Graziano’s in Niles closing after 30 years; business still successful but new retail project planned
by BRIAN NADIG
After 30 years in business Graziano’s Restaurant, 5960 W. Touhy Ave., Niles, is closing on Oct. 23 to make way for a new retail redevelopment.
The restaurant, located across from Chicago’s Edgebrook and Wildwood neighborhoods, is well known for its brick oven pizza, pasta and salads. In recent weeks many area restaurants have announced their closing.
Steve Demet, who owns Graziano’s along with Maria Gonzalez Demet, said that business was strong and explained the closing in the following statement:
“There’s a lot of speculation buzzing around social media about the reasons for our closure. I’d like your readers to know that we have always been a successful restaurant.
“Our closing has nothing to do with Covid, high food cost or labor shortages. We weren’t driven out by high property taxes (although they are high) or government regulations.
“In fact our Mayor, George Alpogianis, the Board of Trustees and the entire Village of Niles have been extremely supportive and helpful during this transition. We are repurposing the property for a higher and better use, one that will generate significantly more tax revenue as well.”
The village board last month approved a special use and variation to allow for the construction of a Discount Tire shop on the site’s paring lot, while no plans have been announced for the site of the restaurant building itself. “I cannot discuss the details of the development at this time. However, news will be forthcoming,” Demet said.
Demet said that he and Maria have been humbled by the outpouring of support they have received since they announced the closing last week.
“The number one question we are asked is if we will share the recipe for our house dressing. We are not releasing any recipes. However, plans are in the works to bring a bottled version of our ‘Balsamic Dijon Dressing and Dip’ to groceries in the area. We will share developments on our web page, Facebook and Instagram when that happens,” Demet said.
The restaurant building was constructed in 1960 and initially opened as the Red Balloon, according to Demet. In the early 1970s it became Henrici’s and then Willoughby’s until around 1990.
“We took over this property in 1993 when I was in my early 30s. At the time it was a derelict, abandoned building. It took us a year to completely gut the inside, install all new mechanicals, roof, HVAC, kitchen and interior.
“My wife Maria and I came up with the concept while in graduate school at Cornell. We liked this location and knew we had to serve brick oven pizza because of the brick interior. We were the first restaurant in Chicago to serve wood fired pizza made in ovens fueled entirely by apple, cherry and oak hardwoods,” Demet said.
Graziano’s is raising funds for the Advocate Medical Group’s Adult Down Syndrome Center. Mention to the server and a portion of proceeds from the meal will be donated.