway or Chipotle of Pizza'

Pronto Pizza Kitchen, which opened in December in Orland Park, is part of a wave of fast-casual, make-your-own pizza restaurants that could be the next big thing.

Pronto Pizza Kitchen manager Ryan Walsh cooks a pizza. Photo/Nancy Neuzil
Pronto Pizza Kitchen manager Ryan Walsh cooks a pizza. Photo/Nancy Neuzil
For two years, friends Jason Walsh and John Sanfilippo were planning the next big thing in pizza. By the time their restaurant, Pronto Pizza Kitchen in Orland Park, had opened, they had some competition. 

Walsh, who runs Packard Business Consulting, brainstormed with Sanfilippo, a longtime trader who was looking to use his cooking skills to get into the restaurant business.

"Pizza," they thought. "Everybody loves pizza." 

But, as Walsh recognized, there's upwards of 20 pizza places to choose from in Orland Park alone. 

"So how do you create a different model?" Walsh said. "One problem we saw with pizza was that it can be unhealthy, so we wanted to give people the choice to make a healthier pizza. We wanted to be the Subway or the Chipotle of pizza." 

Those are the role models in both concept and footprint at Pronto Pizza Kitchen at 15222 S. La Grange Rd. in Orland Park's Ravinia Plaza. Walsh said the goal is "a couple hundred of these, we want to franchise them." The Orland Park restaurant opened in December, and he and Sanfilippo, both of whom live in Frankfort, already have scouted locations for their next move—into Naperville and the South Loop. 

The concept is the assembly-line, make-your-own style of ordering seen in the likes of Subway for sandwiches and Chipotle for burritos. "The choose your own mentality is the hottest craze," Walsh said. 

By the time Pronto Pizza opened in Orland, another similar and local concept existed: Wooden Paddle Pizza, which, like Pronto, allows patrons to choose their crust, sauce, meats, veggies and cheeses. (Wooden Paddle is only carryout and delivery, though, while Pronto offers seating along with wine, beer and more.) 

While planning the restaurant, Walsh said he came across a couple similar places in California: Pizza Blaze and Pizza Rev, the latter in which Buffalo Wild Wings has invested. That was a sign that make-you-own pizza could be the next big thing, and now it appears that could be the case, with Chipotle using its own concept with the Colorado-based Pizzeria Locale chain, and the founders of California Pizza Kitchen moving on to a fast-casual style as well

Although competition looms and other Chicago-area deals for Pronto Pizza could come soon, the focus is on making the first one in Orland Park as good as it can be, with high-quality and healthful ingredients, and a relaxed and rustic atmosphere.

Customers can choose a signature pizza or salad to eat, or make their own from the 45 ingredients, which include healthier options such as wheat or gluten-free crust, oil as a sauce, chicken as a meat and plenty of vegetables. The pizzas are each 10-inch personal pies and take about five minutes to bake in the 5,000-pound oven. There's also oven-baked cookies and soft serve for dessert. 

Walsh said the feedback has been great so far, with many people coming in multiple times each week for a quick and tasty meal. 

"We always say, 'We'll see you tomorrow!' because that's the case sometimes," Walsh said. "People come here because it's something different. They come for the atmosphere and the good food." 

Pronto Pizza Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and offers dine-in or carryout. On Saturday, Jan. 18, there will be a grand opening celebration, and customers mentioning the "grand opening special" will get a free soda with every pizza or salad purchased. To learn more, go to the Pronto Pizza Kitchen website and like the business on Facebook for updates. 


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